8 Alternatives to Dot Voting (aka Dotmocracy) to gather group preferences and make decisions.

8 Alternatives to Dot Voting (aka Dotmocracy)

Read time: 6 minutes

Dotmocracy, also known as dot voting or sticker voting, is a method where participants use dots or stickers to vote on various options or proposals.

While it is a simple and intuitive way to gather group preferences and make decisions, it has several problems and limitations:

Lack of Depth in Decision-Making

Superficial Analysis: Dot voting encourages quick decisions based on initial impressions rather than in-depth analysis. Participants may not fully understand the implications of each option.

Popularity Over Quality

Bandwagon Effect: Participants are influenced by the choices of others, leading to a bandwagon effect where some options receive more votes simply because they already have more dots.

Unequal Influence

Dominance by Vocal Members: More assertive or influential group members can sway the voting, leading to their preferences being overrepresented.

Lack of Equal Participation: Some participants may be hesitant to place their dots due to social dynamics or perceived pressure, resulting in their opinions being underrepresented.

Ambiguity in Voting Results

Interpretation Issues: The results can be ambiguous. For example, many dots on one option might not indicate whether it is the best or the least objectionable option.

No Clear Consensus: Dot voting does not always provide a clear consensus, particularly if the votes are spread thinly across many options.

Limited Scalability

Small Group Bias: Dotmocracy works best in small to medium-sized groups. In larger groups, managing and interpreting the voting results is challenging.

Practical Constraints: Organizing and conducting dot voting sessions can be logistically difficult with large numbers of participants.

Potential for Manipulation

Vote Rigging: There is potential for manipulation, such as participants placing multiple dots or moving others' dots.

Influence by Facilitators: The way the options are presented or the facilitation process itself can bias the voting results.

Lack of Confidentiality

Peer Pressure: Since dot voting is often done publicly, participants may feel pressured to conform to the majority opinion or to avoid voting for unpopular choices.

Influence by Observation: Participants’ votes can be influenced by observing others' votes, which can skew the results.

While dotmocracy is a useful tool for quickly gauging group preferences, it has significant limitations, including superficial decision-making, potential for bias and manipulation, and challenges in ensuring equal and fair participation.

For important decisions, it is often better to use dot voting as a preliminary step followed by more in-depth discussion and analysis.

8 Alternatives to Dotmocracy

Several alternative methods can be employed to ensure more thorough, equitable, and transparent decision-making processes to address the limitations of dotmocracy.

Here are some methods I’ve found to be more effective.

For each technique, I’ve included:

  • A short summary of the process.
  • The benefits of the technique.
  • The best situations to use the technique in.
  • The limitations of the technique.

Delphi Method

Process: This technique involves multiple rounds of anonymous surveys or questionnaires to gather opinions and achieve a consensus. Each round summarizes the feedback from the previous one, allowing participants to adjust their views based on collective input.

Benefits: Reduces the influence of dominant individuals and groupthink. Promotes thoughtful and independent consideration of each option.

Best Situations:

  • When seeking expert opinions on complex or specialized topics.
  • For achieving consensus on issues where anonymity helps reduce bias.
  • When the decision-making group is geographically dispersed.


  • Time-consuming due to multiple rounds.
  • Requires committed expert participation.
  • Potential for misinterpretation without face-to-face clarification.

Nominal Group Technique (NGT)

Process: Participants generate ideas independently and then share them with the group in a structured manner. Each idea is discussed and clarified before individual voting or ranking is conducted anonymously.

Benefits: Encourages equal participation, allows for thorough discussion of each idea, and minimizes the influence of dominant members.

Best Situations:

  • When you need to generate a large number of ideas and prioritize them.
  • In situations requiring structured and balanced input from all participants.
  • When there is a need to ensure equal participation and reduce dominance by vocal members.


  • Requires skilled facilitation.
  • Time-intensive process.
  • May not allow deep exploration of complex issues.

