How does Dotmocracy compare to traditional brainstorming plus voting or a consensus process?

A common method for large group decision-making facilitation is to collect ideas via a large group discussion and/or brainstorm, consolidate similar ideas and then either vote (usually by raised hands) to see which idea is  most popular, or through open discussion suggest proposals and address concerns until a consensus is reached on a preferred idea. Although brainstorming plus voting and consensus process are different in their technique and approach, both traditional models are similar in their advantages and disadvantages when compared to Dotmocracy.

Advantages of Brainstorm Plus Voting or Consensus Over Dotmocracy

  • Many people are used to traditional models and thus they may have more perceived legitimacy and may be easier to facilitate.
  • All the communication is verbal and face-to-face, which helps build trust and community.
  • There are more opportunities to smile, laugh and cheer as a whole group.
  • People can feel heard by the group.
  • The final decision is a single choice that may appear to be more decisive.
  • A good facilitator may draw out people and ideas that might have not been written on a Dotmocracy sheet.

Disadvantages of Brainstorm-Voting or Consensus Compared to Dotmocracy

  • The number and detail of ideas is limited to the facilitators' ability to record them. The facilitator is a 'bottleneck' that does not allow the process to scale-up to large (e.g. greater than 30) numbers of participants and ideas.
  • A facilitator may not correctly interpret what a participant is trying to say and thus record the wrong idea.
  • The facilitator may have a bias that affects how the ideas are discussed and recorded. For example a facilitator may subtly ignore or downplay ideas they do not like, or give extra time and attention to ideas they prefer.
  • There is limited opportunity for commenting and reflection on ideas. Any time spent listening to comments reduces time for new ideas.
  • Discussion may be swayed by confident public speakers, not necessarily with the best idea.
  • The final vote is public (i.e. not anonymous) and may be easily skewed by strong personalities, people with authority or status, power relationships, cliquing and cultural influences.
  • The process requires participants to do public speaking in order to contribute, which many people with good ideas may be to shy to do.
  • Discussions about the process can often take time away from the content of the decision-making.