Research across many fields of psychology demonstrates that individuals’ mindsets – their attitudes, beliefs, perceptions about themselves and the world – are key determinants of fulfilling potential and optimizing performance. Psychological theory provides us with a foundation for the types of mindsets most likely to be relevant in a given setting. Mindsets are often categorized into three groups of beliefs: growth mindset (the belief that one can improve through effort), purpose (the belief that an activity has purpose or relevance), and social belonging (the feeling of fitting in with peers and adults in a particular setting).
But psychological theory alone is not enough to customize solutions that will be effective for specific individuals and the context. Our translational approach to understanding the highest leverage mindsets in a particular setting involves a combination of psychological theory and design-based methods. The design-based process involves being problem-specific and user-centered. We see the most effective designs as solving specific problems identified by the group we’re working with to be effective in a particular situation. We then combine these practitioner insights with psychological theory to develop solutions that are tailored for the groups we are working with.
Ultimately, the solutions we develop – which can range from measures to interventions to evaluation plans – are tailored to fit the unique challenges of the groups with whom we work. As outlined below, we use a variety of methods, including design-based studies, experiments, and improvement science to develop, test, and scale solutions at the organizational level (and beyond).
When designing psychological solutions for practical problems, our research-based design process involves using several key methods, that vary in length from one month to more than a year, depending upon the desired outcomes:
The design process is focused on the user’s perspective. This requires employing empathy and qualitative research methods that inform how best to leverage the most relevant psychological theories. The design process is also kinetic – it is full of action. There are no long periods of hunkering down behind a curtain working on a masterpiece. Instead, small tests are conducted frequently that gather large amounts of feedback, much of it qualitative, that are briefly reflected upon before revising the prototyped solution.
In order to understand whether the solution works, we conduct rigorous testing of our solutions, either using experimental methods (aka Randomized Controlled Trials (RCT), A/B testing) or improvement science methods. Randomized experiments offer a low-cost method of learning whether one intervention is better than another, or whether one approach is better than a control group. When randomized experiments are not possible, we engage in brief testing and evaluation cycles (i.e., plan-do-study-act, or PDSA) to rapidly improve our ideas and designs. These iterative tests start on a small scale, with a few individuals or groups, and as we learn more about what works (and what doesn’t), before we proceed to a much larger scale.
Once our ideas have some evidence of effectiveness, we need to take them to a larger scale. To bring our solutions to a wider population, we focus on implementing reliably across contexts. This means focusing on the key factors needed to implement the solution across a variety of situations and groups. It also means leveraging technology to reach large populations efficiently and effectively.
What Does This Mean for Your Organization?
By leveraging user-input alongside rapid design and psychological theory we’re able to help the groups we work with identify challenges and scale solutions. For each partner organization, we deliver the following:
- An understanding of the psychological mindsets associated with performance in their organization
- High levels of input throughout data collection, data interpretation, design, testing, and scale-up phases of the work
- Identified pathway(s) to improve the key aspects of their organizations (players, people) and how those pathways connect with other organizational goals and pressures
By combining our psychological and design expertise with data and feedback from the groups we are partner with (e.g., players, coaches), we create scalable solutions through an iterative and rigorous research process that are customized to your needs.