Evaluation Axes

How might naming/discussing collective team values up-front help avoid analysis paralysis when making choices?

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Date Added: 
May 2019

Relationship to Ambiguity

The Design for Extreme Affordability teaching team used this activity to help our students prepare themselves for the difficult task of narrowing in on a specific problem statement from many attractive potential possibilities.

The goal is to surface project values of a team in order to make decision-making less painful. Ultimately the problem of deciding a Problem Statement to tackle is one of values, but we tend to discuss the Problem Statements themselves, usually held heavily by different teammates that have authored them, and so it’s easy for conversations to feel attacking. By defining shared team values up front, it becomes easier to evaluate Problem Statements as a team, at an emotional distance from the individual, leading to more cohesive decision-making experiences.




We ran this exercise in class with 10 teams and their real projects. There were real stakes involved.

  1. Brain dump (as individuals) a bunch of raw Problem Statements (in design thinking, we use Point of View Statements). Do NOT spend  time editing; the rougher the drafts, the easier to do this exercise.
  2. Create a set of evaluation axes based on what is important to the team about the project. We provide a starter set.
  3. Evaluate a subset of the rough drafts (3-5), discussing WHERE on the axis each of you would place it and WHY.
  4. Define a set of Evaluation Axes and a range on each axis any potential Statement would need to fall.




  • We were surprised at how easily teams could generate Problem Statements (POVs) when we took away the emphasis of the statements themselves. Students were less precise and were able to get a lot of raw material out.
  • The axes really helped students understand what was important to them in a project and helped them integrate constraints (both external and internal) into their evaluation.

Design Abilities Used

This activity requires teams to discuss and externalize both individual and team values, which involves learning from fellow teammates and communicating clearly. In the process of evaluating concrete POV statements relative to abstract values, it also forces teams to exercise the ability of Moving Between Concrete and Abstract.


Designed by:

Andrew Molina
Andrew Molina
Curriciulm Designer, Stanford d.school

Design Abilities Used

Learn from Others (People and Contexts)
Communicate Deliberately
Move Between Concrete + Abstract
Learn More about Design Abilities 


This resource is the original work of the Designer(s). I/we give permission for it to be licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution- Noncommercial-Share Alike 4.0 International License.

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