The Modified Borda Count

Achieving Consensus About Which Options to Pursue

The Modified Borda Count - Achieving Consensus About Which Options to Pursue

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Use the Modified Borda Count method to score options and reach a common consensus.

Imagine that you're on the board of directors at a charity and you're selecting projects to run in the coming year. There are lots of causes to choose from and they all vary in scope and field. Some board members are passionate about a particular project they'd like to see in action, others have a couple of favorites, and a few are undecided. Unfortunately, people don't share the same priorities, and tempers are beginning to fray…

In situations like this, you need an organized, fair and consensual way for your group to share information, offer opinions, arrive at a consensus, and make the best decision for the organization.

In this article, we'll explore the Modified Borda Count (MBC) and look at how you can use it to make group decisions. We'll also look at the advantages and disadvantages of using the MBC in team decision making.

Tip:

If you'd like more information on group decision making, including whether to make a decision as a group or on your own, see our articles on The Vroom-Yetton-Jago Decision Model, The Hoy-Tarter Model of Decision Making, The Stepladder Technique, and Multi-Voting.

What Is the Modified Borda Count?

The Modified Borda Count is a version of the Borda Count – a voting system that asks everyone who is making a decision to rank their options in order of preference. They award their least preferred option one point, their second least popular two points, and so on, with their most preferred option receiving the maximum number of points. The choice with the most points is the winner.

Note:

The Borda Count is named after French mathematician and political scientist Jean-Charles de Borda, who invented it in 1770. It is used in politics, in electing representatives at universities, and even for granting sports awards, like the Most Valuable Player Award in Major League Baseball.

The Modified Borda Count is a useful tool in team decision making.

How to Use the Modified Borda Count

There are three steps involved in the MBC – debate, vote and analysis:

1. The Debate

Outline to your team the decision you need to make and the criteria you need to meet. Discuss this as a group, and provide clarification where necessary. Ask participants to consider possible options and to write them down.

Write everyone's options up on a whiteboard. Work through the responses together – bring very similar options together and eliminate duplicates.

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2. The Vote

Ask the participants to each choose their top five options. (Any number between five and 10 is OK, as long as everyone gets the same.)

Next, ask them to rank these options in order of preference, so that the least favorite gets one point, the next least favorite gets two points, and so on.

For example, if you're ranking five solutions, the top choice gets five points, the second choice gets four points, the third choice gets three points, the fourth choice gets two points, and the fifth choice gets one point.

3. The Analysis

Collect everyone's rankings together and add up their scores for each option, to form a collective response. This gives the group's consensus score for each option. You can see an example of this in Figure 1, below.

Figure 1: Gathering People's Votes Using a Modified Borda Count Process

Project Jina Jay Rik Sue Will Total Score Project Priority
Email marketing 5 1   2 5 13  
New website 2       4 6  
Twitter® campaign     4     4  
Flyers 1   5 1 3 10  
Photo contest     2     2  
Submit your vote contest 3       2 5  
Sweepstake     1     1  
Webinar 4   3   1 8  
Expert interviews           0  

Then order the options so that the one with the highest score is at the top of the list. You can see this in Figure 2, below.

Figure 2: People's Votes Ranked in Order of Common Consensus

Project Jina Jay Rik Sue Will Total Score Project Priority
Email marketing 5 1   2 5 13 1
Flyers 1   5 1 3 10 2
Webinar 4   3   1 8 3
New website 2       4 6 4
Submit your vote contest 3       2 5 5
Twitter® campaign     4     4 6
Photo contest     2     2 7
Sweepstake     1     1 8
Expert interviews             9

Note:

If a winning preference has a low score, it can mean that team members don't rate any of the options very highly. You may then need to debate the ideas again, eliminate the lowest-scoring options, and repeat the voting process until you achieve a greater level of consensus. This way, the winning option will be more widely acceptable to the team.

Advantages and Disadvantages of Using the MBC

The advantage of using the MBC is that the winning choice often has more support from the team than it would in a majority vote. This is because everyone can express their preferred choices, as well as other options that they'd be willing to work with, and there's a good chance that most people will have voted for the preferred option – at least to some extent.

Another advantage is that everyone can see what the first, second and third choices are, so it's easy to come to a common consensus.

However, the MBC can encourage tactical voting. You can, for example, give a lower preference to one option to prevent another one from winning. This is because the winning option isn't always the one that receives the most first-place votes. An option can receive lots of second- and third-place votes and still end up with the highest score. You can avoid tactical voting by encouraging your team members to be honest when voting.

Key Points

The Modified Borda Count is a voting system based on participants ranking their preferred solutions, and it's often used in group decision making. By asking team members to rank first, second and subsequent choices in a vote, it helps them to make a decision based on common consensus.

Because this process is transparent and fair, it helps people buy into the final decision, even if they don't fully agree with it.

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Comments (4)
  • Over a month ago chuducmanh wrote
    Many thanks, BillT
  • Over a month ago BillT wrote
    Hi chuducmanh,

    Welcome to the Club. As one of the Mind Tools team, I’m here to help you here and in the forums, and to get the very most from the club.

    From your question, you certainly have a strong grasp on how the modified Borda Count works. Personally, I feel that the voting was well distributed in this particular example, and I don't think I would require a second round of voting. The top three winners seem to also have the strongest votes distributed throughout the group. If, for example, the top three had contained votes from everyone, but the votes were in the ones and twos, I would feel the need to remove the lowest options and re-vote.

    Thank you for the great question.
  • Over a month ago chuducmanh wrote
    According to the example above, the winning preference (email marketing, total score 13) has a low score while Rik gives zero for it. The team now need to debate over this option again, then apply another voting round. Do I understand the note right?
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