The Lightning Decision Jam

Lightning Decision Jam For Fast Decision-Making

The Lightning Decision Jam (LDJ) is a means of making fast decisions that provide quick direction. The Lightning Decision Jam was developed by design agency AJ&Smart in response to the inefficiency of business meetings. Borrowing ideas from the core principles of design sprints, AJ&Smart created the Lightning Decision Jam.

Methodology OverviewLightning Decision Jam (LDJ) is a collaborative decision-making technique and workshop format introduced by AJ&Smart, a design and innovation consultancy. LDJ is designed to streamline and accelerate the decision-making process within cross-functional teams. It is particularly effective for making quick, informed decisions, prioritizing ideas, and solving complex problems in a time-efficient manner. LDJ draws inspiration from Design Sprints and Agile methodologies to facilitate focused, outcome-driven sessions.
Key PrinciplesLDJ is guided by several key principles:
1. Time-Boxed: LDJ sessions are short and time-bound, often lasting no longer than 4 hours, which keeps participants focused and prevents overthinking.
2. Cross-Functional Teams: It involves a diverse group of stakeholders with different perspectives to ensure comprehensive decision-making.
3. Structured Activities: LDJ employs a series of structured exercises and techniques to guide participants through the decision-making process.
4. Visual Collaboration: Visual tools, such as whiteboards and sticky notes, are used to facilitate communication and documentation.
5. Iterative Approach: LDJ encourages iterative thinking and prototyping to refine decisions.
ProcessLDJ typically follows a structured process:
1. Problem Framing: Define the problem or decision that needs to be addressed during the LDJ session.
2. Idea Generation: Participants generate a variety of ideas, solutions, or options related to the problem.
3. Silent Voting: Participants silently vote on the ideas they find most promising using stickers or dots.
4. Discussion and Ranking: Ideas with the most votes are discussed, and participants collectively rank them in order of priority.
5. Decision: The highest-ranked idea or solution is chosen as the decision.
6. Action Planning: Determine next steps and actions required to implement the decision.
ApplicationsLDJ is versatile and can be applied to various scenarios, including product feature prioritization, problem-solving, project planning, and strategy development. It is especially valuable when teams need to make decisions quickly or align on complex issues.
BenefitsLDJ offers several benefits:
1. Speed: LDJ accelerates decision-making and reduces the time spent in lengthy meetings or discussions.
2. Inclusivity: Involving cross-functional teams ensures diverse perspectives and buy-in.
3. Visual Clarity: The use of visual tools aids in clarifying ideas and facilitating understanding.
4. Actionable Outcomes: LDJ results in clear, actionable decisions and next steps.
5. Reduced Overthinking: Timeboxing prevents excessive analysis and encourages action.
ChallengesLDJ may face challenges related to time constraints, ensuring active participation, and adapting the methodology to suit the specific context or organization. Effective facilitation is crucial to overcoming these challenges.

Understanding the Lightning Decision Jam

Indeed, many meetings consist of unstructured conversation that does not further company goals. Many other meetings are probably better discussed in a group chat or through a series of emails. In either case, attendees are often left feeling confused and generally unmotivated. 

Borrowing ideas from the core principles of design sprints, AJ&Smart created the Lightning Decision Jam. These principles include:

  • Working together, alone.
  • Tangible items being better than discussion.
  • A belief that being right is not as important as getting started.
  • Less reliance on creativity.

Indeed, the LDJ method is suited to any situation where an organization is having difficulty in defining or addressing problems. The method is also versatile. It can be used in large multinational corporations or small start-ups containing just a few people.

How to run a Lightning Decision Jam

Before beginning, an ideal team size of 4-6 people must select a moderator. A good moderator is essential in ensuring that discussions do not become unstructured or run over time.

After personnel has been decided, the LDJ can be performed by following these steps:

Start with the problems (7 minutes)

Each team member should spend 7 minutes detailing the problems or challenges encountered during the week on blue post-it notes. There must be no discussion during this process.

Present problems (4 minutes per person)

One at a time, each person should then stand up and stick the blue post-it notes to a wall or whiteboard while they give a brief description for each. To avoid running over 4 minutes, it is helpful to dedicate no more than 30 seconds to each problem.

Select problems to solve (6 minutes)

Each team member is then assigned two dots which they must then use to vote on the problems they deem the most important to solve. Again, there must be no discussion between the group.

