Are You Puttylike? Evaluators and Multipotentiality by Sheila B Robinson

Greetings aea365-ers! I’m Sheila B. Robinson, Lead Curator and sometimes Saturday contributor. At this point you’re probably thinking, “Putty-what??? Multi-what??? Are those even real words?” According to Emilie Wapnick, they certainly are. Before I tell you about Emilie, let me ask you these questions:

1.) Have you had one or more jobs in fields other than evaluation?

2.) Do you have a degree or have you taken courses in another field of study, perhaps even one (or more!) unrelated to evaluation?

3.) Have you changed your interests (personal or professional) over time?

4.) Do you continue to pursue learning in fields outside of evaluation just based on personal interest?

If you answer “yes” to any or all of these, you might be a multipotentialite. Emilie, leader of the Puttylike Tribe, describes herself and her professional careers as characterized by “shape-shifting, exploration and evolution.” She has pursued multiple interests over time and created the Tribe to bring together fellow multipotentialites. According to Emilie, a multipotentialite is simply “a person who has many different interests and creative pursuits in life.”

Image credit: UFV Science Rocks via Flickr
Image credit: UFV Science Rocks via Flickr

I started my career as a public school classroom teacher and have held several other positions in education as well including evaluator. But, my first major in college was music and I spent 10 years working for a music studio teaching private piano lessons! In my spare time, I read books and articles in areas including business, psychology, nutrition, and medicine. Oh, and I’m in a Meetup group learning website design! Since becoming involved in AEA I’ve met many evaluators with backgrounds and interests at least as varied as my own.

If you think you might be a multipotentialite, you’re in good company! One of our most revered thought leaders, Michael Scriven, is certainly one. Were you under the impression that Scriven is just an evaluator? Not so! According to a 2014 Psychology Today article, Life Advice from the Smartest and Wisest Person I Know: Practical Wisdom from a True Polymath, Scriven has “published in the leading journal in eleven disciplines: from philosophy to mathematics, evaluation to parapsychology. He’s also relentlessly practical: with impressive expertise in design of word processors, knives, and sports cars.” Did you catch a key part of that last sentence? ELEVEN disciplines!!! Wow…

In a way, it’s not surprising that evaluators are likely multipotentialites. After all, Scriven maintains that evaluation itself is considered a transdiscipline (and even the “alpha discipline”): “…like logic and statistics, evaluation is a major transdiscipline because all disciplines rely on the evaluation process to judge the value of the entities within their own purview…” (Alkin, 2013, p. 33 from  Evaluation Roots: A Wider Perspective of Theorists’ Views and Influences). Evaluators must be puttylike in order to succeed in our field. Just check out this proposed set of evaluator competencies*!

Rad Resources: Emilie Wapnick’s popular TED talk has over 3.6 million views, and she just published How to Be Everything: A Guide for Those Who (Still) Don’t Know What They Want to Be When They Grow Up.

*You’ll need an AEA membership or free website account to access these.

Do you have questions, concerns, kudos, or content to extend this aea365 contribution? Please add them in the comments section for this post on the aea365 webpage so that we may enrich our community of practice. Would you like to submit an aea365 Tip? Please send a note of interest to . aea365 is sponsored by the American Evaluation Association and provides a Tip-a-Day by and for evaluators.


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