The Growth Mindset: Athletics Meets Innovation

June 14, 2012
Thoughts by
Tyler Hagler
Thoughts by
Guest Contributor

Athletics meets innovation

Trig has been privileged to have an elite athlete, Morgan House, as part of our team for several years now.  Morgan has an impressive record of national and international racing accomplishments in the sport of flatwater kayaking. One of the ways he has stayed at the top of his game is by consistently experimenting with how to improve his training – from adopting new kayak technology like the swivel seat, to improving his recovery time using a hyperbaric chamber, and testing high altitude tents to improve his oxygen absorption rate.

Recently, I read Switch: How to Change Things When Change Is Hard, from Chip Heath and Dan Heath. The Heath brothers presented compelling research that divides the world into two types of people, those with a fixed mindset and those with a growth mindset.  It occurred to me that, when viewed through this framework, athletes and innovation professionals have a lot in common.  

So, I recently pulled Morgan aside, taking him away from his business development and social media work, to get his perspective on how the pursuit of excellence in sports matches up with innovation in the business world and how he thinks the growth mindset relates to his successes in both worlds.

Ty Hagler:  Can you tell me how you think this concept of the growth mindset has applied to you in the sport of kayaking?

Morgan House:  The growth mindset, as the Heath brothers expressed it, has always played a role throughout my life. Whether I was working on my paddling skills, juggling skills, or business skills, I always knew I could get better.

I have devoted most of my life to the sport of flat water kayaking—I started paddling when I was 8 and I quickly realized that this was a sport I enjoyed, not only because I got to go out on the lake all day with my friends, but I could tell that I had potential (this is probably because the coach let me compete in races and not sit on the bench like I did in almost every other sport I participated in!).

Kayaking became a lifestyle for me, and I soon found out that there was a lot more to the sport than just sitting in a boat and turning my arms over. Kayaking requires a great deal of skill, strength and stamina. With regard to the skill involved with paddling, I had to become acquainted with a special kind of technique that would engage my core muscles as well as my leg muscles. When I first learned about proper technique and how to move the boat, I thought that it was pretty strange that I had to use my legs, but I think that, just like in business and life in general, there is a lot more that goes into the final outcome than meets the eye.

Once I learned how to use my legs to help me move the kayak, I then started learning about rotation, hand height, shoulder height, elbow height, posture, chin height, leaning forward from the hips (and not the back), leg pressure, catch, exit, pause, and about a million other things. When all of these different aspects of the kayak stroke are in sync, then the boat moves much faster. The problem is, once you start focusing on one aspect of the stroke, the others start to falter a little bit. I realized that I would always have room for improvement and that if I stuck with it, I would only get faster.

Ty Hagler:  So, how have you applied the growth mindset in other aspects of your life?

Morgan House:  Now that I am in a point in my paddling career where I have a little break from the boat, I am exploring other areas of what I like to call "real life.” Kayaking will not make you rich in any way, shape, or form, and, at the end of the day, you have a lot less money than you did when you started. That’s okay, because this sport is a labor of love.

However, I still need to bring in some money, so that I can function as a normal human being in society. My education background is in marketing, so I have been using my marketing knowledge to help Trig® Innovation expand its customer base and raise its company profile through online initiatives. Although I have learned quite a bit in my schooling and previous work experience, I am continuing to learn more and more with each task I am assigned at Trig®.

In my paddling career, I knew that in order to get better, I had to work hard, learn from my mistakes, and not get lazy. These are the same principles I believe can be applied to any job in the world, and the only outcome will be success. There are days when I wake up and I do not feel like working out or working at all but I know that if I want to better myself as a person, as an athlete, and as a businessman, I must push through and accomplish the objectives I have set for myself for that particular day. I feel like I am a part of the Trig® team just like I was a part of the USA Canoe / Kayak team. We all work hard together with a single goal in mind—success, defined as getting positive, winning results for our clients and our company.

Ty Hagler: Thanks, Morgan.  I think world-class athletes get this more than anybody else, especially as they transition between the sporting world and business world.  They get the Heath brothers’ concept of the growth mindset—you’ve got to be smarter, leaner, meaner, stronger, and faster than you were yesterday, and you’ll have to be even smarter, leaner, meaner, stronger, and faster tomorrow than you are today.  The same holds true for the business world – in every industry.  The cycle of innovation has only gotten faster over time, and companies ignore investing in the future at their own peril.

Tyler Hagler

As a career industrial designer and innovation practitioner, Ty Hagler has managed hundreds of new product development programs through the process of opportunity identification guided to commercialization.

Guest Contributor

We welcome guest bloggers. Please contact us for consideration


Related Content

Working Virtually
Industrial Designer Ethan Creasman Joins Trig