Lightning Decision Jam: Workshop explained

by | Feb 12, 2021 | Workshop, How to | 0 comments

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Lightning Decision Jam (LDJ) is a powerful workshop format designed to help teams solve problems, make decisions, and generate innovative ideas in a fraction of the time it usually takes. Born from the principles of Design Thinking and Agile methodologies, LDJ allows diverse teams to collaborate effectively and quickly align on the most pressing issues, while eliminating the common pitfalls of traditional brainstorming sessions, such as groupthink, endless debates, and lack of clear outcomes.

The LDJ process is based on a series of structured activities, with each stage designed to promote clear communication, equal participation, and collective decision-making. By following the step-by-step guide provided in this article, you can lead your team to success in tackling complex challenges, creating a more efficient and productive work environment, and fostering a culture of innovation.

The beauty of LDJ lies in its simplicity and adaptability. Whether you are a startup, a large corporation, or a nonprofit organization, this workshop format can be tailored to your specific needs and objectives. Furthermore, it can be conducted both in-person and remotely, making it an invaluable tool for teams operating in the digital age.

In the following sections, we will delve deeper into the intricacies of the LDJ process, providing a comprehensive guide on how to conduct a successful LDJ session, as well as additional tips and insights to maximize its impact.

The LDJ process and preparation

Before diving into the actual steps of the LDJ process, it’s essential to understand the overall structure and the key principles that guide the workshop. The LDJ consists of several stages, each designed to facilitate different aspects of problem-solving and decision-making. Additionally, proper preparation is crucial to ensure a smooth and effective workshop.

Preparing for the LDJ

To conduct a successful LDJ session, it’s essential to complete some preliminary tasks. First, establish a clear goal or challenge that your team will address during the workshop. A well-defined focus will ensure productive discussions and tangible outcomes. Second, assemble a diverse group of individuals who can provide valuable input and perspectives on the chosen challenge. Aim for a mix of backgrounds, skill sets, and roles within the organization. Third, create a detailed agenda outlining the sequence of activities and the time allocated for each stage of the LDJ process. Finally, gather all necessary materials, such as sticky notes, markers, and a timer, and set up the physical or virtual workspace to facilitate collaboration and engagement.

The LDJ process

The LDJ workshop follows a structured sequence of activities, starting with Problem Framing, where the team identifies and defines the most pressing issues or opportunities related to the chosen challenge. Next is Idea Generation, where participants generate a diverse array of potential solutions and approaches to addressing the identified problems. After that, Solution Prioritization takes place, where the team evaluates and ranks the generated ideas based on their feasibility, impact, and desirability. The final stage is Action Planning, in which a clear plan for implementing the highest-priority solutions is developed, assigning roles and responsibilities, and setting deadlines for progress.

Problem framing

The first stage of the LDJ process is to frame the problems and opportunities related to the chosen challenge. This involves breaking down the overall objective into smaller, more manageable issues that can be tackled during the workshop. To facilitate this process, the LDJ employs a series of steps designed to encourage open and honest communication, as well as to ensure that all participants have a voice in the discussion. The sail and anchor concepts can be used to better organize and prioritize the problems and opportunities.

Sail statement (5 minutes)

Begin by creating a sail statement to define the desired outcome or vision for the challenge. The sail should be aspirational and inspiring, outlining the team’s ultimate goal. Spend about 5 minutes crafting the sail statement with input from the entire team.

For example, if the workshop’s focus is on improving a company’s online presence, the sail statement might be: “Become a leading online destination for customers seeking high-quality products and engaging content.”

Anchor statement (5 minutes)

After defining the sail statement, work together as a group to create an anchor statement that clearly outlines the main challenge or opportunity to be addressed during the workshop. This statement should be concise, actionable, and focused, providing a shared understanding of the workshop’s purpose. Spend about 5 minutes crafting the anchor statement and ensure that everyone agrees on its content and scope.

