One could be forgiven for wondering why such an oddly titled post would be appearing on the LSC website - unless Summer festival season and the need for knee length footwear - has become a lucrative marketplace for aspiring leaders! This, however, was a very different kind of 'Wellington' Festival and despite the ubiquitous portable restrooms, variety of 'stages', crowd pulling performers and (one day of) torrential rain, the Telegraph Festival of Education at Wellington College is a far cry, or guitar solo, from the fields of Glastonbury.

The annual event is always a winner - drawing a wealth of renowned and new inspirational speakers from the world of academia, sport and entertainment - including the inspirational Mathew Syed! Author of the best selling 'Bounce' and the new and equally 'game changing' book, 'Black Box Thinking' 2016, Matthew splices Olympic level sporting talent with searingly accurate insights into the impact of growth versus fixed mindset thinking.

A consummate professional and seemingly effortless performer, Matthew held his education - focused audience rapt as he compared two unlikely bedfellows, the often litigation – constricted and sadly egocentric world of medicine and the hyper-self critical world of aviation. Making the point that in either world, when failure or disaster visit, the two organisations respond in diametrically opposed ways that demonstrate beautifully the impact of a ‘fixed mindset’ as opposed to a ‘growth mindset’, Matthew linked this successfully into the world of learning and the lessons to be internalised from them.

He provided clear examples of how the BMA and WHO have latterly often refused to admit responsibility for (and use as indicators for improvement strategies), medical failures resulting in single or multiple fatalities, preferring the 'get out' clause of 'These things happen' and heaping blame on equipment, funding etc. In aviation circles, such catastrophic events generate major investigations, a 'hands up' approach and a forensic examination of evidence and data leading to the root cause. The outcome of the latter invariably leads to developments and improvements and further preventative measures being included 'as standard'. Growth mindset central!

Matthew charged the audience to lead a 'psychological revolution' in terms of mindset – particularly in helping children and teachers to conceptualise how high performance and potential success happens. His ‘provocation’ to the audience was that ‘effortless talent’ creates a fixed mindset – think potentially great young footballers in our globally competitive meritocracy – achieving a place at a Football Academy and then coasting and failing to get into the top teams! He urged a gear change into an ‘incremental change’ culture  - tiny changes on an ongoing basis leading to major overall improvement (pretty much based on the aviation model above) and light years ahead of the ‘fixed mindset’ that refuses to accept responsibility or the ability to change things going forward.

Matthew suggests that we equip children with an ‘authentic perception of success’ and the ability to see the ‘failed prototypes and incremental change’ behind major inventions – so that their ‘growth mindset’ continues to do just that and moves away from the ‘X Factor’ style overnight success and instant gratification mode of being.

In short – a great model for those seeking new roles – and learning that temporary failure and powerful adaptive mindsets lead to permanent success! Thanks, Matthew!


Pam Mundy, Education Expert - on behalf of LSC Education