Looks like Fast Company magazine discovered dot voting. So it’s officially a thing now. Woohoo!
“Simple dot stickers, just like you can buy from any office supply store, are Google Ventures’ preferred voting mechanism used to narrow down a big pile of ideas to a small pile of good ideas. A concept, or several concepts, are taped to the wall, and team members are allowed to stick a dot on the parts they like most. What results isn’t just a design concept covered in stickers; it’s a heat map for the best ideas.”
Object of Play
In any good brainstorming session, there will come a time when there are too many good ideas, too many concepts, and too many possibilities to proceed. When this time has come, dot voting is one of the simplest ways to prioritize and converge upon an agreed solution.
Number of Players: At least 3 participants; in larger groups, tallying votes will be more time-consuming
Duration of Play: Short
How to Play
First, the group needs a set of things to vote on! This may be something they have just developed, such as a wall of sticky notes, or it may be a flip-chart list that captures the ideas in one place. Ask the group to cast their votes by placing a dot next to the items they feel the most strongly about. They may use stickers or markers to do this. As a rule of thumb, giving each participant five votes to cast works well.
Participants cast their votes all at once and they may vote more than once for a single item if they feel strongly about it. Once all the votes are cast, tally them, and if necessary make a list of the items by their new rank.
This prioritized list becomes the subject of discussion and decision making. In some cases, it may be useful to reflect on ideas that didn’t receive votes to verify that they haven’t been left behind without cause.
This technique is used to collaboratively prioritize any set of items. It could be used to hone a list of features, to agree on discussion topics, or to choose among strategies and concepts. Giving participants five votes is enough to be meaningful while still asking for individual prioritization; however, this is not a hard rule.
The original source of the Dot Voting game is unknown.
Object of Play
If a picture is worth a thousand words, what would 50 pictures be worth? What if 50 people could present their most passionate ideas to each other—without any long-winded explanation? A poster session accelerates the presentation format by breaking it down, forcing experts to boil up their ideas and then present back to each other via simple images.
Number of Players: 10–100
Duration of Play: 20 minutes to develop posters, an unlimited time to browse
How to Play
The goal of a poster session is to create a set of compelling images that summarize a challenge or topic for further discussion. Creating this set might be an “opening act” which then sets the stage for choosing an idea to pursue, or it might be a way to get indexed on a large topic. The act of creating a poster forces experts and otherwise passionate people to stop and think about the best way to communicate the core concepts of
their material, avoiding the popular and default “show up and throw up.”
To set up, everyone will need ample supplies for creating their poster. Flip charts and markers are sufficient, but consider bringing other school supplies to bear: stickers, magazines for cutting up, and physical objects.
Start the game play by first framing the challenge. In any given large group, you could say the following:
“There are more good ideas in everyone’s heads than there is time to understand and address them. By creating posters that explain the ideas, we’ll have a better idea of what’s out there and what we might work on.”
The participants’ task is to create a poster that explains their topic. There are two constraints:
1. It must be self-explanatory. If you gave it to a person without walking her through it, would she understand?
2. It must be visual. Words and labels are good, but text alone will not be enough to get people’s attention, or help them understand. When creating their poster, participants may be helped by thinking about three kinds of explanation:
Before and After: Describe “why” someone should care in terms of drawing the today and tomorrow of the idea.
System: Describe the “what” of an idea in terms of its parts and their relationships.
Process: Describe the “how” of an idea in terms of a sequence of events.
Give participants 20 minutes to create their posters. When they have finished, create a “gallery” of the images by posting them on the wall. Instead of elaborate presentations, ask the group to circulate and walk the gallery. Some posters will attract and capture more attention than others. From here, it may be worthwhile to have participants dot vote (see Dot Voting) or “vote with their feet” (See Open Space) to decide what ideas to pursue further.
As a variation, the posters may be created in small groups. In this case, it’s important for the group to have decided ahead of time what their topic will be, and to give more time to come to a consensus on what they will draw and how they will draw it.
On a smaller scale, a group may do this around a conference table. A small group of experts may create posters to explain their different points of view to each other at the start of a meeting, to make their models of the world, their vocabulary, and their interests clear and explicit. Twenty minutes spent in this way may save the group from endless discussion later in their process.
The Poster Session game is based on academic poster sessions, in which authors of papers that are not ready for publication share their ideas in an informal, conversational group.
Note: This approach is meant to be pretty flexible- other idea generating and prioritizing techniques may be substituted within the flow to suit the circumstances. Would like to hear how others approach this challenge. -James
Object of Play: What has been a time-proven exercise in product development applies equally well in developing any concept: writing the elevator pitch. Whether developing a service, a company-wide initiative, or just a good idea that merits spreading, a group will benefit from collaborating on what is- and isn’t– in the pitch.
Often this is the hardest thing to do in developing a new idea. An elevator pitch should be short and compelling description of the problem you’re solving, who you solve it for, and one key benefit that distinguishes it from its competitors. It must be unique, believable and important. The better and bigger the idea, the harder the pitch is to write.
