On the last day of the American Evaluation Association conference, which wrapped up on Saturday, I participated in an interactive session on design thinking and evaluation by a group from the Savannah College of Art and Design.
One of the first things that was presented was some of the language of design thinking for those in the audience who are not accustomed to this way of approaching problems (which I suspect was most of those in attendance).
At the heart of this was the importance of praxis, which is the link between theory, design principles and practice (see below)
As part of this perspective is the belief that design is less a field about the creation of things on their own, but rather a problem solving discipline.
Design is a problem solving discipline
When conceived of this way, it becomes easier to see why design thinking is so important and more than a passing fad. Inherent in this way of thinking are principles that demand inclusion of multiple perspectives on the problem, collaborative ideation, and purposeful wandering through a subject matter.
Another is to view design as serious play to support learning.
Imagine taking the perspective of design as serious play to support learning?
The presenters also introduced a quote from Bruce Mau, which I will inaccurately capture here, but is akin to this:
One of the revelations in the studio is that life is something that we create every single day. We create our space and place.
Within this approach is a shift from sympathy with others in the world, to empathy. It is less about evaluating the world, but rather engaging with it to come up with new insights that can inform its further development. This is really a nod (in my view) to developmental evaluation.
The audience was enthralled and engaged and, I hope, willing to take the concept of design and design thinking further in their work as evaluators. In doing so, I can only hope that evaluation becomes one of the homes for design thinking beyond the realm of business and industrial arts.