The dot-voting process includes the following steps:
- Participants are each given a set number of dot stickers (as decided by the facilitator)
- They place dot stickers next to options presented that they like (they may place any number of their dots on any number of the options)
- Options with the most dots at the end of voting “win”
- using different colour dots to signify different values, e.g. green for “like” and red for “dislike”.
- using different colour dots for different types of participants e.g. blue for management and red for staff.
The origins of dot-voting are unclear. Professional facilitators have been said to use it since the 1980s.
Dot-voting is now widely used for making quick collaborative decisions by teams adopting agile and lean methodologies. For example, it’s one of the methods endorsed by the 18F digital services agency of the United States’ General Services Administration, and it’s part of the Design Sprint methodology.
Dot-voting is a quick and simple method for prioritize a long list of options.
It’s less cognitively demanding than having to perform a full ranking of all the options, because participants are not required to give a comparative judgment of each option, and it allows participants to express a preference for more than one option at the same time.
It leverages the collective wisdom of the team, and provides an equal way for all the voices on the team to be heard and have accountability in prioritizing key issues.
It also creates a sense of engagement and allows participants to see the decision process in action and understand how the final choice was made.
Dot-voting has been criticized for limiting creativity and diversity of ideas, and giving confusing or false results. Dot-voting is like a one question multiple-choice survey done with stickers.
Participants are expected to review, consider and compare all options before sticking their dots. As a result, too many options can be overwhelming (overchoice aka choice overload) and thus facilitators are encouraged to amalgamate and generalize unique ideas into broader and less specific concepts.
New options cannot be added once dotting has started, as this would not be fair to the new additions.
Similar or related options are penalized, as these can cause vote-splitting.
Participants can easily cheat by adding extra dots, peeling off dots or moving dots.
Often people will simply add their dots where everyone else has dotted, without considering their own opinion on all the options, thus an example of the Bandwagon effect.
It is also impossible to tell if a result represents broad popularity (because many people gave one dot), or an enthusiastic minority (where a few people gave many dots).
Overall all results are not reliable.
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