Reframe problems (6 minutes)

Here, the moderator rewriters the top-voted problem in the form of a standardized challenge. The challenge is reframed in the “How Might We” (HMW) format to make it solvable and ensure consistency across all problems. 

Consider the example of a post-it note reading “I am having difficulty keeping up with this new marketing campaign”. Rewritten in HMW format, the challenge then reads “Ensure that everyone is supported and well-informed during marketing campaigns”.

Produce solutions (7 minutes)

Without any discussion, each team member has 7 minutes to write potential solutions on green post-it notes. At this point, the focus is on quantity over quality. After the allotted time has elapsed, each member sticks their solutions on the wall.

Vote on solutions (10 minutes)

To cast votes on the most viable solutions, each team member is given six dots.

Prioritize solutions (30 seconds)

Solutions with more than two votes should be prioritized, with post-it notes containing the most dots placed near the top of the wall or whiteboard.

Decide what to execute on (10 minutes)

How much effort is required to enact each solution? A simple effort/impact matrix can be used to determine which solutions have the highest potential to be a quick fix. 

To achieve this, the moderator should hold each post-it note over the matrix and ask team members to decide a final position based on its perceived effort and impact.

Turn solutions into actionable tasks (5 minutes)

Problems occupying favorable positions on the matrix are then taken off the wall or whiteboard. Then, the individual who came up with the original problem is tasked with creating an actionable plan that can be completed in 1-2 weeks. 

Key takeaways

  • The Lightning Decision Jam allows businesses to make fast, effective decisions on high-impact problems.
  • The Lightning Decision Jam was created in response to traditional business meetings that often result in an unstructured conversation that does not further company goals.
  • Running a Lightning Decision Jam means following a structured, time-limited process. With an emphasis on no discussion and group consensus through voting, the LDJ team can create a clear and actionable solution quickly.

Key Highlights

  • Efficient Decision Making: LDJ is a method developed by AJ&Smart to make quick and effective decisions by addressing problems or challenges in a structured and time-limited manner.
  • Origin and Inspiration: LDJ is inspired by the core principles of design sprints and aims to overcome the inefficiencies of traditional business meetings, which often lack direction and yield unproductive conversations.
  • Core Principles Borrowed from Design Sprints:
    • Working Together, Alone: Team members work individually to generate ideas before coming together.
    • Tangible Items Over Discussion: Focus on creating tangible solutions instead of getting stuck in discussions.
    • Getting Started Over Being Right: Prioritize taking action and generating solutions over finding the perfect answer.
    • Less Reliance on Creativity: Encourages practical problem-solving over seeking highly creative solutions.
  • Suitability and Versatility: LDJ can be applied in various organizational contexts, from large corporations to small startups, whenever there’s a need to define and address problems effectively.
  • Team Structure and Moderation:
    • An ideal team size of 4-6 people is recommended.
    • A moderator is crucial to guide the process, prevent unstructured discussions, and keep the session on track.
  • Step-by-Step LDJ Process:
    • Start with the Problems: Each team member spends 7 minutes detailing problems or challenges on blue post-it notes, without discussion.
    • Present Problems: Team members stand up one by one, briefly describing their problems while sticking the post-it notes on a wall or whiteboard (limited to 4 minutes per person).
    • Select Problems to Solve: Each member votes on the problems they consider most important to solve, using two dots without any discussion.
    • Reframe Problems: Moderator rewrites the top-voted problem as a solvable challenge using the “How Might We” (HMW) format for consistency.
    • Produce Solutions: Each team member spends 7 minutes writing potential solutions on green post-it notes, focusing on quantity over quality.
    • Vote on Solutions: Team members cast six votes on the most viable solutions.
    • Prioritize Solutions: Solutions with more than two votes are prioritized based on the number of dots, placed at the top of the wall.
    • Decide What to Execute On: An effort/impact matrix is used to assess the potential of each solution as a quick fix, with team consensus.
    • Turn Solutions into Actionable Tasks: Favorable solutions are removed from the wall, and the person who identified the problem creates an actionable plan for execution in 1-2 weeks.
  • Key Takeaways:
    • LDJ enables businesses to rapidly address high-impact problems with efficient decision-making.
    • It was designed in response to traditional unstructured business meetings that often hinder progress.
    • The LDJ process emphasizes structured steps, time limits, no discussions during certain stages, and group consensus through voting to achieve clear and actionable solutions quickly.

