View all blog posts >

Group voting on ideas is a shambles

October 12, 2021

I’ve got a massive gripe with how certain flavours of design thinking, you know, the ones that say that we need to agree as a group to move things forward, saying that we need to be democratic in how we decide which ideas we should move forward.

See, I think this “group thinking” doesn’t produce good ideas, but the opposite, this kind of group thinking makes shit ideas. Ideas that are either way too safe, don’t solve any problems, or are a huge waste of time.

Now please hear me out before you jump down my throat saying, “Shane, you don’t have a fucking clue”. Just hear me out, then, you can say that.

I was recently in a workshop where we tried to make a more personalised experience for personal banking. Our persona hated going to the bank as it took her away from things she wanted to do, such as going to the gym or spending more time with her friends. She hated it so much that the thoughts of going to the bank would nearly ruin her weekend. She hated waiting in the queue. She hated the fact that she had to go to the bank in the first place. That is all the background you’ll need for the rest of my rant.

So it was up to us to come up with ideas to solve that, and we came up with tons of great ideas, and some not so great, which is part of the process. But when it came up to deciding as a group through “dot voting” to pick which ideas we wanted to progress with, which ones would you think we’d move forward with? The fucking ones that involved either booking a reservation to go into the bank or having the ability to wait in her car outside of the bank and receive a notification from the bank when she should come in. WTF! That will make banking better for a person who hates coming into a bank, who would prefer to do anything else. Yes, let them wait in the car, so they don’t have to queue in the bank. I mean, honestly, what the fuck! The ideas that suggested that she didn’t need to come into the bank got little votes; those ideas would improve the banking experience for that person and make it more personal.

You see, the problem with a lot of this group thinking is you need a certain degree of people who can see the wood from the trees, and in most cases, people don’t see this too often. So that is why only a certain number of people can make good products that actually solve a problem that is worth solving.

I’ve no gripe with design thinking, but I do have a gripe with the overly positive bullshit of group thinking by democratic means is the only way we will create good products. Keeping people involved is fantastic. Allowing everyone to come up with ideas produces more awesome ideas, but I’m sorry, allowing everyone to have an equal say in which ideas to progress is stupid. Some people are great at coming up with ideas but not at choosing which ideas are the best to move forward. I’m sure there will be outliers to this, but they are only outliers.

So next time you’re using a group to come up with ideas, don’t give everyone an equal vote; don’t give them a vote at all. Use this as a brainstorming session and nothing else. Get their feedback on the ideas, get their insights into the ideas from what’s good and not good but just don’t get them to decide for you. Instead, use a much smaller group of people, 3 people max, to determine what ideas to move forward with.

TLDR; not everyone is good at making decisions, so don’t expect a group of people to make brilliant decisions.

If you liked this story then you might like my monthly design newsletter where I share stories just like this one.

Once a month, I send out an ad-free design newsletter where I share the latest articles, videos, resources, and tools that help you stay in the know and grow as a designer or digital creator.

Click here to sign up.

Subscribe to "the Los Wexicanos" Monthly Newsletter

Once a month, I send out an ad-free newsletter where I share the latest articles, videos, resources, and tools that help you stay in the know and grow as a designer or digital creator.

You can unsubscribe at any time, and I will never share your details.
Thank you! Your submission has been received!
Oops! Something went wrong while submitting the form.