For example, with the sail statement focused on enhancing the online presence, the anchor statement might be: “Enhance our online presence to increase brand awareness and customer engagement.”

Silent problem generation (10 minutes)

With the sail and anchor statements in place, proceed with the silent problem generation as described in the original version. Each participant should focus on identifying problems and opportunities related to the anchor statement, capturing their ideas on sticky notes.

Problem sharing and placement (15 minutes)

After the silent problem generation is complete, have each participant take turns sharing their sticky notes with the group. As participants share their thoughts, they should briefly explain the rationale behind each idea, providing context and clarity for the rest of the team. Encourage participants to ask questions and offer feedback on each other’s ideas, fostering open dialogue and promoting a deeper understanding of the issues at hand.

As each problem is shared, the participant should place their sticky note either on the anchor (representing problems or obstacles that are holding the team back) or on the sail (representing opportunities or ideas that can help propel the team toward their goal). This placement helps visually prioritize and categorize the problems and opportunities related to the challenge.

Problem clustering (10 minutes)

When all participants have shared their sticky notes and placed them on the anchor or sail, work together as a group to cluster related ideas into broader themes or categories. Look for patterns and connections among the generated problems, identifying common concerns and overarching themes. As the facilitator, you may need to guide the discussion and help the group reach a consensus on the most relevant and pressing issues to address during the workshop.

By the end of the Problem Framing stage, your team should have a clear and concise understanding of the key issues and opportunities related to the chosen challenge, which will serve as the basis for the next stage of the LDJ process: Idea Generation.

Lightning Decision Jam: Sailboat

Idea generation

Now that the problems have been framed, it’s time to generate ideas that can potentially solve these issues. The goal of this stage is to encourage participants to think creatively and come up with a wide range of solutions, without the constraints of practicality or feasibility.

How Might We questions (5 minutes)

Before the silent idea generation begins, guide participants in transforming the problems identified during the Problem Framing stage into “How Might We” questions. This reframing process helps turn challenges into opportunities and stimulates creative thinking. Spend about 5 minutes working as a group to rephrase each problem statement as an open-ended HMW question.

For example, if a problem is “Our website isn’t user-friendly,” the corresponding HMW question could be “How might we improve the user experience on our website?”

Silent idea generation (10 minutes)

During this stage, give each participant a fresh stack of sticky notes and a marker. Ask them to spend 10 minutes individually brainstorming possible solutions to the HMW questions generated earlier. Encourage everyone to think outside the box and come up with as many ideas as possible, even if some of them seem unrealistic or unconventional. Remind the team that this activity is done in silence to promote independent thinking and prevent groupthink or bias.

Idea sharing (10 minutes)

After the silent idea generation is finished, have each participant take turns sharing their sticky notes with the group. As they present their ideas, they should briefly explain the thought process behind each solution, providing context and clarity for the rest of the team. Encourage everyone to ask questions and give feedback on each other’s ideas, fostering open dialogue and promoting a deeper understanding of the potential solutions.

Idea clustering (10 minutes)

When all participants have shared their sticky notes, collaborate as a group to organize related ideas into broader themes or categories. Identify patterns and connections among the generated solutions and recognize common approaches and overarching themes. As the facilitator, you might need to guide the conversation and help the group reach a consensus on the most innovative and promising ideas to explore further during the workshop.

By the end of the Idea Generation stage, the team should have a diverse array of potential solutions to tackle the problems identified earlier in the workshop. This variety of ideas will lay the groundwork for the next stage of the LDJ process: Idea Selection.

Lightning Decision Jam: How Might We

Idea selection

The Idea Selection stage is where your team will narrow down the list of potential solutions to focus on the most promising and impactful ideas. This stage is crucial for ensuring that your team’s efforts are directed toward the most effective and feasible solutions.