Connected Decision-Making Frameworks


Simon’s satisficing strategy is a decision-making technique where the individual considers various solutions until they find an acceptable option. Satisficing is a portmanteau combining sufficing and satisfying and was created by psychologist Herbert A. Simon. He argued that many individuals make decisions with a satisfactory (and not optimal) solution. Satisfactory decisions are preferred because they achieve an acceptable result and avoid the resource-intensive search for something more optimal.

RAPID Framework

The RAPID framework is a tool used to help businesses make important decisions. The RAPID framework was developed by global consultancy firm Bain & Company, which noted that “high-quality decision making and strong performance go hand in hand.”

Foursquare Protocol

The Foursquare Protocol is an ethical decision-making model. The Foursquare Protocol helps businesses respond to challenging situations by making decisions according to a code of ethics. It can also be used to help individuals make decisions in the context of their own moral principles. It consists of four steps: gather the facts, understand previous decisions, assess the degree of similarity to past events, and assess yourself.

DACI Decision-Making

The DACI Decision-Making Framework was developed by software company Intuit in the 1980s. The DACI Decision-Making Framework assigns and then displays the responsibilities of the individual when making decision. DACI stands for driver, approver, contributor, and informed.

Lightning Decision Jam

The Lightning Decision Jam
The Lightning Decision Jam (LDJ) is a means of making fast decisions that provide quick direction. The Lightning Decision Jam was developed by design agency AJ&Smart in response to the inefficiency of business meetings. Borrowing ideas from the core principles of design sprints, AJ&Smart created the Lightning Decision Jam.

Multi-Criteria Analysis

The multi-criteria analysis provides a systematic approach for ranking adaptation options against multiple decision criteria. These criteria are weighted to reflect their importance relative to other criteria. A multi-criteria analysis (MCA) is a decision-making framework suited to solving problems with many alternative courses of action.

Cynefin Framework

The Cynefin Framework gives context to decision making and problem-solving by providing context and guiding an appropriate response. The five domains of the Cynefin Framework comprise obvious, complicated, complex, chaotic domains and disorder if a domain has not been determined at all.

SWOT Analysis

A SWOT Analysis is a framework used for evaluating the business’s Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, and Threats. It can aid in identifying the problematic areas of your business so that you can maximize your opportunities. It will also alert you to the challenges your organization might face in the future.

Personal SWOT Analysis

The SWOT analysis is commonly used as a strategic planning tool in business. However, it is also well suited for personal use in addressing a specific goal or problem. A personal SWOT analysis helps individuals identify their strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats.

Pareto Analysis

The Pareto Analysis is a statistical analysis used in business decision making that identifies a certain number of input factors that have the greatest impact on income. It is based on the similarly named Pareto Principle, which states that 80% of the effect of something can be attributed to just 20% of the drivers.

Failure Mode And Effects Analysis

A failure mode and effects analysis (FMEA) is a structured approach to identifying design failures in a product or process. Developed in the 1950s, the failure mode and effects analysis is one the earliest methodologies of its kind. It enables organizations to anticipate a range of potential failures during the design stage.

Blindspot Analysis

A Blindspot Analysis is a means of unearthing incorrect or outdated assumptions that can harm decision making in an organization. The term “blindspot analysis” was first coined by American economist Michael Porter. Porter argued that in business, outdated ideas or strategies had the potential to stifle modern ideas and prevent them from succeeding. Furthermore, decisions a business thought were made with care caused projects to fail because major factors had not been duly considered.

Comparable Company Analysis

A comparable company analysis is a process that enables the identification of similar organizations to be used as a comparison to understand the business and financial performance of the target company. To find comparables you can look at two key profiles: the business and financial profile. From the comparable company analysis it is possible to understand the competitive landscape of the target organization.

Cost-Benefit Analysis

A cost-benefit analysis is a process a business can use to analyze decisions according to the costs associated with making that decision. For a cost analysis to be effective it’s important to articulate the project in the simplest terms possible, identify the costs, determine the benefits of project implementation, assess the alternatives.

Agile Business Analysis

Agile Business Analysis (AgileBA) is certification in the form of guidance and training for business analysts seeking to work in agile environments. To support this shift, AgileBA also helps the business analyst relate Agile projects to a wider organizational mission or strategy. To ensure that analysts have the necessary skills and expertise, AgileBA certification was developed.

