How to Use Dot Voting Effectively
Dot voting goes by many names:
- sticker voting
- sticky-dot voting
- sticking dots
- dot democracy
It is a simple group activity for recognizing preferences among limited options:
- Participants are each given a set number of dot stickers.
- They place dot stickers next to options presented that they like.
- Options with the most dots “win”.
Technically this methodology is known as "cumulative voting". It’s a one question multiple-choice survey done with stickers.
Unfortunately it has a few serious weaknesses, like vote-splitting and sticker cheating, that can cause false or misleading results.
You can do your best to promote useful results by following these tips and best practices:
- Keep the number of options to about a dozen or less. Participants should be expected to review, consider and compare all options before sticking their dots, and too many can be overwhelming.
- New options cannot be added once dotting has started, as this would not be fair to the new additions.
- Avoid similar or related options, as these can cause vote-splitting. This may require you to combine options to be less specific.
- Have someone monitor the process to ensure no one cheats by adding extra dots, peeling off dots or moving dots (I’ve seen it happen!). This makes the balloting less secret, but more reliable.
- Provide dots in two colours for both positive and negative e.g. green and red. This will allow you to see which ideas have opposition.
- Conduct the process more than once with the options presented in a different order, to see if the resulting pattern persists. Often people will just ‘get on the bandwagon’ and dot where everyone else has dotted.
Of course, it is more reliable to do this kind of cumulative voting using paper ballots or online, i.e. not with stickers. But that is just a boring survey or poll, and not as much fun as stickers.
If you want to use a more reliable and empowering tool to help large groups find agreement, (and is still fun with dots) try idea rating sheets.