The Outward Mindset Summary and Review

by The Arbinger Institute
Has The Outward Mindset by The Arbinger Institute been sitting on your reading list? Pick up the key ideas in the book with this quick summary. Many of us go through life with one goal: What can we do for ourselves? We make our decisions based on what we might be able to gain from a situation, with little regard to how other people will be affected by the situation. The thing is, though, focusing only on what we want constantly can cause tons of problems, and instead, we should focus our energy toward what others want. Imagine you’re a manager of a large company looking to improve productivity. Which tactic do you think would work best: enforcing more work hours for your employees so that the metric improves, or asking them what you can do to make them happier during the work day? But how do you develop a mindset that puts others first? This book summary will show you the way. In this summary of The Outward Mindset by The Arbinger Institute, you’ll discover
  • how a single police officer reduced the crime rate through offering coffee and public restrooms; and
  • why it’s important not to force your children to be part of a sports team.

The Outward Mindset Key Idea #1: In order to make the right decisions in life, you have to adopt the appropriate mindset.

Have you ever stopped to wonder what determines the actions you take? Lots of people believe that what they do is simply a product of their personalities, but the truth is actually much more straightforward. It’s actually your mindset that controls your behavior. Basically, your mindset is your thought process and perception of the world. This goes far beyond your core beliefs about yourself and encompasses the way you approach and think about everything, including the ways you consider and treat everyone around you. Because it’s so far-reaching, your mindset is hugely important. A result of this is that making even the smallest changes to your mindset can result in drastic changes to your behavior and actions. Just take the Kansas City Police Department’s SWAT team. They had long been criticized by locals for their tendency to use excessive violence. For example, many citizens had complained that the team would often shoot pets during raids. Confronted by their own poor reputation, the SWAT team had no choice but to change its mindset, which prompted them to start focusing on the feelings of the people around them, even the suspects.. Suddenly, the team began treating people with respect. Rather than acting aggressively, they started looking for cooperation. In one example, prior to rushing into questioning the suspects, the team took the time to calm a baby who was left in the house. Taking this new approach to their method paid off tremendously, drastically improving the results of their crime fighting This just goes to show, a change of mindset can transform behavior but – best of all – it doesn’t even require much effort. Simply picture a company that’s struggling financially. To keep themselves above water, they’ve been micromanaging costs and firing people left and right while slashing employee benefits and customer service. This mindset is based entirely on saving money, but is it really the right one for them? Rather, the company should actually focus on making money, which would involve making decisions to bring in revenue. This would involve starting to look at developing markets and technological innovations which could potentially solve their financial problems without sacrificing employee and customer satisfaction. But why does such a simple a change of mindset have such beneficial effects? You’ll find out in the next book summary.

The Outward Mindset Key Idea #2: Achieving success involves taking your focus away from yourself, and instead, consider the needs of the people around you.

When things go wrong in our lives, we tend to search for excuses. For example, if someone has an interview for their dream job and doesn’t walk away with an offer, the candidate might immediately assume that the failure is a result of, for instance, his parents not teaching him properly, or because his interviewer didn’t ask the correct questions. Such excuses are far from helpful — they’re actually the result of a negative inward mindset that focuses solely on the individual in question and what he wants for himself. So, how does such a mindset emerge? To start, lots of people focus too much on trying to control the situation they’re in. A good example of this is when people try to make others behave a certain way, like when a mother is scolding her noisy child. When such tactics fail, people tend to grow upset and pessimistic. At other times, people lean too heavily on outdated hierarchies. Say you’re a manager at your company. You might be constantly living with a mindset of trying solely to protect your position, which could result in you constantly looking for faults in others, and therefore blaming them for mistakes. Of course, an approach like this can produce some major issues, which is why you’d be better off developing an outward mindset, one that’s focused on the needs and feelings of others. Doing this requires that you solely concentrate on what you need from other people in order to achieve your goals, and what they might need from you. In order to recognize the difference between these two mindsets in action, try picturing being the parent of two kids who you take outside everyday when you get home from work to shoot hoops. A parent with an inward mindset might think, “I always make sure my kids get a workout every night.” However, a parent with an outward mindset might ask themself: “Do my kids want to play basketball? I’ll ask them and see what they want. If not, we can find something else to do.” Basically, an outward mindset will allow you to work out scenarios that fulfill the needs of both yourself and the people in your life. In the next book summary, you’ll learn how you can adopt a mindset like this. We read dozens of other great books like The Outward Mindset, and summarized their ideas in this article called Effective Communication. Check it out here!

