Year of Liveability

What is evaluative thinking?

A communal definition proves elusive, so I'll just make up my own.

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In my search for an answer, I found a report online that openly admits that “The exact definition of evaluative thinking is evolving.”  The report was written in 2013.

Is this something we’ve only started doing?  How did we survive before someone came up with the idea; an idea that apparently still needs a communal definition?

Why am I writing about this topic

In reflecting on the progress I’ve made in this my Year of Liveability, I noted that previous years used a ‘learn and adopt’ style.  Learn about protein, eat more protein.  Learn about sugar, eat less sugar.  Learn to play tennis … and there it breaks down because I didn’t then join a tennis club, but you get the point.

So far, this year feels different.  The process is more evaluative.  Perhaps understanding what evaluative thinking means will increase the likelihood that this year’s resolution will be a success.

A brief history of evaluative thinking

In an age when management needs buzz words, ‘evaluative thinking’ is so new there wasn’t even a Wikipedia entry for it. (Maybe there’s one now?)  Some say we used to call it ‘critical thinking’ or ‘reflection’.

Digging a little deeper, there’s been a lot of thinking about evaluation.

Apparently, a common misconception about evaluative thinking is that it is the same as evaluation.  Evaluation is a process tacked onto the end of a project but only if the manager hasn’t run out of time or money or both. In contrast, the buzz is to evaluate continuously, from the beginning.

For those of us who are not project managers … evaluative thinking is not waiting until after the holiday to work out what went wrong and how to do things differently next time.

Instead, evaluative thinking is continually reflecting on our experience while we are experiencing it.  We then adjust as we go.  The aim is to improve the quality of the holiday while we are on holiday.

I’m all for better holidays; providing I get a chance to have the holiday while I’m doing all that reflecting on my experience!

My definition

A definition that would suit my needs for a Year of Liveability … well, it has to be something that doesn’t overwhelm or detract; it has to be something easy to pick up and put down as the need arises; useful but fluid and flexible …

How about the following:

  1. question actions and assumptions;
  2. seek that which is not obvious;
  3. look out for unintended effects; and
  4. take action.

I think this style of thinking could sit comfortably off to one side while I’m pottering along, close enough to the action so that its voice is heard when needed.

Developing evaluative thinking

Looking back, this is not entirely new for me.  Asking myself questions is already something I do and easy enough to try if you haven’t already.  For example, try interviewing yourself.  I did this with some questions I found in a magazine article.  The author was interviewing a professional photographer.  After answering the questions, I realised that it was when I first encountered cameras and photos that strongly influenced my attitudes.  That seems obvious.  The really interesting influence was when during the history of photography I first encountered cameras and photos.

Another thing I’ve tried is thinking of something I enjoy and then tracing back to when I first remember experiencing that enjoyment.  There’s a trick to this one.  The thing you currently enjoy may be different to the first time you experienced that enjoyment.  For example, it turned out that my love of cutting up photos and creating collages had nothing to do with early experiences of photography or art.  Instead, the enjoyment sprang from my love of jigsaws as a child.

Next steps

Before I digress too far off topic, let’s bring things back to the Year of Liveability.  I need to decide on the next step. I’m still focused on rooms and shelves, and there’s one bugging me at the moment because of its high visibility.  A set of shelves by the back door has become a dumping ground as I go back and forwards to the yard.

There’s a set of actions that need questioning.

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