#agile2011 Keynote with Linda Rising

[Updated on reflection. Scroll down for raw notes.]

This talk moved me to tears. So from the heart. First Dr. Rising gave us her background, and in doing acknowledged her age and mentioned she’d gotten a PhD late in life, defending her dissertation at age 50. Then she stated her intention was to help us, the audience, not make the same mistakes she had made. Importantly, she made a statement which said, roughly, “If what I say is useful for you, please follow that. If not, please disregard.” Her saying this reminded me of great Tibetan Buddhist masters who say the same thing. I’ll tell you why they do in a minute.

Dr. Linda Rising

Dr. Linda Rising

Dr. Rising went on to describe scientific studies that expressed why some students have a tendency to give up, others keep going. The studies show that when children are told they are “smart,” “cute,” and are praised in a fixed, conceptual way, they tend to give up more easily later in life. Children that are given a concept that they are stupid also tend to give up. It is those children who are praised for their effort who will try hard and have a chance to do well. Children that are praised for what they do not how they “are” tend to not give up as easily later in life.

I’ve often observed that people I’ve met who have encountered great difficulties in their lives sometimes suffer less, in a funny way, when hard times appear. Putting in effort for some of these people is not a big deal. They can work hard and not even feel they are working hard. They can encounter difficulties of an ordinary sort and not feel them so hard. It is not a scientific observation, but perhaps this is like Tom Brokaw’s Greatest Generation.

Dr. Rising explained the studies in a way that helped to demonstrate our own ignorance. Don’t be offended; I mean “ignorance” in the sense of how we don’t know what we’re doing, most of the time, but are running around acting off of our concepts, how we have labeled reality. And, of course, the law of unintended consequences comes into play. We have no idea that we are actually harming these children when we praise them as we do. We think we are “just” offering them praise. This understanding, that we’re not “bad,” just ignorant when we engage in such conceptualizing, rooted this talk in a vast compassion.

The thing that made my body shake and tears come to my eyes from feeling so moved, was at the end, after she’d gone through the examples, explained why people give up as they do. Framed up like this, when Dr. Rising said something like “We are not; we are always becoming” (I’m paraphrasing) it no longer sounded facile or cliched. Nor does her advice to “Continue to improve with age – like me!” Instead we were left with a deeper understanding of the origin of her encouragement never to give up on ourselves. To risk saying this, her words reminded me of the love of my own, late, grandmother. No matter what, no matter how I dealt with whatever life presented me, she always just loved me and never, ever gave up on me. This is a very deep love, a truly unconditioned love.

So, finally, what I liked about this talk is that it is very big, brings Agile to the deepest most spiritual level. We can have that unconditioned love for each other. When Dr. Rising began, like a Tibetan master, by telling us to use what she says if we find it useful, it is because she is not imposing her own concepts on us, not even her suggestion that we not engage narrowing down people by applying our concepts to them. For that, thanks so much to Dr. Linda Rising.

Here are my raw notes.

Her job is to give the weird talk, normally. Astounding how well the previous keynote matches hers.

Linda Rising

Mission in life for us not to make the same mistakes she did.

Started out with a disclaimer similar to HH Dalai Lama.

(great use of silence)

Asked question about whether or not intelligence or talent is innate or develop-able.

Did we pick Agile Based on random, controlled experiments? Was kind of a blue pill (“try it you’ll like it”)

Gave example of college students who categorized as “smart” or “effort” – and had to choose very difficult test. “Smart” kids were easily discouraged.

Resilience versus helplessness.

Option to look at exams of other students: those who did better or worse.

“Effort” students wanted to see exams of people who did better.

Always be the worst guy on the team. That’s your chance to grow and improve.

In the test, slowly the “smart” kids did worse. The group was asked to advise students coming in about the experiment with optional spot to put score.

“Effort” kids gave lots of advice; “smart” kids gave sympathy. You are either going to do well or not, according to the smart kids; who tended to lie and inflate their scores. Distorted or blamed.

Had lots of excuses.

Book to read: Mindset – by Carol Dweck or Self Theories

Malcolm Gladwell – “the Talent Myth”

NYMag – “how to talk to your kids” and Time – “howbto helpbthem succeed”

So results there are two mindsets

– determines goals

– reactions to failure

– belief about efforts or strategy

– attitudes about others success

If you believe there is a fixed amount of intelligence, you always want to be shown how good you are. Fixed deteriorates into helplessness, whereas Agile escalates into resilience. (This resonates with teachings of Khenchen Tsewang Gyatso.)


Fixed mindsets don’t want to learn. Quick to judge others. Quick to judge based on little information. Agile minds don’t ignore info on others, but are less negative / positive. And is open to change. Open to learning.

Managers tend to be fast judgers. Then they focus on the evidence of judgments, validating their judgments. So they think that they were right.

“Bright Little Girls” – cute, smart, perfect. Do all they are supposed to and do well. Every one tells them and praises them constantly for ability and perfection. This results in them falling apart in jr high. They are growing up, aren’t cute, have choices about courses. Have to expend effort.

We have caused them to epitomize the fixed mindset. (Sync! I had an experience with a group of people connected to Drew, ironically. Women in the group from a company he had coached would not talk to me and “saved” the men from me.)

“Bright Little Boys” – little boys are criticized and told they need to “try harder” over and over again. As a cohort they epitomize they agile mindset.

Organizations have these mindsets. Fixed is road to failure. Agile is road to success.

Harvard B School, Amy Edmondson

Enron: Ken Lay – classic example of fixed mindset – “Smartest Guys in the Room”. “Yank and rank” – get rid of those people who do not. Agile companies. Harder to get a job at Southwest Airlines than it is to get into Harvard B School.

Continuing to grow people and encourage them to learn.


Also Hard Facts by Jeffrey Pfeffer and Robert Sutton

The good news is the mindset is just a belief. Not “fixed”. We encourage one or the other in each other (sangha).

We develop one or the other in our children.

“You mean I don’t have to be stupid?”. Children from under-developed or poor areas that are put down their entire lives and can this be changed.”

You are not, you are becoming.

Use “perfect” as a verb.

Agile is agile, about learning, we are all a work-in-progress. Samuel Beckett

Continue to improve with age – like me!

In Q & A talked about the support of what we call the sangha, the community of friends along for the journey on the spiritual path.

Effort, determination, and positivity are what brings success. Accumulations.

Together as a group that we learn together.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

5 Responses to “#agile2011 Keynote with Linda Rising”

  1. Ghennipher (@Ghennipher) Says:

    This was an absolutely amazing talk. I really related to the “bright little girls” syndrome. Bought Mindset on Kindle during the talk

    • magwep Says:

      I think I’m gonna buy Linda’s book, that she co-wrote with Mary Lynn Manns, Fearless Change too. There’s a chapter called “Whisper in the General’s Ear” that I’m dying to read hehe, as that probably applies to some of my particular situation.

  2. kenjihiranabe Says:

    Thanks for sharing this!!

  3. .@adaptivecoach whether or not we are “as smart as we think” / cc .@psyblog « Says:

    […] #agile2011 Keynote with Linda Rising #agile2011 On Further Reflection and in Light of the #Verizonstrike […]

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: