Interview - Coffee Break with Ewan

9th Nov 2018 • Enrichment

Leading projects worldwide for clients in industry and education, Ewan McIntosh is the passionate and energising force behind NoTosh.


When you meet Ewan in person he is funny, charismatic and just an all round friendly guy. We have had the pleasure of working side by side with Ewan and some of the team from NoTosh on a number of different education projects; their workshops are packed full of energy, post it notes and various other quirky objects! We thought Ewan would be a great person to kick off our new enrichment blog 'Coffee Break'

For those who haven't heard of NoTosh, what's it all about?

NoTosh is a global specialist team of education and enterprise consultants. We help people think more creatively and work more effectively by opening their minds to new ways of seeing situations and new ways of working – as individuals and as teams. We call our approach NoTosh Design Thinking – it’s highly collaborative and extremely flexible. And it brings people and teams together and takes them to new places.

We tailor what we do to suit any situation or challenge that an organisation might find itself in – and to help them move forward. And we’re always working on new ideas and strategies to give people skills and resources, and also the confidence and energy they need, as individuals and team players.

We help people to think differently and change the way they choose to work, by

- guiding them from passive thinking to dynamic activity;

- equipping them to work out problems for themselves and become self-sufficient;

- creating an environment in which it’s safe to be experimental; and

- developing a shared language for teams and organisations.

We normally do this through long-term projects or intense learning sprints - we've been doing intense sprints in schools and companies since 2009, before it was fashionable!

What would you say to someone who is sceptical about challenging the status quo of teaching and learning in schools?

The status quo is nothing but people’s perception of what works best today. Some people have never questioned that, so they need inspiration on new ‘whys' that might shift what feels important and then, quickly, the ‘how’ so that they can go off and start making small changes to test the ideas for themselves.

Others have questioned the status quo, and need more robust processes to help them bring others along on a journey of change. Enthusiasts can quickly “unenthuse" colleagues if they go too fast, too far, too early.

Finally, there are some folk who, frankly, seem to enjoy bathing in the doom and gloom: any change seems unfeasible to them. Over the last decade, we’ve learned that their views are really worth digging into, because somewhere in there is an important consideration to take on board before you go too far along changing things. But I’ve never met anyone who just refuses to change, point-blank. As long as you show you’re listening, and take on board those values which people are keen to retain, you can create incredible change as a team.

What is your most memorable project so far?

We’ve undertaken 300 projects lasting more than two years each over the past decade. It’s hard to choose, because they’re memorable for different reasons. St Mel’s Primary School in Sydney is a school which has really embraced our work with them over three years, made it their own, transformed their students’ outcomes and are sharing with scores of schools around the world. It’s memorable because the impact is still visible in my Twitter feed every day! And at Nanjing International School, we’ve helped take a good school and turn it into remarkable one that people flock to see. From informing their design-led approach to learning and teaching, designing their strategy in a collaborative process, and then creating a different kind of architecture brief, the changes there are in attitude, curriculum, teaching, learning, leadership and physical environment. And, as serendipity has it, EIW won the bid on the back of that new, alternative brief, and what you’re producing will help this remain memorable for decades to come!

Who or what inspires you?

My team at NoTosh over the years has been the most inspiring group you could hope to work with. But so are our customers. Personally, I get to work with some of the top Head Teachers or School Directors in the world every week, along with some of the foremost innovators in business. I never go a day without learning something new, and having my own assumptions challenged, tested and changed. It’s not always pleasant as inspiration goes - sometimes inspiration provokes you into realising you were very wrong about something - but you can’t ask for a better way to learn.

Can you tell us something most people wouldn't know about you?

I’m a linguist by trade and wanted to be a spy when I was at university. I’ve not really grown up yet, and am addicted to crime and espionage fiction. Nothing gives me a frisson of what could’ve been when I make it through the Diplomatic passport gate at an airport. One of my colleagues has done this, too, stating he was from the state of NoTosh. No-one blinked twice, and through he went. Everyone should try it.

Click here to view a recent talk by Ewan on teaching, learning and leadership.