The 3 Problematic Patterns of Dot Voting

March, 20th 2017Simon Tomes

Along came dot voting and I was thrilled. I remember the first time we dot-voted at the end of a meeting. It was brilliant and I thought it was a great way for everyone to have their say. It felt like a smart way to agree on something.

When teams believe it’s worth voting they deliberately and purposefully take part. As a result of that participation, the act of voting is valuable, decisions get made, real change happens and people feel it’s worth voting. Yet, if people lose faith in that voting the virtuous cycle erodes and even breaks.

After many dot voting experiences I've noticed some common and problematic patterns. Here are some of those problems along with a suggestion for a better way to vote.

1. Following the crowd

I’ve done this so many times during a dot voting session. I look at what everyone else is voting on. There’s a cluster of dots next to one idea. I take a look at it and it seems like a good idea. I place a dot next to it.

This seems pretty innocent yet I’ve just voted because I’m pulled by the crowd. The social influence is stronger than my own private signal! Statisticians, investors and economists smile at the information cascade phenomenon. It happens to us all. We don’t want to stand out. No one else has voted for this so I better not do so!

2. Having a late influence

Have you ever held back to influence the vote at the last minute? No point wasting your vote. You wait until the very last minute and wield your powerful sword of influence! You feel satisfied voting for your favourite even though no-one else has voted for it. “I’ll show ‘em!” you think to yourself. And if you’re really disgruntled why not vote at the last minute for something you don’t actually believe in! Go waste those votes, it’s not like you actually need to take responsibility for the decision. Isn’t that someone else's problem?

This might lead to items with the same number of votes. So what do you do next? Vote again or stick each item next to each other and pick a random one? By now your meeting attendees have grown tired of the process. “Is this meeting over yet?” they think or ask!

3. Participating reluctantly

There are times when I don’t actually care about any of the options in front of me. So how will I use my dots if I’m not interested? Let me apathetically vote at the start and get it over and done with. How about I don’t vote, would others notice? This has been a long meeting and there are far too many options in front of me. Let’s go grab some lunch. If the environment isn’t collaborative then dot voting is unlikely to yield something of use.

A better way to vote

There’s a reason why we use dot voting. It’s an enjoyable and stimulating social technique. It’s simple to run yet as we’ve discovered, there are significant problems. If you’d like to address those problems and try something different, try JustVote.

JustVote enables blind and ranked-choice voting. It removes any chance of influencing and following the crowd. JustVote makes your prioritisation and decisions fairer. Create your first voting room and invite others for free!

Over to you!

What problems have you found with dot voting? How have you addressed those problems? What experiences have you had with blind voting and rank-based techniques? I'd love to get your thoughts, experiences and feedback!

Main photo credit: Dave Gray