Bill Gammell

On a chilly Tuesday in Autumn, an excited crowd gathered at the Caves function venue in Edinburgh to hear Bill Gammell speak. The audience was diverse. Not many were in the same line of work, fewer still were in the same industry, but what everyone in the audience shared was a passion for Scotland and entrepreneurial thinking.

Bill’s Career

Bill Gammell’s career has been astounding. Despite only making it into the 5ths rugby team at school, he went on to be capped 5 times for Scotland. Continuing his passion for sports, he set up the “Winning Scotland Foundation” which tries to bring about positive change through coaching, and sat on the 2014 Glasgow Commonwealth Advisory Board. He’s currently a non-executive director on one of Scotland’s fastest growing companies, Genius Gluten Free. Bill’s most profound achievement was the founding of Cairn Energy -an oil and gas exploration company- which the Guardian valuated at $10 billion in 2010.

But as the host was quick to point out, Bill is not invincible and has been on a continuous journey of self-improvement his entire life. According to Bill, the secret to success isn’t extraordinary intelligence, talent or an exceptional network… the key is a “growth mindset.”

What exactly is a growth mindset?

The idea of a growth mindset comes from the Stanford professor Carol S. Dweck. According to Dweck, your mindset is the view you have on your personality, qualities and skills. On one hand, there is a fixed mindset. If you have a fixed mindset, you believe that many of your abilities are predetermined by your nature. People with fixed mindsets believe that if they’re not good at something, they’re unlikely to get better, whether it be studying, playing sport or learning to code. They tend not to like challenging things as they only serve to prove that they’re not smart or capable.

Gammell argues that people need to embrace the opposite of this: the growth mindset. The growth mindset is an understanding that when it comes to your personal abilities, there’s always room to learn, to improve, to grow. Someone with a growth mindset doesn’t run from challenges, they embrace them. They understand that putting oneself in challenging situations is what makes us better, they understand that diamonds are formed under pressure. Not only is Gammell a huge advocate of the growth mindset, he’s a testament to it.

Here at brightsolid, a growth mindset is at the very heart of our values and culture. To meet our goals, we know that we have to constantly challenge ourselves and learn. As standard, everyone in the company has a 90-day induction program with personalised goal setting, a free personality test from Insights to determine what kind of learner they are and free “lunch and learn” sessions run by our group development coach, Cammi Moorjani. While technology progresses fast, our technical team progresses faster, pushing themselves to develop new skills. Claire Beattie is a prime example of this, pushing herself to complete secondments to our Network Operations team, giving her the skills she needed to become a fully-fledged member.

Growth Mindset

Image courtesy of


Rugby and business- a few parallels

Gammell talked fondly of how he learned the most important lessons of business in an unlikely place: on the rugby field.  As the audience laughed politely, Bill went on to explain how the two are inextricably linked.

For one, in Rugby you need people of all difference shapes and sizes playing their part in various positions. Is this much different from your typical organisation? Successful businesses are made up of diverse teams with complementary skills.

In Rugby, it doesn’t work if one person just hogs the ball and refuses to pass. Much like in a business, workloads and information need to be shared out. At brightsolid, one of our core values is “sharing knowledge is the real power”. While knowledge is great, it doesn’t do much if it’s just locked in one person’s head. We understand that if we are to thrive, we have to pass on the knowledge, just as a thriving rugby team needs to pass the ball.

Bill’s final lesson was about leadership. Just like a line manager or a CEO, the best rugby captains don’t simply manage their teams, they lead them. The captain that simply manages chooses the team and make sure everyone gets there on time, the leader inspires them to play well and uses tactics effectively to win.


Bill was full of little nuggets of advice in the form of soundbites which those close to him referred to as “Billisms”.

Some of the Billisms dealt with investment advice. He urged the audience not to take investment opportunities on face value and to “half the reward and double the risk”, and never go all in on any investment, as his dad would say “never bet the farm”.

Bill talked of how he used to advise his employees to “drill to you drop”. This isn’t just about oil exploration, at the heart of it, this Billism is about pushing yourself until you can go no further.

When Gammell sent his staff on exploration expeditions to far-away lands, he would trust them to use their own best judgment in making decisions, telling them to “proceed until apprehended”. Trusting and empowering staff is something we take very seriously at brightsolid. We have integrated the AMP model into much of our management style, that is, giving staff Autonomy, allowing them to develop Mastery all the while with a sense of Purpose.

The final Billisms, and perhaps Bill’s personal favourite, is “there is no bar”. There is no bar relates to the growth mindset. It says that the only bar or limits are the ones you set for yourself. With a growth mindset and a lot of hard work, there is no bar as to what you or your business can achieve.

Thanks to Bill and Entrepreneurial Scotland

Thanks to Entrepreneurial Scotland for putting on such a good event, and thank you to Bill Gammell for sharing his knowledge and wisdom. As the Chief Executive of Entrepreneurial Scotland, Sandy Kennedy, rounded off the event, “if you have a growth mindset, entrepreneurial Scotland is for you”.

brightsolid has been a big supporter of Entrepreneurial Scotland as part of our commitment to being socially responsible. Find out more about our other socially responsible initiatives here.