Effecting change is a skill just like teaching history, playing a piano, or throwing a football. Being good at it is a combination of inherent ability and learning. Why should it be otherwise? Some people are naturally more comfortable with change, with things like risk and creativity and flexibility. Others are less comfortable. And just like pianists, both prodigy and aspirant will become better if they learn new skills and practice them. If not, they will never become better or more comfortable with change.
Organizations are made of people and the ability of an organization to change is made up of the natural abilities of its people to enact change and the effort it sustains to get better. An organization has a cultural DNA and the ability to change that DNA over time. There is nothing negative about this need to change the cultural DNA of schools. Schools are comprised of people who have great DNA when it comes to knowledge of subject, passion for working with young people, commitment to a cultural legacy, and so much more. Most schools don’t have rich “change DNA”. That is not a value judgment any more than is hair color. It is just a fact.
Leaders who think or hope that cultural DNA will evolve over time without a conscious effort are naïve. They have two huge arrows in their quiver to improve the “change DNA” of their organization. They can hire people who are good teachers AND who are comfortable with change. This is just like drafting a quarterback who can both run and throw. And they can provide focused, sustained, intentional learning to help people, regardless of their natural abilities, to become better, more comfortable with change. Good pianists, prodigy or hacker, don’t practice three times a year for a half day if they hope to get better. Schools and school leaders that recognize the inevitability of innovation must fire both these arrows with vigor and conviction or they are failing themselves and, more importantly, their students.
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