The principles of Making Change Stick: Its more ‘mud map’ than ‘blueprint’

One of the things I love to do is work with groups, speak about change and present ways of navigating a path that will transform schools and engage this generation. Because my role at Sydney Centre for Innovation in Learning (SCIL) is embedded in Northern Beaches Christian School (NBCS), I use the school’s experience as an inspiration for change.

I am regularly asked about where and how to get started, but the journey of NBCS is unique to a particular community and context. The ideas are inspirational, practical and transferable. Each school and organisation can learn from successful models of change, but then develop their own journey, by identifying the key elements that will make change stick.

A school leader approached me after the presentation to their school’s executive team and asked about where to start in shifting from a ‘teaching’ to ‘learning’ culture, from ‘bells and cells’ to open and personalised approaches, within an inspirational space that more effectively engages students in their learning.

In the dynamics of this fast-paced world, where technology and innovation are progressing at an exponential rate, there is no one-size-fits-all to shifting a school’s culture.  The concept of the blueprint for change needs to make way for the mud map.

A mud map is a quintessentially Australian term, that dates back to the early European explorers who we were making their way through literally unchartered outback in harsh conditions and unknown terrain. At the end of a day, the plan for the next part of the journey was mapped out with a stick drawing in the mud, hence, mud map. They knew where they wanted to go, what they hoped to achieve, but not completely sure what it would look like when they arrived.

Sound familiar?

So rather than give schools the blueprint, chapter and verse, of change, I would rather present key principles and help them draw their own mud map. Here is how I answered the ‘Where do I start?’ question:

Be resolute: Are you absolutely convinced that this direction is the way to go? Then be determined and keep moving in the direction.

Look for passion: Start with the passionate people. You need them to keep you energised and stay on track.

Adopt a 21stC skills approach: There are a number of skills essential for student success in the 21stC. These skills are just as relevant to the  staff in a school as the students, how else will students learn them, if not modelled to them? These skills* include collaboration, agility, adaptability, entrepreneurship, initiative, problem solving, curiosity and imagination.

I encouraged the questioner, with these three principles. If people keep coming up with problems, be resolute, adopt a 21stC problem-solving approach and keep drawing and redrawing your mud map.

It’s worth it for our kids.

* Tony Wagner Global Achievement Gap

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