Use dot voting to prioritize and filter a list of topics

Use dot voting to prioritize and filter a list of topics

So. Your team has finished the brainstorming process and generated a very long list of items. That’s good!

But … it also presents challenges. With a long list of “candidate topics” how do you prioritize the right ones?

One option is to use dot voting. Dot voting gives each person in the group the chance to express his or her preferences about what item(s) should be prioritized.

Dot voting in Retrium
Dot voting in Retrium

On the surface, dot voting seems simple. But there are two subtle things to consider.

First, how many dot votes should you give each participant? Here’s a rule of thumb: the number of dot votes to give each person is equal to the square root of the number of topics on the board (rounded up or down). This scales the number of dot votes as the number of candidate topics grow. For example, if there are 25 candidate topics, you would give each person 5 dot votes (since the 25 = 5).

Second, how to overcome groupthink? When most teams dot vote, they have everyone get up and cast their votes directly on the board. As the votes are cast, they are visible to the team. The people who haven’t yet voted will be biased by the votes already placed. That means they won’t be able to truly think for themselves! There are two ways to overcome this:

  1. Dot vote by secret ballot. Give each topic a number (1, 2, 3, etc). Then tell everyone how many dot votes they have and ask them to privately write the numbers associated with the topics they want to vote for onto a sticky note. Once everyone is done, collect the sticky notes and tally the votes.
  2. Use a tool that support private dot voting. Some online tools support private dot voting out of the box. For example, in Retrium, after a list of candidate topics is generated, the participants will be prompted to dot vote in private. No extra work is needed to make this happen!

Dot voting is a great way to select the highest priority topics from a long list. It is simple and easy to understand. But make sure you think through the subtle issues to use it in the best way possible.