top of page

Empowering Potential: How Human-Centred Contexts and a Growth Mindset Transform Culture

Updated: Jun 14


Throughout my career spanning several decades, encompassing diverse organisational experiences, including my own ventures, I have gained first-hand insights into the key role of culture in workplaces. I've observed how cultural values, structures, and processes can either support or stop the development of people’s mindsets and their overall motivation, engagement and performance.

While leaders often recognise the interplay between culture, mindset, and people-related variables, bridging the gap between knowledge and action within organisational contexts remains a challenge, especially in today's complex and uncertain times.

At the core of this matter lies in the delicate balance between the constant changes organisations face, and the simultaneous demands for operational continuity. This balance can exert high stress on both leaders and people in general.

The primary goal of this article is to delve into the influence of human-centred contexts and their connection to people's mindsets. Within the socio-technical organisational dynamics, structure, processes, technology and culture are critical components. The first three relate to operational efficiency, while culture serves as a guiding principle to unify organisational members.  People's mindsets are instrumental in driving performance and enhancing the quality of life at both personal and organisational levels. And they can be promoted by organisational culture.

Next, we will share some insights we've learned in the hope that they may assist in better aligning culture, and mindset to influence positively engagement and performance, ultimately guiding organisations towards a more humanistic-oriented future.


Nurturing Human-Centred contexts: Bridging the gap between theory and practice

The concept of human-centred contexts involves developing the required organisational structures, processes, and leadership skills to create work contexts that encourages active participation and collaboration where people feel heard when providing feedback and ideas to address complex problems. This, in turn, contributes to better alignment between strategy and values, potentially leading to increased job satisfaction, improved performance, and greater acceptance of organisational change initiatives.

In recent decades, the concept of human-centredness has gained significant attention, particularly concerning user engagement in the design of products, services, and system interfaces to enhance their acceptance (Dix, 2000). However, this approach requires a systemic view of the organisation and when we apply this view into organisational contexts, we encounter several challenges.

The first challenge lies in setting up work contexts that inspires and fosters people's involvement and motivation to participate in the search to solve complex business problems. This kind of work contexts should consider simultaneously both individual and organisational readiness to join efforts towards participation and collaboration.

Furthermore, this also requires the involvement of various internal functions. In particular, two are of special importance:

  • Human Resources function, in the role as strategic business partner: The HR role is crucial in implementing and monitoring the HT-related policies and practices (e.g. internal communication, learning and development, compensation, wellbeing), and managing the organisational culture, giving inputs to the continuous improvement and innovation capabilities.

  • Information Technology, which is deeply involved in the organiational digital transformation initiatives.

As highlighted in the leadership literature (Yukl, 2013), these internal joint efforts are expected to create and internal space to promote people’s engagement and motivation to participate, which is still a constant challenge for leaders (Gonzales, 2020). This also would make them feel heard and with more purpose in their jobs, and involved in addressing the business challenges that affect their work. This space also stressed the significance of organisational strategies and cultural values. Notably, value-driven management (Barrett, 2006) offers an approach to align organisational energy with its core values, such as transparency, innovation, and respect, among others.

Secondly, when we adopt a socio-technical theory framework to comprehend organisational dynamics (Davis et al., 2014), it becomes clear that we must address not only the cultural aspects but also its structural, processual, technological ones and their interrelationships. All of these are relevant components of any organisational contexts. However, the hallmark of human-centred approaches is to design the organisation in a manner that satisfies people's needs, and facilitates greater acceptance level of its transformation processes. Therefore, the focus on cultivating a values-driven work culture can guide and assist the adjustment of the other components. This is in order to systemically support any organizational transformation at social or technical levels.

As Professor Enid Mumford, a well-known researcher in socio-technical theory, stated (cited by Leitch & Warren, 2010), "If a technical system is created at the expense of a social system, the results obtained will be sub-optimal." The ultimate goal of a social technical system, such as an organisation, should be joint optimisation. To achieve this joint optimisation between the social and technical subsystems, greater levels of engagement and participation from people (e.g. any human stakeholder) are required. This has become increasingly important in organisational dynamics, given the emergence of new management models that emphasise agile structures, self-management teams, and holistic relationships with employees.

Moreover, purpose at work and conscious capitalism movements are also playing a role in shifting paradigms because of their bottom-line results (Sisodia, Wolfe, & Sheth 2007, Laloux, 2014, Sisodia & Gerb, 2019). Such models and their bottom-line results are showing alternative ways to more effectively compete in today's uncertain business environments.


Lastly, managing people's engagement and participation in the workplace is a complex task. The application of tested participatory methodologies, for instance those practiced by the Art of Hosting Community, has yielded promising results in engaging stakeholders to formulate solutions for wicked problems in a bottom-up way. These methods assist in informing policymakers and fostering coordinated efforts around issues of common interest, both intra or inter  organisations (Quick, Sandfort & Stuber, 2012).

In short, aligning people’s motivation and participation with the strategies and cultural values still is a significant challenge for leaders, one that is at the core of human-centred contexts. The adoption of the emergent management models have to be analysed with a systemic view. Each organisation, as a living system, has their rhythms, readiness and specificities, and these should be carefully taken into account when preparing transformation initiatives.

