Creative workshops – episode 3 – voting and summarizing

Marta Haida
UX Designer
Marta Haida

UX designer and master of Axure prototyping strongly interested in making the users’ lives simpler. Passionate about usability testing and watching people’s emotions and reactions. Russian philologist by profession, privately yoga and Slavic culture enthusiast.


Voting can change everything!

“All great changes are preceded by chaos” 

The Greek Gods came from chaos. So do the best ideas during workshops. In the last episode, I told you about the best ways to encourage people to generate as many ideas as possible. As a result, we end up with tons of post-its with suggestions and slogans. Some may be splendid, while others may be original, but they still need to be processed. Now, the facilitator’s task is to encourage people to choose the best ones. It’s not up to him to choose. He may have his favourites, but he’s still only an observer of the workshop’s process and a guide for its participants.

Who wants to tidy up?

The participants finish inventing whatever comes to their minds. Nobody has any more ideas. Their brains are boiling. It’s good to encourage people to stick all their ideas on the wall so they will be visible for everybody. Now it’s time to do something! A facilitator must help organize the ideas, to point out the connections between them or check if anything is repeated and find the best options. There are a bunch of exercises which are great tools for the workshop participants to organize their ideas and they don’t need to be boring!

The most interesting exercises

Affinity diagram – it’s a business tool, but it works great for grouping thousands of ideas. People try to look for the relations between the post-its with different suggestions, group them thematically and name the groups. It helps to notice which areas the participants are focused on the most and analyze or discuss them.


The simplest way to find the most interesting ideas is to divide them into two groups – those more important and those less important for the topic and the participants. A facilitator gives dot stickers to the participants for them to use as their votes. Of course, he decides himself how many votes are assigned to each participant – he can’t give people as many votes as they would like to have because a specified amount of dots forces them to choose only a few ideas. And there is a huge chance they will choose their favorites.

Worth it or not?

The post-its chaos is becoming organized. They are not spread out on a whole big wall anymore. The participants divided them into specified groups or voted for the best. The last stage of the workshops is an assessment of how valuable the chosen ideas are and how important they may be for the final results.

The most interesting exercises

$1 or $100? is the best tool to illustrate to people what they are supposed to do in the last stage of the workshops. The facilitator gives everybody fakes banknotes of different denominations (like in strategy board games they may be $10, $20, $50 and more) and asks them which ideas they would pay more for and which they would pay less money for if they had it in real life. Do you remember what it looks like when people play Monopoly and fight about how much they earn and how much they take from the other gamers? Trust me, this works similarly. People feel like they have real money in their pockets choosing the best ideas from the already grouped ones.

How-Now-Wow matrix

The facilitator prepares a 2 x 2 squares matrix which should be quite big, so as to be able to put the post-its with ideas inside.

There are 3 squares labelled based on the exercise’s name.

1. How? square in the upper right corner which symbolizes original ideas that may be a little bit difficult to implement. Maybe there are some technical problems or technology doesn’t allow them to work, it doesn’t matter. The ideas put in here are innovative but the world (or participants of the workshops) may not be ready for them yet.
2. Now! square in the bottom left corner for ideas which are normal, easy, and if people put them there, they may think they are ready to begin implementing them.
3. Wow! square in the right bottom corner is for innovative ideas that are possible to do in the near future.

The participants put the ideas into the matrix and vote with the dots on which areas of the square are the most important. The How-Now-Wow matrix may be a good method for ideas of new functionalities in software, so I recommend it for meetings in IT companies.

This is the end…

At the end of the workshops it’s worth making a summary of what the participants have done. A good idea is to emphasize what needs to be done and what has been already decided to refresh everybody’s memory in case somebody lost concentration at any point of the workshop. Remember, a good facilitator is a guardian and he must try to inform the participants about every step he wants them to do, so when it comes to the end, they should know about the workshop results. It gives them a feeling of meaningfulness – the participants don’t feel that they lost their precious time.

For now that’s it – a short overview of workshops’ principles. Thanks for reading and I hope you will be good workshops facilitators!