Adapting the “Benny Hill” idea-sorting method for remote design thinking workshops

Kick-off your workshop using our favorite in-person method, an idea “dance” that brings the best ideas to the forefront in a fun, group-friendly, and *now* remote-friendly way.

The Benny Hill (“Thirty Five”) Method

Why use it

When to use it

How to use it (in person)

  1. Each participant gets an A4 piece of paper and sketches out (in 5 minutes) one idea of a service that they would like to develop.
  2. Start the music* to signal that participants should “dance” (really just moving!) around the room. While they move, they swap their paper with each person they cross paths with, doing it again, and again.
  3. When the music stops teams of 2 are formed and as a team they present and compare whichever ideas they are holding at that time. Each pair has 5 votes in total, to divide between the two ideas. They can decide to give all 5 votes to one idea or divide them. (like 4–1 or 3–2).
  4. Participants write down the votes each idea gets on the back of the idea paper, and signal they are done. When the music starts again, the ideas continue to be passed around, and this is repeated for at least 3 more rounds.
  5. At the end of the 3rd round, each participant counts the votes of the idea they are holding and share the score with the group. Ideas with the highest scores are listed on a whiteboard or in a clear space so everyone can see them.
  6. Next, the participants whose ideas got the most votes present them to the bigger group, taking a minute to pitch or explain the concept. After presenting, participants assign themselves to the ideas they are most interested in.

The Benny Hill Method (remote)

How to use it (remote)

  1. The idea dance begins. Instruct participants to move (click and drag, click and drag) their emojis around the ideas while the music plays. It helps to explain this moment like musical chairs, each idea is a chair. It is best to demonstrate this once in advance so everyone understands.
  2. When the music stops participants must place their emoji on an idea to claim it. No two people (emojis) can be on the same idea!
  3. Once each participant has claimed an idea, give instructions for the next step. Explain that they will be sent into breakout rooms to evaluate the two ideas they are both “on‘’ and allocate votes between the ideas. Take a moment to demonstrate the process and pause and see if anyone has questions. Then, when everyone is ready, send them to breakout rooms in pairs.
  4. In the breakout rooms, participants read the ideas to each other and vote on them. Same logic as before, participants have 5 votes to give. Each participant records the number of votes the idea gets on the template.
  5. Bring all participants back, and pause to make sure everyone documented the votes on the template! If needed, remind them to do it in the chat as well. Then start the dance again, and repeat for 3 rounds. (note: we highly recommend doing a test round in the very beginning).
  6. TAKE A BREAK! People will need a break now, and you can use the time to calculate the voting results. During the break, pull out and highlight the top voted ideas in a new board.
  7. When everyone is back, ask the creators to pitch their ideas to the rest of the group. After all the pitches, participants can start placing their emojis on the ideas they find most interesting.

Remote Benny Hill Takeaways

💪 Do 💪

  • Identify key ideas and central themes in advance with a shared brainstorm so that people are on the same page.
  • Have a standardized idea template for participants (use the one we have here or make your own!) so that ideas are comparable.
  • Share your screen to show how this works.
  • Remind participants that every detail needs to be clear in their idea because they will not be there to explain the idea, it must speak for itself.
  • Do a FULL test round that doesn’t count — in which you send people to breakouts and they actually use the method.
  • Have 2 example ideas to show how you would evaluate them together and vote.
  • Make it easy to understand by comparing it to a musical chairs dance.
  • Play fun music!

⛔️ Don’t ⛔️

  • Don’t move too fast — slower connection speeds will not see and thus lose the value of the demonstration.
  • Don’t let participants stress too much about “fair” votes, or needing a recount. Make sure everyone is clear on how to vote, and remember that people are pretty happy once they are in the groups, it can just be a little stressful getting there.
  • Don’t use this in high-stakes idea sorting scenarios or when there are multiple or elaborate criteria for sorting, such as 3 qualities to evaluate each idea upon.
  • Don’t let people have mics on during the dance, it will mess up the music/audio!

⚡️ Enough reading, time to start doing! Go ahead and try it out by using the template we have prepared in the Miroverse. ⚡️ We would love to hear your thoughts and comments on how it works for you!



Service experience designer from Argentina — Currently based in Köln, Germany.

Get the Medium app

A button that says 'Download on the App Store', and if clicked it will lead you to the iOS App store
A button that says 'Get it on, Google Play', and if clicked it will lead you to the Google Play store
Abi Schreider

Service experience designer from Argentina — Currently based in Köln, Germany.