Workshop Exercises: Decide

Dot Voting

Use colored dots to vote on the importance of individual items

Illustration of Dot Voting
Run a Dot Voting play

Also called: Dotmocracy, Sticker Voting, Voting with Dots

Timing: Execution

Prep time
1 minute

Run time
5-10 minutes

Group size

Why: Using colored dots, participants can visually indicate their vote, enabling fast consensus-building and decision-making

When: Use to rank or narrow down a list of items or ideas when collective input can determine what is more valuable

This workshop exercise is part of the Workshop Patterns printed card deck.

A collection of workshop exercises that will help you ditch dull meetings and facilitate with confidence. It will help you master the design process and have more productive time with your team. The card deck will be ready for purchase in the end of 2023 and is now undergoing rigorous testing.

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Instructions for running this play

  1. Generate ideas or list a set of alternatives and put them on individual sticky notes on the same surface.
  2. Consider removing duplicates and clustering ideas through Affinity Mapping
  3. Hand out a set of dot stickers to each participant. If you don’t have dot stickers, participants can mark their favorite options with a pen or marker.
  4. Clarify voting constraints. Explain
    1. Why you are holding a vote
    2. How you will act on the outcome
    3. What criteria participants should base their vote on (business problem, goals, expertise or ownership?)
  5. Vote. Participants place their votes quietly without lobbying during the process. Conversations resume when all dots have been placed.
  6. Assess the outcome. Participants are free to share why they voted a certain way and discuss next steps based on the outcome
  7. Revote as needed. If you have a tie among top options or further prioritization is needed, the group can vote again to establish a clear winner.

Tips to perfect this play

Master and adapt the play to fit your context and needs.

Tip: How many dots?

There are different takes. One rule is to give each individual a number of votes roughly equal to a quarter of the total number of options available (12 options equal 3 dots to each person). Another is the number of options available divided by the number of voters divided by 2.

Tip: The power of color

Use different color dots to signify values ("like" and "dislike"), voting category ("feasibility" and "impact"), or participant type ("management" and "staff").

Tip: Resistance votes

Vote with negative dots to find the highest group acceptance – options with the least dots win.

Tip: Vote splitting

Dot voting is quick and efficient, yet watch out for 'vote splitting' causing weaker options to win, and the 'bandwagon effect' influencing later voters

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