Ten Mindsets for the Workplace

Regardless of what subjects or field you pursued in college, you need to be able to apply what you’ve learned and keep learning on the job. To thrive at the workplace, career coach and writer, Katharine Brooks, identifies ten mindsets that you may cultivate. In her book, You Majored in What?, Brooks outlines the cognitive demands of each mindset. Each function you perform may require a different subset of these mindsets, so knowing the various kinds of thinking that are prized by employers can help you harness your strengths and bolster your weaknesses. Further, these mindsets are neither exhaustive not exclusive, with one mindset often buttressing another.  

Systems thinking involves seeing the larger picture and understanding how different parts of a system work together. This type of thinking focuses on the linkages between parts and how changes in one segment can impact others. Given how supply chains are dispersed across the globe, a glitch or a problem in one country can have a ripple effect across many others. Both the pandemic and Russia’s invasion of Ukraine demonstrated how global supply chains can be severely disrupted when even one link falls out of kelter. With companies growing more environmentally conscious, factoring the carbon footprint of production and distribution requires systems thinking.  

To keep pace in our ever-changing world, companies need to innovate. Creative thinking spurs innovation and helps companies create new products and services. Though many people assume that creativity falls solely under the purview of the arts, creative thinking can be exhibited in all fields. It involves approaching situations with a fresh lens, “to see what others don’t see,” avers Brooks. When resources or time are limited, as is often the case with many organizations, creative thinking can save the day. 

The analytic mindset entails breaking up a whole into its constituent parts to understand how each piece fits into “a greater whole.” By breaking down a complex problem into more manageable parts, you often get a clearer picture of what’s going on. At the workplace, cost-benefit analysis involves analytical thinking, says Brooks.  

A strategic mindset draws on both analytic and systems thinking. Keeping the larger picture in mind, a strategic mindset draws up plans and strategies, and gives direction to where a company is headed. SWOT (strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats) analysis that are common in corporate settings involves strategic thinking. 

Next, companies benefit from people having a positive mindset as it reduces “stress, boosts morale, and improves productivity.” Having positive people around is motivating for everyone. Further, optimism is linked with greater resilience, lower attrition and goal completion. Healthy positivity should not be conflated with toxic positivity which involves denying or suppressing bad tidings and negative feelings.  

A global mindset entails seeking out and appreciating people from diverse cultures. A global thinker acknowledges that individuals, companies and societies are enriched by difference, be it of language, religion, ethnicity or culture. Because of the Internet, even small organizations can service international clients and customers. People who are comfortable interacting with people from multiple cultures stand to gain in the workplace.  

Even if you work from home, most jobs require collaboration with others. Being able to work in a team is an important skill that’s prized highly in workplaces. Getting along with others involves being both amicable and assertive. While you need to listen and respect the perspectives of others, you should not be shy of voicing your views as well. Striking the right balance between conformity and confidence can help you succeed at work. 

While the words ‘quick’ and ‘sharp’ are typically associated with intelligence, workplaces also benefit from a slower, more balanced type of thinking. The reflective mindset is invaluable when emotions run high. Pausing and thinking through an issue in a nuanced manner without letting our emotions take control of us is an art that requires practice. By not speaking or acting impulsively, the reflective thinker considers an issue from multiple perspectives before arriving at a considered decision.  

Being adaptive can be a big plus in a dynamic world. At work, the need for change may present as technological shifts, changing customer expectations, new environmental regulations, growing competition or sudden attrition. Being able to navigate these shifts adroitly entails a flexible mindset. Flexible thinkers are able to handle both the crests and troughs of a typical workplace without getting unduly frazzled. Of course, being accommodative doesn’t mean getting trodden over. You need to be flexible while drawing firm boundaries.  

Finally, the problem-solving mindset draws on many of the mindsets mentioned above. According to Brooks, problem-solvers “ask the right questions” before tackling an issue. At the workplace, problems can take on many forms, from the mundane to the catastrophic. Prioritizing which problems to focus on is an essential skill.  

Now that you know the different mindsets that are vital in the workplace, analyze which ones are the most useful for your job and work on honing them. Further if you would like to grow into a new role, you may start cultivating new mindsets as well.  

About the Author

(Aruna Sankaranarayanan is a psychologist & writer. She is the author of Zero Limits: Things Every 20-Something Should Know. She blogs at 

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