Multi-Voting (Weighted Voting)

Process: Participants are given multiple votes (often more than the number of options) to distribute among the options based on their preferences. Each vote can carry different weights to reflect varying levels of support.

Benefits: Captures more nuanced preferences, reduces the likelihood of ties, and encourages participants to prioritize options.

Best Situations:

  • When you need to prioritize a list of options or ideas.
  • In scenarios where capturing nuanced preferences is important.
  • For medium-sized groups where detailed discussion can follow the voting.


  • Complexity in weight assignment.
  • Influence of dominant participants if votes are not anonymous.
  • Potential for strategic voting.

Consensus Building

Process: Facilitated discussions aim to reach a consensus where all participants agree on a decision, even if it requires compromise. Techniques like round-robin discussions, small group breakouts, and consensus workshops are often used.

Benefits: Ensures that all voices are heard and that the final decision has broad support. Can lead to more innovative and acceptable solutions.

Best Situations:

  • When the decision needs broad support and buy-in from all participants.
  • For resolving conflicts or contentious issues.
  • In small to medium-sized groups with a focus on collaboration and unity.


  • Time-consuming process.
  • Risk of compromise leading to suboptimal decisions.
  • Possible stalemate if consensus cannot be reached.

Affinity Diagramming

Process: Participants write down their ideas on sticky notes, which are then grouped into categories based on common themes. These categories are discussed and prioritized.

Benefits: Helps to organize and clarify complex issues, encourages collaboration, and identifies underlying patterns and relationships.

Best Situations:

  • When dealing with complex issues that need to be organized into categories.
  • For brainstorming sessions where grouping similar ideas is beneficial.
  • In scenarios where identifying patterns and relationships among ideas is crucial.


  • Dependency on facilitator skill.
  • Over-simplification of complex issues.
  • Time-consuming process.

Pairwise Comparison

Process: Each option is compared against every other option in pairs. Participants decide which of the two options in each pair is preferable, and results are tallied to identify the most favored options.

Benefits: Forces consideration of each option in a detailed manner, helps to identify the best options through direct comparison, and can be done anonymously.

Best Situations:

  • When the number of options is manageable (not too large).
  • For situations where direct comparison of options is beneficial.
  • When a detailed analysis of preferences is needed.


  • Time-consuming for large sets of options.
  • Impractical with a large number of options.
  • Requires careful setup to avoid misleading results.

Silent Brainstorming and Voting

Process: Participants write down their ideas and votes anonymously without any initial discussion. This is followed by a structured discussion phase to explore and refine the ideas.

Benefits: Reduces bias introduced by vocal participants, ensures all ideas are considered equally, and encourages independent thinking.

Best Situations:

  • When you want to encourage independent thinking and reduce group influence.
  • In early stages of idea generation where anonymity can foster creativity.
  • For groups where vocal members tend to dominate discussions.


  • Lack of immediate feedback.
  • Difficulty in clarifying ideas.
  • Potential for limited engagement without discussion.

Decision Matrices (Weighted Criteria)

Process: Options are evaluated against a set of criteria, each weighted according to its importance. Scores are assigned based on how well each option meets the criteria, and the total scores are calculated to determine the best option.

Benefits: Provides a systematic and quantitative approach to decision-making, encourages consideration of multiple factors, and helps to identify the most balanced option.

Best Situations:

  • When decisions need to be based on multiple criteria.
  • For complex decision-making where a structured, quantitative approach is beneficial.
  • In scenarios requiring a balanced consideration of various factors.


  • Complexity in criteria weighting.
  • Requires quantitative skills.
  • Potential for oversimplification of qualitative factors.

These methods offer more structured and balanced approaches to group decision-making, addressing many of the shortcomings associated with dotmocracy.

They promote deeper analysis, equitable participation, and more transparent and reliable outcomes.

That’s it for today.

I hope you enjoyed it.

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About the Author

Nick Martin helps leaders & consultants improve team results with resources, advice & coaching through WorkshopBank.com