Effort-impact scale (10 minutes)

Draw a two-axis graph on a whiteboard or large sheet of paper, with the x-axis representing effort (from low to high) and the y-axis representing impact (from low to high). Ask participants to place the sticky notes containing their ideas on the graph according to their perceived effort required to implement the idea and the potential impact the idea could have. This visual representation will help the team assess which ideas are likely to provide the most significant results with the least amount of effort.

Dot voting (10 minutes)

Supply each participant with a predetermined number of voting dots or stickers (for example, 5-10, depending on the group size and the number of ideas generated). Ask participants to put their voting dots on the sticky notes containing the ideas they think are the most promising and impactful. Encourage them to allocate their votes as they see fit, whether by concentrating all their votes on one idea or distributing them across multiple ideas. Allow participants to discuss their voting choices and the rationale behind them, fostering open dialogue and collaboration.

Idea ranking (10 minutes)

Once the voting is done, count the votes and arrange the ideas according to the number of votes each idea received. As a group, discuss the highest-ranked ideas and any patterns or trends that arise from the voting process. Encourage participants to express their opinions on the strengths and weaknesses of the top ideas, as well as any potential challenges or opportunities that may emerge during implementation.

Finalize the top ideas (10 minutes)

During the ten-minute period allocated for this stage, your team will collaborate to select the top 3-5 ideas that emerged from the group discussion and voting process. These chosen ideas should be a mix of high-impact, low-effort ideas and high-impact, high-effort ideas that your team deems worth pursuing. These ideas will be the ones your team will focus on as you progress through the LDJ process.

As you identify the top ideas, make sure to also document any other insights or feedback gathered during the Idea Selection stage. This information will be invaluable in informing the next steps of the LDJ process and ensuring your team’s efforts are well-directed.

By the end of the Idea Selection stage, your team should have a clear and focused set of top ideas to explore further and potentially implement. These ideas represent the culmination of your team’s collective expertise, creativity, and strategic thinking throughout the LDJ process.

Lightning Decision Jam: Impact Effort Scale

Next steps and implementation

With a clear set of top ideas identified and agreed upon, your team is now ready to move forward with the implementation process. The Next Steps and Implementation stage is essential for translating your team’s ideas into actionable plans and ensuring that the momentum generated during the LDJ is maintained.

Assign action items (10 minutes)

To assign action items for the top ideas, start by identifying specific tasks or action items that need to be completed to bring each idea to life. Whenever possible, break down larger tasks into smaller, more manageable steps. Discuss any dependencies or prerequisites that must be addressed before certain tasks can be started.

Allocate resources and responsibilities (10 minutes)

When allocating resources and responsibilities, first determine the resources required to complete each task, such as time, budget, and personnel. Next, assign responsibility for each task to a specific team member, making sure that workloads are balanced and everyone is aware of their responsibilities. Finally, establish clear deadlines for each task, taking into account any dependencies or prerequisites identified earlier

Monitor progress and adjust as needed (ongoing)

To monitor progress and adjust as needed, set up a system for regularly tracking the progress of each task, such as weekly check-ins or status update meetings. Encourage open communication and collaboration among team members, making sure that everyone feels comfortable sharing their progress, challenges, and insights. Be ready to make adjustments to the implementation plan as necessary, whether that involves reallocating resources, revising deadlines, or refining the scope of specific tasks.

Facilitation tips and best practices

To ensure the success of your Lightning Decision Jam, it’s important to keep in mind several facilitation tips and best practices. These guidelines will help create an engaging, productive, and collaborative environment for your team.

Set the stage for success (5 minutes)

To set the stage for success in the LDJ, begin by clearly communicating the purpose and goals of the process, ensuring all participants understand the objectives. Create a safe and open atmosphere where participants can share their thoughts, ideas, and concerns without fear of judgment or criticism. Emphasize the importance of active listening and mutual respect to foster a collaborative and supportive environment.

