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Unlocking the Innovator's Mindset: A Conversation with Gena Gorlin

In the 174th episode of The Leadership Project podcast, we had the honour of hosting Gena Gorlin, a clinical psychologist specialising in the builder's mindset. The discussion touched on the unique characteristics of entrepreneurs and innovators who challenge the status quo and strive for continuous improvement, as well as how anyone can develop this mindset to enhance their leadership and personal effectiveness.

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The Builder's Mindset

The episode began with the assertion that certain individuals have a unique ability to innovate and push boundaries, a trait often found in successful entrepreneurs and innovators. These individuals are rarely satisfied with the status quo and are always seeking ways to make improvements. Gena Gorlin, who has dedicated her career to understanding and coaching individuals with this mindset, joined the discussion to delve into what it takes to cultivate such an innovative spirit.

"Whether you're a founder or not, the concept behind the builder's mindset is going to be applicable to you in your leadership and how you approach your team, your organisation, and all the work that you do, including yourself," Gena explained.

Character Change and the Power of Beliefs

Central to developing an innovator's mindset is the idea of character change. Gena emphasised that character is not a fixed attribute but can be transformed through deliberate effort and self-awareness. This transformation begins with challenging our ingrained beliefs—those subconscious stories we tell ourselves about who we are and what we can achieve.

Gena elaborated, "First, you need to know what the program is... a huge part of the work has been just self-awareness and building that self-knowledge, just noticing, monitoring, observing patterns of feelings, thoughts, behaviours."

Once these limiting beliefs are identified, the next step is to challenge them and step into discomfort. By doing things that scare us—like giving critical feedback or trying new approaches—we collect evidence that these beliefs may not be as immutable as we thought. Over time, this evidence helps reshape our mental models and builds new, more empowering beliefs.

The Virtue of Self-Honesty

One of the key elements discussed was the importance of self-honesty. Gena pointed out that being honest with ourselves is crucial for any real change to take place. It involves acknowledging our faults, recognising our avoidance behaviours, and being truthful about our capabilities and limitations.

"Self-honesty enables us to track our progress truthfully and to understand what changes are necessary for improvement," Gena noted.

Resilience and Sustaining Change

Sustaining change is not without its challenges. Gena acknowledged that the process is iterative and non-linear, requiring resilience and flexibility. She discussed the concept of lapses versus relapses versus collapses, emphasising that occasional setbacks should not derail our overall progress.

"A lapse is when you momentarily fall back into old habits. A relapse is when you let that lapse extend for a longer period. A collapse is when you give up entirely. The key is not to let a lapse become a relapse and certainly not a collapse," she explained.

The Builder's Pursuit of Better

The conversation also touched upon the motivations behind innovation. While for many, innovation is driven by necessity—such as the rapid adaptations seen during the COVID-19 pandemic—builders often innovate simply because they see that things can be better. They are not content with the status quo and are driven by a vision of a more improved and enriched human experience.

"There's no limit to how much better and richer human life can get. The most ambitious people set their sights farther and ask themselves, 'How can things be better?'"

Realistic Expectations and Incremental Progress

Finally, Gena highlighted the importance of having realistic expectations of what success looks like. Change doesn’t happen overnight, and setbacks are part of the journey. It's about being resilient and having the courage to step out of our comfort zones repeatedly.

"It's crucial to get comfortable with discomfort. Change often requires doing things that don't feel natural at first, but it's through these experiences that we find growth and transformation," she stated.


The discussion with Gena Gorlin was enlightening, offering valuable insights into developing an innovator's mindset through character change, challenging beliefs, practising self-honesty, and sustaining resilience. These principles are not just for entrepreneurs but for anyone looking to lead more effectively and live a more fulfilled life.

If you're inspired by this conversation and want to dive deeper into the builder's mindset and character development, consider exploring Gena Gorlin's work further. Her insights provide a pathway to personal and professional growth that can help anyone become a better leader and innovator.


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