Nominal Group Technique

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Nominal group technique (NGT) is a structured framework for small-group discussion. The goal is to reach group consensus by gathering information from asking group members to respond to questions posed by a moderator. Participants are then asked to prioritize the responses of the group. The benefit of the technique is that it prevents one idea or person from dominating the discussion and allows everyone to both provide a response and vote on the best answer.

Preparation

The meeting room should be large enough to hold at least five participants. Arrange tables in a U shape with a flip chart or white board at the open end of the U. You will also need a large marker, tape, paper, pencils and index cards for each person in the group. Prepare an opening statement to the group which identifies roles and objectives.

The Process

The first step is generating ideas. The moderator begins by asking the group a question, writing it on the board. Each person should brainstorm ideas independently of the group for 15 minutes. Next, the moderator should ask for feedback on the question in a round-robin, recording each response concisely, without debate. Discuss each idea as recorded and determine if clarity is needed. The moderator should solicit questions from the group. Vote on each idea, and tally votes to identify the highest-rated ideas. The moderator might need to define what the group should be looking for before voting begins.

Advantages and Disadvantages

While NGT is an effective way to bring groups to consensus in an orderly manner, it has disadvantages. In addition to the upfront preparation, which can be time-consuming, it may be too limiting for some organizations. It also minimizes (purposely) the discussion, and limits the full development of ideas. However, the method is great for generating a large number of ideas in a short time, while balancing the influence of overpowering members. It also reduces competition and the pressure to conform.

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