"DOT VOTING" method - HOW does it work and WHAT value does it add
Method: Dot Voting;
Content: Method description;
Complexity: Very easy;
Keywords: #individual vs group opinion; #prioritization; #understanding; #insights; #usage examples
In this article, I will describe one of the basic design thinking methods – Dot
Voting. I will start with an explanation of why the dot voting method is so important
and widely used. I expect it could be more interesting for those of my readers
to whom design thinking is still a new area. After that, I'll describe in more
detail how to use this method. I will give a short description and key attention
points of each step. And I'll finish by giving some examples where the method
can be used in a wide range of situations, including outside the professional
field and design thinking framework.
The person with the loudest voice does not always represent the majority opinion
The ability to interact and communicate for sure is one of the most essential human abilities. It is vital to understand that the "ability to communicate" means more than knowing the words in the specific language, building sentences out of these words, and speaking. Ability to communicate means also listening – being able to hear and understand what the other person is saying, and being able to accept it as well. By the way, effective communication has been highlighted as one of the critical skills required for the future workforce. With that inclining that this is something to be improved.
Why do I talk about it at all? Because very often we mix communication with talking and hearing. In our private lives, it is our personal responsibility and the sign of the emotional intelligence of the groups we belong to. But it's pretty different in the professional and creative fields. Focusing on our own opinion and not hearing and accepting other people's views impacts the creative process. Not to say that discussions are to be avoided. Not at all. Discussions are great, and there are many situations where having an open debate is the best way forward. For example, when we need to get to the essence of the problem, discuss reasons, brainstorm, etc. Yet then there are other situations where the discussion is not the most constructive and fast approach.
Most of the support = the most popular opinion
In every design thinking project, we concentrate our attention on the concrete problem that a specific group of people faces. Our ambition and purpose are to find the best possible solution for this problem and this group. And a group of people is always more than just, for example, Ann or Jhon. Therefore the most important for us is to understand the views and opinions that the majority of the group has, not only Ann and Jhon. It might be that it actually is the same. However, more often, it is not. And to understand this majority opinion, we often choose dot voting over discussions about "which one of these is the most important." Simply because discussion format tends to be not so constructive and productive. Instead we use dot voting, a method where everyone can silently express their own opinion, which is afterward summarized to show the group's majority opinion.
And we can act similarly in many situations in our private lives too. True, in design thinking projects, we have digital and physical tools that make it easier to organize different voting sessions, yet it is optional, not mandatory. I'll give some personal examples of how I've done it and used dot voting in different circumstances in other articles of this blog. You can find links to these articles below.
Isn't it a little bit too silly?
Maybe yes, but perhaps no. At first, let's acknowledge that we use different types of direct and indirect voting every day of our lives.
Direct voting obviously is voting in elections (also choosing not to participate in elections is voting); we participate in different surveys; complete various types of forms; rate the products and service providers, and so on. All of this is voting – we put a bold check in many areas of our lives.
We make decisions and with that – vote – indirectly too. We choose to support one company over another, one product or service over another. We decide to participate (or not) in different public affairs, use social media functions, etc.
Therefore – like we or not – every day we leave our footprints in so many ways and forms in society. And I think it's terrific. We have a lot of power. So why wouldn't we use this power more in our lives and our favor? If we can help with our voice to promote some idea or project, why wouldn't we?
How does the Dot voting happen?
It is a straightforward and flexible method that is easy to use. Using the simplest version of the method will also not require a lot of time, just a couple of minutes. Overview of the process you can find above, however more detailed steps are described below:
The aim: Formulate clear expected result
Before starting the voting session, it's important to formulate and clearly explain the expected results to the participants. It might seem unworthy since often it seems straightforward; however, it's not so, and this step often is significant for getting authentic results. Simply because every voting participant will feel more comfortable if they know the purpose of the activity and how the consolidated results will be used. And the more comfortable the participants will feel, the more open and honest they will be when making their decision. It is also good to clarify if the results will be used as-is or the results will be used as an input for other activities.
