The “Young, Gifted and Talented” government scheme, which ran in UK schools from 2002- 2010, carried with it a serious negative repercussion.
There, I said it. Thought you would have a nice little read with your coffee today? Well tough luck sister, I’m coming to you from the streets.
The scheme define these gifted and talented kids as:
“…children and young people with one or more abilities developed to a level significantly ahead of their year group (or with the potential to develop those abilities)”
On the face of it, it seems quite nice. These children are told that they are bright sparks. That they have limitless potential. That they could go on to become doctors, teachers, pilots or Twitch streamers, and that their intelligence will open doors for them.
And that, ironically, is the biggest problem. Their natural intelligence becomes the key driver for their success. It isn’t how hard they work, the revision they do for their exams, the homework they hand in on time. It is their raw capabilities, their ability to think critically — the old noggin.
But what happens when these children don’t develop their intelligence? What happens when they rely on their natural abilities? When they coast through life, for example?
I work in the technology industry, an industry that is heavily dominated by young men. A lot of these men are degree educated and there’s a strong chance that some are a product of the Young, Gifted and Talented scheme themselves, having been at school from 2003–2010 at various overlapping stages.
Something I have noticed from my conversations, both from working alongside these people as an engineer, and from interviewing them as a recruiter, is that when talking about their education the same sentences always return time and time again:
“Oh, I was always good at passing exams”
“I never really revised much at school”
“I just couldn’t finish my degree, I wasn’t clever enough”
“I didn’t realise how hard Maths was until I got to A level”
“My Final Year Project gave me Lyme disease”
Notice yourself in there anywhere? I hope so, because I think I have a solution for what might be holding you back.
A persons intelligence is often seen as a fixed asset. An IQ score, for example, is a prime indicator for how ‘clever’ a person is. So, when someone solves a particularly tricky problem, you might say — “Oh you’re so clever” — and that person will go away thinking that, yes, they are clever, and it’s because they’re so clever that they could solve this problem.
But what happens when the next problem is even harder to solve? What happens when this person doesn’t have the prerequisite knowledge to solve this problem? What happens when they can’t do Further Maths, or they run into difficulties at work and they are not so clever after all?
A growth mindset is where intelligence is seen as something that can be developed. It is the belief that you are not just given a certain number on an IQ score and told ‘there you go, off you pop and get on with it’.
A growth mindset says that anyone can work hard and, seemingly against the odds, be whatever they want to be, it doesn’t matter how intelligent they are seen by the outside world.
1. Praise hard work over raw intelligence. Focus on praising the effort and persistence that someone has put into a task, rather than their raw intelligence or abilities.
2. Work on challenging things. A common side effect of people with a fixed mindset is that they will often pick challenges that they know they can complete easily. Try challenging yourself with something difficult and then put 110% effort into the task.
3. Develop your grit. Angela Duckworths Grit is a great book that goes hand in hand with a growth mindset. She defines grit as having the ability to commit to what you start and to rise from setbacks. Don’t just crumble when you run into something you aren’t ‘clever’ enough to understand, buckle up and get to work.
4. Never stop learning. Don’t just rest on your laurels or your fixed intelligence. You don’t know enough. You can be better. Commit to your craft, whether at your hobbies or your work, and you will find that there is always a new way to develop your skills.
5. See the positives in failure. Every time you fail at something you should look for where you can grow now and in the future. Whatever you don’t know, you don’t know yet.