Decision Making

Decision making techniques 2: Dot voting

Use this when you have lots of options. Works with any size group.
Sarah | 04.08.17

Reference cards

Dot voting method reference card - page 1

Dot voting method reference card - page 2

Method

  1. Write down all the options on seperate pieces of paper and arrange them on a wall or table.
  2. Give everyone 3 large dot stickers.
  3. Remind everyone what they are deciding and what the important factors are.
  4. To avoid groupthink and socail pressure, ask everyone to choose what they’re going to vote for in silence. You can place multiple dots on the same idea and vote for your own idea.
  5. Then allow everyone to place their dots on their preferred idea(s).
  6. When all the dots are placed, rank the ideas according the number of votes on each to prioritise them.

Tips

  1. If you don’t have dot stickers available, allow people to draw their dots with marker pens.
  2. Use an online dot voting tool to include remote
  3. A good rule of thumb when deciding how many dots to give people is: divide the number of options by three, rounding the number up to the next integer, and add 1. For 2 options for instance this would be: 2 divided by 3 is 0.66, which we round up to 1, and add 1 to it, for a total of 2 dots. If you had 12 options, you’d divide by 3 to get 4 and then add 1 and give everyone 5 dots.
  4. If you’re a large group of have a lot of options you can give everyone only 2 votes to make things simpler.

Example

You’re in the middle of a design sprint. You and your team of 5 have thought of 20 different ‘How might we’ questions you could focus on for the rest of the sprint.

You want a quick way to see how everyone in the team will prioritise them so then you can discuss the most promising options, and not waste time discussing options nobody is considering.

You recap the aims of the sprint and remind everyone now it the time to try out risky ideas. You give everyone 7 dots and give them a minute to decide what they’ll vote for and then let them place their dots.

Diagram of a number of cards with dots assigned to them

This example is inspired by Monday afternoon of the Sprint book by Jake Knapp from Google Ventures.

Additional resources

If you want to check dot voting out straight away, we have created a free online version called Decido. No registration necessary.

We have also written a longer How-to post on dot voting that includes evidence from cognitive psychology that suggest it's a good technique to adopt.

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