Danger of viewing change too narrowly

This afternoon I have had the privilege of a tour of the new Invenio Academy (formerly Foxhills Technology College) with Executive Head Teacher Steve Gallaher.  The building is a thoroughly impressive facility, but what stands out is the vision for how it is to be used by students for learning.  I am not the right person to reflect on the educational theories per se, but as I considered what I had seen it occurred to me that there was an important leadership lesson.

One of the things that it seems to me that Steve and his team have avoided is the danger of viewing change too narrowly.  In seeking to change some of the culture and ways of working in a secondary school it would have been all to easy to organise training days, write documents about what the future looks like and hold everyone accountable to new ways.  This may have had some measure of success, but would probably have fallen short of the exciting new reality taking shape at Invenio.

What has actually taken place is a complete change.  Staff titles and job roles have changed, and perhaps most importantly the building has changed.  Even if a teacher wanted to go back to teaching in the old ways, and I saw nothing to suggest that any would want to, they would not be able to find a classroom to do it in.  The building has been designed around the particular vision of a learning environment that they are pursuing.  This has the affect of changing the mindset of everyone involved, students and teachers alike.  It not only facilitates a new way or operating, but it also inspires individuals to make it happen.

As leaders the temptation is to view change too narrowly and think that new ways of operating can be achieved with simple communication.  We read about the latest theory or attend a conference on the fad doing the rounds and think that we can just tack it onto what we are doing.  What I saw today is that there is real power in considering things more widely, especially the physical environment, if we are to see a change in culture.

Perhaps there is a biblical principle at work here when Jesus comments, albeit with a different context, that you can’t put new wine in old wine skins.  There is certainly a challenge to all of us as leaders.  Are we trying to force something new into an old vessel?

As an aside I would have loved to have access to a ‘Hacklab’ equipped like the one at Invenio when I was at school; that is a very impressive facility!

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