Keep the energy high (ongoing)

To keep the energy high throughout the LDJ, maintain a brisk pace to keep participants engaged and focused. Encourage participants to stand or move around during the session, as this can help maintain energy levels and stimulate creative thinking. Utilize energizers or short breaks as needed to help participants recharge and refocus.

Manage time effectively (ongoing)

Effectively managing time involves closely monitoring the time throughout the session, ensuring each stage of the LDJ is completed within the allotted time frame. Be ready to gently steer the conversation back on track if it begins to veer off course or if participants become bogged down in lengthy debates. Allocate extra time for particularly complex or contentious issues, but also be prepared to table discussions if they’re preventing the group from making progress.

Encourage equal participation (ongoing)

To encourage equal participation during the LDJ, it’s essential to actively seek input from all participants. This ensures that everyone has an opportunity to contribute their ideas and perspectives. Be mindful of any power dynamics or groupthink tendencies that may be at play, and address them as needed. Foster a sense of shared ownership and collective responsibility for the outcomes of the LDJ by encouraging participants to take an active role in both the decision-making process and the implementation of the resulting ideas.

Adapting LDJ for remote teams

In today’s increasingly global and remote work environment, it’s essential to adapt the Lightning Decision Jam for effective collaboration among remote teams. Here are some tips and tools to help facilitate a successful remote LDJ:

Choose the right tools (5 minutes)

When preparing for a virtual LDJ, it’s important to select the appropriate tools. First, choose a reliable video conferencing platform, such as Zoom, Google Meet, or Microsoft Teams, to ensure clear communication and engagement among participants. Next, use a digital whiteboards tool, like Miro or Mural, to replicate the experience of a physical whiteboard and allow participants to share and organize their ideas visually. Lastly, utilize an online timer to help manage time effectively and keep the session on track.

Establish clear communication guidelines (5 minutes)

To ensure effective communication during a virtual LDJ, set expectations for camera usage, as maintaining visual contact can help foster engagement and connection among remote participants. Encourage the use of headphones and microphones for optimal audio quality, and establish a protocol for muting and unmuting during discussions. Make use of chat features for side conversations or clarifying questions, and assign a team member to monitor the chat and address any issues that arise.

Adapt the LDJ process for a virtual setting (ongoing)

To successfully adapt the Lightning Decision Jam for remote teams, modify the steps of the LDJ as needed to accommodate the virtual environment. This may include using digital sticky notes or virtual voting tools. Be prepared to allocate extra time for transitions between stages of the LDJ, as remote collaboration can sometimes take longer than in-person interactions. Additionally, make use of breakout rooms or smaller groups to facilitate more in-depth discussions, particularly for larger teams. Following these guidelines and using the appropriate tools will ensure that your organization continues to benefit from this powerful problem-solving method regardless of geographic constraints.

Conclusion: Making the most of your LDJ

By following this comprehensive guide to conducting the perfect Lightning Decision Jam, you’ll be well-equipped to drive effective decision-making and problem-solving within your organization. The LDJ not only fosters collaboration but also empowers teams to tackle challenges head-on by efficiently generating actionable solutions. Remember, the key to success lies in the preparation, facilitation, and commitment to continuous improvement. Embrace the LDJ process, learn from each session, and watch your team’s productivity, communication, and innovation soar.

When all participants have shared their sticky notes, collaborate as a group to organize related ideas into broader themes or categories. Identify patterns and connections among the generated solutions and recognize common approaches and overarching themes. As the facilitator, you might need to guide the conversation and help the group reach a consensus on the most innovative and promising ideas to explore further during the workshop.

By the end of the Idea Generation stage, the team should have a diverse array of potential solutions to tackle the problems identified earlier in the workshop. This variety of ideas will lay the groundwork for the next stage of the LDJ process: Idea Selection.


Special thanks and credit go to AJ & Smart for their innovative Lightning Decision Jam process, which served as the foundation for the strategies and techniques presented in this article. Their work has greatly contributed to the fields of problem-solving and creative collaboration.

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