- The aim: clarify the voting rules
Explain and agree on the voting system that the team will use. The system can be different in different situations, depending on the purpose and the expected results. For example – how many votes will each participant have? If more than one vote – do they have to vote for different options, or can they use all votes on the same option? Do the voting tools (post-its, voting dots) have different colors and shapes? If so – how do the differences matter? Is there going to be just one voting round, or will more follow? If yes – at what sort of circumstances? How much time do participants have to make their vote? Shortly – a lot of small things to agree on. Yet all must have the same understanding of the rules.
- The aim: introduce everyone to available options
Make sure that all participants have access to all voting options and understand them in the same way. For example, if that's a list of solution ideas, is it written in a readable and understandable manner? Is it accessible for review? And more importantly – does all participant have the same understanding what each of these options means? For example, if one of the options is "Provide training" – does all of the participants understand what training implies in the same way? Because if one participant assumes it must mean six months of training and another participant believes it means two hours of online training – they might vote for different things, which might matter a lot. Therefore everyone must have the same understanding.
- The aim: each participants votes individually
Make sure that each participant has the tools and place to choose and vote for their favorite options or options. The most important is to make sure that voting happens in silence. There shouldn't occur any discussions or comments about what other people are doing. Otherwise, it inevitably will impact some people's decisions and actions. The facilitator needs to make sure this does not happen because the fundamental purpose of this method is to provide a framework where everyone can make their natural choice not impacted by other people's opinions.
- The aim: consolidate voting results
Consolidate voting results to define the most popular opinion. Of course, taking into account the initially defined process. Typically it means simply counting the votes and writing down the summary scores. Please make sure the scores are visible to everyone, and everyone can have a look at them. It can be one of the most exciting moments. Let's be honest, isn't it interesting to compare your views with those of others?
Often voting session ends with more than one option having the maximum amount of votes. What to do then? Depending on the initially agreed process and the objective set for results. If it's Ok for the set goal to have more than one result, it's Ok then. If not, another voting round can be conducted. Or one of the key stakeholders can make the final decision.
- The aim: repeat if necessary
If it is agreed to continue with the voting rounds to shrink down the list of options, do so. This time use only the top voted options from the previous round.
When to use this Dot Voting?
Use this method whenever there is no clear decision between multiple options. Multiple options are key here because obviously, voting doesn't make any sense if there is only one option chosen already. And when looking around, you might start noticing that there are many situations to practice this method for more clarity or fun.
I also want to mention that understanding the majority opinion is huge but not the only benefit of using this method. The design thinking process and methods used also give an incredible amount of inspiration for people that are part of the process. People do like to be part of this process. People do like to feel that their opinion does matter and is taking into account. When practicing these methods, people have a chance to switch their minds to something unordinary, out of their daily routine. And people are surprised how many exciting ideas they can come up with. The motivational part is my favorite part. Therefore I suggest using this and other methods as often as possible. Below you can find some of the usage examples:
- Any decision that needs to be made at the workplace where the most important decision criteria are teammates opinion;
- Any decision about a concrete solution where multiple solution options are available;
- Any decision about a new idea, product, or service where the most important decision criteria are users opinion;
- Any decision regards workplace where the most important decision criteria are people priorities;
- And others.
- Private projects or hobbies where other people opinion matters;
- Planning the event or occasion with multiple people
- Family decision with various options;
- Games where various people are involved;
- And others.
Practical usage examples for different circumstances
- Own priorities: the beautiy of the method is getting to understand what other people think and validate your thinking. It's not usable if there is just one person. Yet for helping your own decision-making process you can use Pros/Cons or weighted score methods as a substitute.
- With people closest to you : Create a game to play with your children
- Broader audiences: Variation of the method to use in social media
When not to use this method?
Obviously, it's when people's opinion doesn't have importance in the decision-making
process. Suppose the decision is made already or is to be made based on other
criteria, it's not only useless but also can demotivating to involve other
people in the process. Because if people invest their time and energy, that
has to be for some purpose.
Did you like this method and the description of it?
Do give me a note about it.
I will appreciate it if you include in your message what you did like, what you think should be improved, and of course, any other ideas that would be worth experimenting with.
Maybe you want to join me in some of the method experiments?
Do you have interest or experience in this method usage?
I would love to hear your example. Let me know.