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Mindset Board Game

written by Simon Leow 2 April 2018

Simon Leow, MAPP '15, is interested in innovative applications of positive psychology ideas. That is why he created the Mindset Board Game. He is passionate about helping others cultivate well-being from within. Visit his web site, Happiness Initiative His articles can be found here.

The Mindset Board Game (MBG) is the first of its kind in the world. It seeks to help players discover the differences between growth and fixed mindsets. Our journey to create MBG can be summarized with four key ideas: purpose, failure, play, and skilled facilitation.

Purpose: Discovery Through Game Play

Long time ago, we went around spreading Carol Dweck’s ideas on growth and fixed mindsets. Suddenly, we thought, “Wouldn’t it be nice if people could play a game and discover the differences all by themselves?” All we needed to do is ask a few questions after the game to facilitate their self-discovery. With this purpose in mind, we created the Mindset Board Game.

The creation of the MBG was itself a growth mindset journey.

Creating the Mindset Board Game – A Growth Mindset Journey

Failure Leads to Learning

So we thought, “It took us many rounds of failing and revision before arriving at the current board game, the sixth version to date. That’s a growth mindset in action.”

With an earlier design, we had a problem. Adults and children play differently. The adults appreciated a more complex game mechanics while children loved something simpler. How do we create a board game to address something as abstract as mindset that meets the needs of both adults and children?

Finally, we came up with a solution. The MBG has two versions of cards: Basic and Advanced. The board is designed to accommodate both versions. So, just by changing the decks of cards from Basic to Advanced and using different rules, the MBG can accommodate a more complex game play. Wow. That creative solution came about because we failed the first time.

An Earlier Version – which took a lot of explaining

The earlier version was too complex. We tested on a group of 60 teenagers and to make matter worse, English was their foreign language. The 1.5-hour game play was very painful for us. We had to translate and to explain the rules repeatedly. We thought it was a disaster. But when the survey came back, we were surprised. More than 80% of the students wanted to play the board game again.

Why would they want to play something again when they had a hard time understanding what was written on the cards?

Play – More Serious Than We Give Credit For

We realize that there was something special about it being a game. Participants are easily engaged by play. In a review of 24 studies by Hamari, Koivisto, and Sarsa, the motivational elements, such as achievement points, challenge, and goals, are features of the MBG. As a result, participants are easily engaged.

Students were actively engaged through play.

If we run a workshop, participants are not likely to want to listen to the workshop content again.

But when it is a game, participants want to play it again. It always warms our hearts when at the end of the game session, participants, particularly children, ask, “When can we play the board game again?” It means we have another opportunity to help the participants internalize the idea of a growth mindset.

Key: Skillful Facilitation

The Mindset Board Game has great potential that can be unlocked with skillful facilitation.

It can be used it in a mass group setting, playing with over 200 children. The feeling can be electrifying, as shown in the video clip.

(Click here to view on Youtube.)

It can be used as a coaching tool for a small group setting. Participants can relate the concepts to many scenarios. If there is a trained and skillful facilitator, the game will be peppered with meaningful conversations.

Adults learning through the Mindset Board Game.

By changing the Basic cards to the Advanced cards and using the advanced rules, participants can experience a more complex game play. Even adults can learn through play.

Conclusion – Plus Ultra
Purpose, Failure, Play, Facilitation. These four ideas summarized our Mindset Board Game journey. From having a purpose, to experiencing failure, to appreciating the seriousness of play, and to finally gaining insights into the power of facilitation as a key, we have come a long way.

We have recently been successful in helping participants translate ideas gleaned from the Mindset Board Game to an outdoor game setting. Now our focus is in helping participants translate these ideas into their daily interactions. We have come this far. We will go further – Plus Ultra.


Editor’s Clarification
We originally showed Mindset® in the title and throughout the piece. Simon let us know that the logo made with the word Mindset used on game materials is a registered trademark, but of course the word Mindset is not trademarked.


Dweck, C. (2007). Mindset: The New Psychology of Success. New York: Ballantine Books.

Hamari, J., Koivisto, J., & Sarsa, H. (2014). Does gamification work? A literature review of empirical studies on gamification. , 47th Hawaii International Conference on System Sciences (HICSS). DOI: 10.1109/HICSS.2014.377. Abstract.

Image credits
Images are used with permission from the author.

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