Number of Players: Works as wellindividually as with a small working group
Duration of Play: Long- save at least 90 minutes for the entire exercise, and consider a short break after the initial idea generation is complete, before prioritizing and shaping the pitch itself. Small working groups will have an easier time coming to a final pitch; in some cases it may be necessary to assign one person follow-up accountability for the final wording after the large decisions have been made in the exercise.
How to Play:
Going through the exercise involves both a generating and forming phase. To setup the generating phase, write these questions in sequence on flipcharts:
Who is the target customer?
What is the customer need?
What is the product name?
What is its market category?
What is its key benefit?
Who or what is the competition?
What is the product’s unique differentiator?
These will become the elements of the pitch. They are in a sequence that follows the formula: For (target customer) who has (customer need), (product name) is a (market category) that (one key benefit). Unlike (competition), the product (unique differentiator).
To finish the setup, explain the elements and their connection to each other.
The target customer and customer need are deceptively simple- any relatively good idea or product will likely have many potential customers and address a greater number of needs. In the generative phase, all of these are welcome ideas.
It is helpful to fix the product name in advance—this will help contain the scope of the conversation and focus the participants on “what” the pitch is about. It is not outside the realm of possibility, however, that there will be useful ideas generated in the course of exercise that relate to the product name, so it may be left open to interpretation.
The market category should be an easily understood description of the type of idea or product. It may sound like “employee portal” or “training program” or “peer-to-peer community.” The category gives an important frame of reference for the target customer, from which they will base comparisons and perceive value.
The key benefit will be one of the hardest areas for the group to shape in the final pitch. This is the single most compelling reason a target customer would buy into the idea. In an elevator pitch, there is no time to confuse the matter with multiple benefits- there can only be one memorable reason “why to buy.” However, in the generative phase, all ideas are welcome.
The competition and unique differentiator put the final punctuation on the pitch. Who or what will the target customer compare this idea to, and what’s unique to this idea? In some cases, the competition may literally be another firm or product. In other cases, it may be “the existing training program” or “the last time we tried a big change initiative.” The unique differentiator should be just that- unique to this idea or approach, in a way that distinguishes it in comparisons to the competition.
Step One: The Generating Phase
Once the elements are understood, participants brainstorm ideas on sticky notes that fit under each of the headers. At first, they should generate freely, without discussion or analysis, any ideas that fit into any of the categories. Using the Post-up technique, participants put their notes onto the flipcharts and share their ideas.
Next, the group may discuss areas where they have the most trouble on their current pitch. Do we know enough about the competition to claim a unique differentiator? Do we agree on a target customer? Is our market category defined, or are we trying to define something new? Where do we need to focus?
Before stepping into the formative phase, the group may use dot voting, affinity mapping or other method to prioritize and cull their ideas in each category.
Step Two: The Forming Phase
Following a discussion and reflection on the possible elements of a pitch, the group then has the task of “trying out” some possibilities.
This may be done by breaking into small groups, pairs, or as individuals, depending on the size of the larger group. Each given the task of writing out an elevator pitch, based on the ideas on the flipcharts.
After a set amount of time (15 minutes may be sufficient) the groups then reconvene and present their draft versions of the pitch. The group may choose to role play as a target customer while listening to the pitch, and comment or ask questions of the presenters.
The exercise is complete when there is a strong direction among the group on what the pitch should and should not contain. One potential outcome is the crafting of distinct pitches for different target customers; you may direct the groups to focus in this manner during the formative stage.
Don’t aim for final wording with a large group. It’s an achievement if you can get to that level of finish, but it’s not critical and can be shaped after the exercise. What is important is that the group decides on what is and is not a part of the pitch.
Role play is the fastest way to test a pitch. Assuming the role of a customer (or getting some real ones to participate in the exercise) will help filter out the jargon and empty terms that may interfere with a clear pitch. If the pitch is truly believable and compelling, participants should have no problem making it real with customers.
Measures of success vary across an organization. Executives concern themselves with company-wide Objectives involving Revenue, Cost, Profit, Margin and Customer Satisfaction. Further down the org chart, management and individual contributors rate performance against more detailed Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) tracking customer behavior: a product manager may measure app downloads, or number of shopping cart items per visit. These customer behaviors clearly affect the larger corporate Objectives, but how? and which have the most impact?
Objective of Play
Understand how customer behavior impacts higher level objectives; direct organizational efforts on the most influential of those behaviors.
Number of Players
5 – 15
Invite participants across the KPI spectrum: individual contributors, management and executive leadership. A successful game will demonstrate how all levels of KPI’s relate and affect one another.
Duration of Play
30 minutes – 3 hours.
Manage What You Measure works best when played on a whiteboard. To run a good session you will need:
Sticky notes (i.e. post-it® notes) of different colors
Camera to capture results
How to Play
1. With the group gathered, introduce Manage What You Measure by stating that the purpose of the game is to focus resources and strategies on the most critical customer behaviors. To get there, the group will map the relationship between high-level corporate objectives and customer behavior.