The Outward Mindset Key Idea #3: Listening to others is essential to developing an outward mindset.

Now that it’s clear how an outward mindset can lead to positive changes in your life, it’s time to learn how you can adopt one for yourself. To do so, just follow three easy steps based on the acronym SAM. The S stands for “seeing the needs of others.” This means that you should focus on others instead of yourself. This is simple, as long as you consider what other people need and want from any given situation. The A is for “adjusting your efforts.” Once it’s clear what people need, it’s necessary to take action toward helping them to achieve it. And the last letter, M, stands for “measuring the impact.” This is a huge part of determining how effective you’ve been. Did your actions help others in the way they actually needed to be helped? If the answer is no, perhaps it’s time to change things so that you can make it work. Take the example of an NGO who was desperate to bring clean water to a remote area, but had no idea how to do it. By starting with S, they were able to see that people in the area wanted their kids to be healthy and to attend school. From there, they moved to A, and shifted their focus from simply supplying clean water to a broader scope, which would help children be healthy enough to go to school. Finally, they moved on to M and began tracking the health of children in the area. Through following these steps, you’ll also be able to change your mindset. But also, remember to keep yourself in mind and avoid forcing others to change themselves. Really, when you force other people to change, you’re displaying an inward mindset based on what you want. Rather, it’s important to make the change yourself, showing others how it works. What if you were an executive who wanted your employees to shift their mindsets? It’s impossible to demand that they do what you want – or expect them to change on their own. Instead, it’s best to alter your mindset so that you can show them you care about their needs and desires. Ultimately, they’ll catch onto your newfound positivity, following the example you set.

The Outward Mindset Key Idea #4: A single person with an outward mindset can have a positive impact on the world.

You now know that you can inflict change in other people through leading by example, but how exactly is this done? To start, a great way to apply the power of your outward mindset is to use it in working toward a collective goal. This is because your outward mindset is a great way for you to have the chance to identify mutually beneficial objectives, and working toward such goals helps produce shared solutions. For example, let’s take a look at Kansas City, where 50 police officers were struggling to stop crime among the day laborers who would gather at a city park. The laborers tended to view each other as competition when it came to jobs, which lead to violence, theft, and vandalism. One officer, Matt Tomasic, decided to use his outward mindset to actually ask them what it was they truly needed, rather than blaming them for the crime. And it turned out, what they wanted was simple: bathrooms and hot coffee. This was easy enough to provide, so, by making these simple changes, the officers was able to reduce tensions between the workers, drastically cutting the crime rate, all thanks to Tomasic being able to identify a collective goal. The outward mindset was able to get both the police and the day laborers what they needed. This proves that your own position is irrelevant. It doesn’t matter if you’re a boss, an employee, a parent, a teacher, or a child, everyone has the capability to create positive social change through the adoption of an outward mindset. Imagine you’re a customer service representative. There’s actually a way to improve the lives of customers yourself, rather than waiting on your boss. All it involves is trying to figure out what it is the customers need and how you might be able to help them get it. They might need you to respond more rapidly or be more polite when addressing their concerns. No matter what it is, you’ll easily be able to take a step in identifying a collective goal that will help you satisfy your customers. And then, when your boss and co-workers see the results of this new strategy, they might start making similar changes themselves. So, start thinking about the needs of others. It could make all the difference in improving their lives, as well as your own.

In Review: The Outward Mindset Book Summary

The key message in this book: The right mindset is key to your success. In order to effectively work with others, it’s necessary to understand what it is they need, so that you can then figure out how you’ll be able to collectively achieve your goals. This means seeing the needs of other people, and adjusting your behavior to match what it is they need, which will ultimately help you to measure your impact. Actionable Advice Treat your employees and colleagues right, especially those who interact with customers. Unfortunately, the employees with the lowest pay rates and the worst treatment — from movie theater employees to call center agents — tend to be the ones with the most customer interaction. This is a recipe for disaster. If these employees who spend all their time interacting with customers are dissatisfied themselves, how can we expect them to satisfy the customers they’re speaking with? A solution to this is to rid your organization of any distinctions, thus taking an inclusive view and an outward mindset that will consider the needs of everyone employed at your company.   Suggested further reading: Find more great ideas like those contained in this summary in this article we wrote on Effective Communication