Chithra Adams on Evaluating with a Design Attitude

I’m Chithra Adams, a program evaluator at the Human Development Institute, University of Kentucky. I explore how design principles and research can be applied to program evaluation.

Rad Idea – Design attitude: Designers have a particular mindset and attitude towards problem solving. According to Boland and Collopy (2004), this mindset will help managers constantly strive to find new alternatives to problems. They refer to design attitude as “the expectations and orientation one brings to a design project. A design attitude views each project as an opportunity for invention that includes a questioning of basic assumptions and a resolve to leave the world a better place than we found it” (Boland and Collopy, 2004, p.9). A design mindset allows individuals to be creative and innovative in uncertain and complex environments.

Here are few features of a design mindset: 1) creating new perspectives by identifying, analyzing and combining different parts of the problem (technical, financial, operational and emotional parts);

2) creating tangibles– solutions are sketched out and intangible ideas are bought to life by visualizing them;

3) embracing ambiguity by being willing to improvise, taking risks, and having an open mind; and

4) developing a deep connection to people as well as understanding the environmental constraints (Michlewski,2008).

Lessons Learned in adopting a design attitude: I am still figuring out what it means to adopt a design attitude as an evaluator. The following are a few things I have changed about how I do my work. I find and seek opportunities for testing new methods, software, and approaches. I am learning not to be tied to one way of doing things. I am not only more open to feedback but also actively seeking feedback from clients. My evaluation deliverables are “temporary” and can be customized to different contexts. Finally, I sketch out ideas and processes!

Rad Resources:

Boland, R., J., and Collopy, F. 2004. Managing as designing. Stanford University Press: Stanford, CA

Michlewski, K. 2008. Uncovering Design Attitude: Inside the Culture of Designers. Organization Studies, 29: 373-392

Design Attitude can transform businesses from within  

Designing for throwness, design attitude, decision attitude (this link includes a video of Richard Boland talking about a design attitude)

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