Cultivating Resilience and a Growth Mindset in Organisational Culture

In a recent trip to a European city, I learnt about its origins in the IV century. The city was the result of an urgent need for protection of its founders, who did not want to be enslaved or murdered by foreign invaders. Therefore, they build their city in the middle of a lagoon, where the water´s waves acted as shields impeding the invaders to advance and landed in their city. They built a safe place for them to survive and thrive: Venice. Overtime, the city was adjusted to satisfy the needs from its growing population by converting their channels into streets and vice versa and building bridges and other physical infrastructure to facilitate its expansion. Their expertise made them a powerful military force, a skilful ship builders and prosperous traders, putting the city on the global map. This is an example of resilience, a basic root of a growth mindset.

According to Carol Deck (2016), mindset is an individual core belief about their individual own abilities and intelligence. Deck introduces two primary types of mindsets: the fixed mindset and the growth mindset. In the fixed mindset, individuals hold the belief that their abilities and intelligence are invariant. This lead them to shy away from challenges and easily stop trying when faced with obstacles. Conversely, in the growth mindset, people believe that their abilities and intelligence can evolve through dedication and hard work. They view challenges and failures as opportunities for learning, which motivates them to persevere.

That is why, resilience is a basic root of growth mindset. And all of us have access to many examples of it, for instance, being the grandchildren of people who lived during difficult times, mainly in the first part of the XX century (e.g. world wars, economic hardships, political exile, famine and so on), we are living proofs of their resilience. At this point, the question is how can a growth mindset be enhanced by organisational culture.

By definition, cultures are a set of values, beliefs, norms, and practices shared by a group of people (e.g., family, city, country, organisation). They shape behaviours, performance and interactions among its members. In the case of organisations, they can promote a growth mindset throughout their Human Resources policies and practices by fostering a culture of continuous improvement, learning (including from experiences of failure), taking calculated risks when innovating, and also by providing people with opportunities for skill-building, personal growth, cross-functional collaboration in multidisciplinary projects they are passionate about, and focusing on continuous feedback, and development in the performance management system.

In my coaching practice, people frequently asked me about the word “growth” associated to mindset: Isn’t that the hidden cause of the current global climate, poverty and health crises? Certainly, I think the unlimited economic growth at global scale is sustained by the long-practiced business-as-usual paradigm whose only focus is on profits. And that is why there is a strong need to value more other ways to prosper without destroying the natural resources and widening inequality.

This answer also involves personal and organisational values, which are deeply rooted in people’s beliefs systems.  Values serve as guiding principles that influence people’s decision-making, behaviours, and actions, having a significant impact on personal and professional choices. The incorporation of a growth mindset, supported by human-centred contexts, especially their cultural values, can yield significant benefits.

To help individuals and organisations better understand and work with their values, a useful framework, among others, is the Barrett’s Model of Values. This model provides a structured way to assess and manage them, both at the personal and organisational levels. Dr. Richard Barrett's work on values, is widely recognised in the fields of leadership, organisational development, and personal growth (Barrett, 2006).

In essence, individual mindset stands as a critical component in organisational cultural transformation journey. Organisations that cultivate a growth mindset tend to foster values like continuous improvement, learning, innovation, tolerance to mistakes, adaptability, collaboration, accountability, customer focus, and resilience into their cultures, structures, policies and practices. This reflects commitment to both people and organisational growth.

Such an organisational culture is particularly valuable at this moment, helping individuals become more resilient and better equipped to manage their workload and fear-related resistance to the current evolving landscape of AI-driven, ESG compliance changing job structures and society changing values and behaviours.

In summary, embracing the principles of a growth mindset at both the personal and organisational levels not only empowers people in their workplace but also plays a role in inspiring positive societal change.

I would like you to share on these questions:

1. What is the main obstacle  you face  when balancing the need for constant change and the demands for operational continuity?

2. How  is  your organisational culture aligned with   the  growth mindset main belief?


Barret, R. (2006). Building a Values-Driven Organization: A Whole System Approach to Cultural Transformation. Butterworth-Heinemann.

Dweck, C. (2016). Mindset: The New Psychology of Success.

Gordon Baxter, G. and Sommerville, I.  (). Socio-technical systems: From design methods to systems engineering. Interacting with Computers 23 (2011) 4–17

Davis, M.C., Challenger, R., Dharshana N.W. Jayewardene,  & Clegg, C. W. (2014). Advancing socio-technical systems thinking: A call for bravery. Applied Ergonomics. Volume 45, Issue 2, Part A, Pages 171-180:

Dix, A., Finlay, J.E., Abowd, G.D. & Beale, R. (2003), Prentice-Hall, Inc.

Gonzales, M. (2023, January). Gallup: Employee Disengagement Hits 9-Year High.

Laloux, F. (2014). Reinventing Organisations: A Guide to Creating Organisations Inspired by the Next Stage of Human Consciousness. Brussels: Nelson Parker.

Sisodia, R., Wolfe, D., & Sheth, J. (2007). Firms of endearment: How world-class companies profit from passion and purpose. Wharton School Publishing/Pearson Education.

Sisodia, R, &  Gelb, M.J. (2019). The Healing Organization: Awakening the Conscience of Business to Help Save the World. HarperCollins Focus LLC.

Yukl, G. (2013). Leadership in organisations: Global Edition.



bottom of page