2. Write at the top of the whiteboard a corporate-wide Strategic Goal.
3. Below that, write on sticky notes the measures of success (KPIs) for that Strategic Goal. Use different color sticky notes when possible.
4. Ask the players to take five minutes for an individual brainstorm: list all the customer behaviors impacting the KPIs identified in Step 3; one per sticky note. If possible, match sticky note colors of customer behaviors and KPIs — this will help organize what may become a crowded whiteboard.
5. After the brainstorm, ask the players to come to the whiteboard and post their sticky notes under the appropriate grouping.
6. Take 5-10 minutes to review the sticky notes. Lead a clarification discussion. Ask participants to explain any potentially confusing sticky notes. Note any customer behaviors mapped multiple times.
7. Repeat steps 4 – 6 once. Use the first set of brainstormed-customer behaviors as the baseline: what are the behaviors that drive those behaviors?
8. Once everyone is comfortable with the customer behaviors, conduct a Dot Vote. Give each player five dots to place on what they consider the most important customer behaviors in light of the Strategic Goal in step 2.
9. Tally the votes.
10. Once again, take time for discussion. Note unpopular choices; ensure their dismissals have merit. Have any results surprised the group? Why? Recommendation: If the Dot Vote results and ensuing discussion dictate further prioritization, consider playing Impact & Effort or the NUF Test.
11. Once the group agrees on the prioritized areas of focus, assign each a baseline value (what is the measure of this behavior now?) and goal (where would we like it to be). Recommendation: Consider playing Who-What-When
Employees understand organizational goals at different levels. By defining relationships between high-level objectives, mid-tier KPIs and the customer behaviors that drive them you have created a map easily navigated.
This clarity creates a shared understanding across all levels of the organization. Now, each time a team reports progress on their specific KPIs, executives will have a clear sense of why the team is working on that and how it affects the Objectives they care most about.
The Empathy Map will help you to more deeply understand your customers and their behaviors; play this game before Manage What you Measure
When people want to develop new ideas, they most often think out of the box in the brainstorming or divergent phase. However, when it comes to convergence, people often end up picking ideas that are most familiar to them. This is called a ‘creative paradox’ or a ‘creadox’.
The How-Now-Wow matrix is an idea selection tool that breaks the creadox by forcing people to weigh each idea on 2 parameters.
Object of play: This game naturally follows the creative idea generation phase and helps players select ideas to develop further.
Number of players: 1 to 30
Duration of play: 10 to 40 mins
What you’ll need: Flip-chart sized paper, some markers, lots of voting dots in 3 colors (blue, yellow, green)
Draw a 2-by-2 matrix as above. The X axis denotes the originality of the idea and the Y axis shows the ease of implementation.
Label the quadrants as:
Now/Blue Ideas –Normal ideas, easy to implement. These are typically low-hanging fruit and solutions to fill existing gaps in processes. These normally result in incremental benefits.
How/Yellow Ideas – Original ideas, impossible to implement. These are breakthrough ideas in terms of impact, but absolutely impossible to implement right now given current technology/budget constraints.
Wow/Green Ideas –Original ideas, easy to implement. ‘Wow’ ideas are those with potential for orbit-shifting change and possible to implement within current reality.
How to Play:
List down the ideas that emerge from the creative ideation phase on large charts of paper stuck around the room.
Give each player 3 sticky dots of each color – that is, 3 blue, 3 yellow, 3 green. 9 dots per person is typical, but go ahead and reduce/increase that number based on the time at hand and number of ideas generated.
Ask each player to step forward and vote for 3 best ideas in each category. They need to do this by sticking a colored dot in front of each idea they choose.
In the end, count the number of dots under each idea to categorize it. The highest number of dots of a certain color categorizes the idea under that color.
In case of a tie:
If blue dots = green dots, the idea is blue
If yellow dots = green dots, the idea is green
You now have a bucket of Now/Green ideas to work on further. Make sure you also collect the low-hanging blue ideas for immediate implementation and the yellow ideas to keep an eye on for the future.
Note: Check your yellow dots in advance to ensure that they can be seen from a distance. If not, go ahead and replace them with another color. FYI, in the original matrix, WOW ideas are red.
Online How-Now-Wow Matrix
Here is another image of the How-Now-Matrix. But this one is special – clicking on this image will start an “instant play” game at www.innovationgames.com. In this game there are 20 light bulbs that you can drag on your matrix. We’ve organized this game into a set of regions that match the How-Now-Matrix described above. As you’re placing these items, use these regions to help you keep track of the most important ideas.
Keep in mind that that this is a collaborative game. This means that you can invite other players to play. And when they drag something around – you’ll see it in real time!
Here is another version that based on Martien van Steenbergen’s comments, in which he recommends flipping the y-axis.
The How-Wow-Now Matrix is adapted from work done by The Center for Development of Creative Thinking (COCD). Information about the COCD Matrix was published in the book, “Creativity Today” authored by Ramon Vullings, Igor Byttebier and Godelieve Spaas.