Jammy McJamface

Why a lightning decision jam can enhance your product design journey.

Here at Dootrix we utilise a range of product design techniques such as the design sprint to rapidly identify areas in a product where problems lie, coming away from what once might have been a directionless end to a meeting to one with a clear goal in mind.

Since the release of the infamous book, agencies have been developing their own interpretations of the techniques to leverage design thinking to improve the products they develop. One of these techniques is called the lightning decision jam (or LDJ), and with this in our arsenal we can consistently take away impactful ideas and solutions from our meetings and provide our clients with the right products and features for their users.

By running a LDJ we are able to cut months of work and meetings down to just a few days without any compromises, and hopefully after reading this you can too.

Why run a lightning decision jam?

Everyone is on the same page

The evidence is on the sticky notes — with everything being written down it makes it easy to keep track of what ideas have been discussed during the meeting, and what conclusions have been made without the need for someone to have been taking notes.

Time well spent

Instead of wasting valuable time going round in circles and trying to hit the ground running, a LDJ will cut down a considerable amount of hours spent on the discovery stage of a product. This extra time can then be spent on building solid solutions and testing them with real users.

All opinions are heard

It’s often the case that the team member with the loudest voice is the one who’s opinion is heeded, even if their ideas aren’t particularly good…

The LDJ completely bypasses this problem and allows all members of the meeting to speak at the same volume with a sense of anonymity, allowing those who may be hesitant to share their thoughts aloud to be given the confidence to do so — Don’t worry, the reason as to why this is the case will become clear in just a minute.

Everyone gets involved

It’s important to get a wide range of people involved in the lightning decision jam, not just those considered the most knowledgeable. Bring in anyone who’s had any involvement on the product in the past, be it test engineers, developers, designers, product managers, scrum masters, the list goes on…

Everyone will have a different perspective and opinion on the product and may provide valuable insights that won’t have been shared otherwise!

“Nobody knows everything, not even the CEO. Instead, the information is distributed asymmetrically across the team and across the company.”
Jake Knapp, Sprint: How to Solve Big Problems and Test New Ideas in Just Five Days

Meetings close with actionable results

It’s one thing to end a meeting with ideas for a solution, and another to have the solutions already on laid out on the table with everyone happy and in agreement. 
Not only does this boost team morale, but it also shows the team that their voices have been heard and that change is on the horizon.

So… how do you run a lightning decision jam?

One of the most important rules in a lightning decision jam is to remain in silence whilst completing each task. This isn’t to remove the discussion, but to allow team members to think for themselves and not be persuaded by others in the room.

With that in mind, the jam consists of only a couple of steps and shouldn’t take any longer than 40 minutes to complete. You’ll need two contrasting colours of sticky notes, enough sharpies for each member and a packet of sticky dots. It may also be useful to provide a timer (like this one) so each section doesn’t overrun. Before the meeting delegate the moderator role to someone in the team — preferably someone who is familiar with the LDJ process. The role of the moderator is to keep the team on track through each task, ensuring that the jam doesn’t overrun. They will also take lead on each task, explaining the process and guiding everyone through.

1. Gather problems (7 mins~)

Everyone in the room is given a block of yellow sticky notes and a sharpie pen. The goal of this exercise is to write as many challenges they can think of relating to the topic at hand (be it a product, a project or even an event… Anything goes).

N.B. It’s probably worth mentioning here that there will almost always be duplicates of the sticky notes at some point during the exercise. This is OK! If any duplicates appear they can be stuck together as one or moved to the side if they get in the way.

2. Presentations

Once the 7 minutes are up, each person will stick their sticky note challenges up on the wall one by one briefly explaining each challenge as they go.

3. Dot voting

Each person is given 2 sticky dots (including the moderator) and should silently vote on the biggest problems they feel they are having as a team. Voting is fairly flexible, in that 1. you are able to vote on your own problem, and 2. you can stick both sticky dots on one sticky note if you deem it very important.

4. Prioritise challenges

The facilitator now prioritises each challenge on the wall and organises them by the number of votes given, from top to bottom. For this step we can ignore any sticky note with only one dot as they aren’t deemed as important as those that have gained attention from multiple people.

5. Reframe challenges

With the challenges prioritised each person will begin to reframe the challenges from the top two rows of sticky notes into ‘how might we’ statements. Reframing is important as it creates a more standardised way to view each challenge.

As an example, let’s take this (theoretical) highest voted challenge — “the app doesn’t feel like our brand”.

We could reframe this challenge into the following ‘how might we’ statement:

6. Build Solutions (7 mins~)

Arguably the most important step of the LDJ, this is where we collectively come up with solutions to solve the how might we statement from the top voted challenge.

At this stage it can be easy to become stuck trying to finding new solutions, so it’s important to reinforce the idea that it’s about quantity over quality.

Once finished, all solutions should be placed on the wall for everyone to see.

7. Vote on solutions

To vote on the solutions, each person now gets 6 dots instead of 2. The same rules apply for voting on the solutions as they did when voting on challenges — you are able to vote on your own solutions and you can stick multiple sticky dots on one sticky note.

8. Prioritise solutions

As with before the solutions are quickly prioritised by order of sticky dot votes.

9. Decide what to execute

With the help of the group, the facilitator will take each top prioritised solution and place it somewhere on an effort/impact scale (without provoking too much conversation.) A simple way to do this is to hold the solution in front of the scale and ask if it should be placed higher, or lower.

10. Create actionable tasks

Now that the top prioritised solutions have been placed on the scale, it’s time to create real actionable tasks for the solutions with the highest impact, but the lowest effort (the top left of the effort/impact scale).

A number of actionable tasks may come from this step, so anything that won’t/can’t be actioned immediately can fall into a backlog of tasks for this product.


The lightning decision jam can help bring the most important problems to the surface in a short period of time whilst simultaneously building out the right solutions.

If you’re keen to learn more about how we could help you unlock the power of design thinking to supercharge your product design, you can find more information about our own innovation sprint workshops here.

References:

Jake Knapp (Creator of the design sprint)
AJ&Smart (Experts in running design sprints)

12 minute video from AJ&Smart providing a more in-depth look at each step

Author Mary Hyde
UI Designer at Dootrix

Mary begun her career as a UI designer in 2016 after graduating from Dootrix’s own university course where she learned the art of software testing and development.

From there she focused her artistic skills and knowledge of software fundamentals on UI design, animation & illustration, and has spent the last 3 years working with clients such as Clancy Docwra, Suffolk Libraries & P&O Ferries to produce unique user interfaces across a number of platforms.