The Democracy of the Dot

PHOTO BY BRADEN KOWITZ

PHOTO BY BRADEN KOWITZ

Design thinkers and innovators know the power of small teams. They are lean and mean, nimble and entrepreneurial. That’s why we honor them at Peer Insight.

But sometimes in innovation, you need a bigger group. You need a wide diversity of thought, background, and expertise. You need people from all levels of your organization—and maybe even from different organizations—to weigh in on the challenge you’re addressing. Sometimes, you need to harvest the wisdom of a crowd. Sometimes, you need dots.

One of the best ways we know how to leverage a group’s collective intelligence is a dot vote. After we’ve laid out all of the research, uncovered dozens of Jobs To Be Done, or we’ve ideated profusely for hours or even days, we give everyone a handful of adhesive dots. Sometimes, we give different colors different meanings:

  • Green is “Go Ahead!” or “Explore more here”;
  • Yellow could be “I have a hunch there’s an opportunity here, but I’m not sure why yet”;
  • Red is usually a “trump” dot, meaning the idea automatically proceeds to the next round of processing—so everyone only gets 1 or 2.

Even if you only have a few sheets of neon orange dots, you can still take the temperature of a group. The walls become a heat map of the group’s energy around your challenge, opportunities, and ideas.

Dot voting works because it’s democratic. Everyone gets the same number of dots, regardless of their status or tenure. Each dot carries the same weight. And the voting is always done in silence, anonymously, so no one wields outsized, undue influence over the direction of the project. (It’s also absurdly cheap, quick, dirty, and fun.)

So next time your head is spinning from the sheer quantity of possibilities on one of your projects, consider getting a diverse group of visionaries together and give them some dots—and maybe some lunch.

And please share the best ways you know how to tap the wisdom of crowds in the comments or at @madeemology!