SOAR Analysis

A SOAR analysis is a technique that helps businesses at a strategic planning level to: Focus on what they are doing right. Determine which skills could be enhanced. Understand the desires and motivations of their stakeholders.

STEEPLE Analysis

The STEEPLE analysis is a variation of the STEEP analysis. Where the step analysis comprises socio-cultural, technological, economic, environmental/ecological, and political factors as the base of the analysis. The STEEPLE analysis adds other two factors such as Legal and Ethical.

Pestel Analysis

The PESTEL analysis is a framework that can help marketers assess whether macro-economic factors are affecting an organization. This is a critical step that helps organizations identify potential threats and weaknesses that can be used in other frameworks such as SWOT or to gain a broader and better understanding of the overall marketing environment.

DESTEP Analysis

A DESTEP analysis is a framework used by businesses to understand their external environment and the issues which may impact them. The DESTEP analysis is an extension of the popular PEST analysis created by Harvard Business School professor Francis J. Aguilar. The DESTEP analysis groups external factors into six categories: demographic, economic, socio-cultural, technological, ecological, and political.

Paired Comparison Analysis

A paired comparison analysis is used to rate or rank options where evaluation criteria are subjective by nature. The analysis is particularly useful when there is a lack of clear priorities or objective data to base decisions on. A paired comparison analysis evaluates a range of options by comparing them against each other.

Hickam’s Dictum

Hickam’s dictum is the counterargument to Occam’s razor. Whereas Occam’s razor is a heuristic that tends to narrow down decision-making to the simplest variables, Hickam’s dictum believes a situation must be tackled by looking at multiple variables.

Occam’s Razor

Occam’s Razor states that one should not increase (beyond reason) the number of entities required to explain anything. All things being equal, the simplest solution is often the best one. The principle is attributed to 14th-century English theologian William of Ockham.

Occam’s Broom

Occam’s broom was first proposed by South African microbiologist Sidney Brenner who proposed that inconvenient facts that do not fit into someone’s hypothesis or serve their agenda are swept aside or hidden. Occam’s broom is a principle stating that inconvenient facts are hidden or obscured to draw important conclusions or argue points.

Outcome Bias

Outcome bias describes a tendency to evaluate a decision based on its outcome and not on the process by which the decision was reached. In other words, the quality of a decision is only determined once the outcome is known. Outcome bias occurs when a decision is based on the outcome of previous events without regard for how those events developed.

Principle-Agent Problem

The theory behind the principle-agent problem was developed by Harvard Business School Professor Michael Jensen and economist and management professor William H. Meckling. The principle-agent problem describes a conflict in priorities between a person or group and the representative authorized to make decisions on their behalf.

TDODAR Decision Model

The TDODAR decision model helps an individual make good decisions in emergencies or any scenario with a high degree of uncertainty. TDODAR is an acronym of the six sequential steps that every practitioner must follow, comprising: time, diagnosis, options, decide, act/assign, review.

Mendelow Stakeholder Matrix

The Mendelow stakeholder matrix is a framework used to analyze stakeholder attitudes and expectations and their potential impact on business decisions.

Foursquare Protocol

The Foursquare Protocol is an ethical decision-making model. The Foursquare Protocol helps businesses respond to challenging situations by making decisions according to a code of ethics. It can also be used to help individuals make decisions in the context of their own moral principles. It consists of four steps: gather the facts, understand previous decisions, assess the degree of similarity to past events, and assess yourself.

Go/No-Go Decision Making

In general, terms, go/no-go decision making is a process of passing or failing a proposition. Each proposition is assessed according to criteria that determine whether a project advances to the next stage. The outcome of the go/no-go decision making is to assess whether to go or not to go with a project, or perhaps proceed with caveats.


The OODA loop was popularized by U.S. Air Force fighter pilot Colonel John Boyd to describe maneuver warfare during the Korean War. The OODA loop is a four-step approach to decision making where strategies must be adjusted quickly. Those four steps comprise observe, orient, decide, and act.

Read Next: Mental ModelsBiasesBounded RationalityMandela EffectDunning-Kruger EffectLindy EffectCrowding Out EffectBandwagon Effect, Decision-Making Matrix.

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