Forget dot voting, use an ease/impact map

The NCI will be replacing the dot voting exercise with ease/impact mapping. Taken from our research into the Design Thinking toolbox, ease/impact maps are a way of gaining consensus on priorities rather than creating winners and losers.

This photo shows an example of an Ease/Impact Map. It shows Hard and Easy columns, and High Impact and Low Impact rows.
Example of an Ease/Impact Map.

For years, we have been teaching the dot voting method for prioritizing vision ideas at public meetings. While this method certainly has merits, the problem with dot voting is that someone inevitably ends up feeling like they are on the losing team. How can you get a group to agree on the relative importance of a set of ideas?

Starting with our next training in Seattle, NCI will be replacing the dot voting exercise with ease/impact mapping. Taken from our research into the Design Thinking toolbox, ease/impact maps are a way of gaining consensus on priorities rather than creating winners and losers.

We tested this tool at our New Partners for Smart Growth Conference session here in Portland last week. One participant said that the mapping would solve her problem for how to get a group of people to prioritize ideas. She reported that people in her community were still mad about losing in a dot voting exercise a full two years ago.

An ease/impact map has four quadrants into which participants place post-its with vision items according to the potential impact and degree of difficulty. There are no winners or losers in this exercise. It is a way for the group to track which items should lead the effort because they are easy and can make an immediate difference.

Our upcoming NCI Charrette System™ Certificate Training will integrate this and other Design Thinking techniques. Click here to learn more about the training.

Download this instruction sheet on how to conduct a Vision Wall and drawing, plus the Ease/Impact Mapping exercise (PDF).


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