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Nominal Group Technique: How to understand it

The Quality ToolbookNominal Group Technique > How to understand it

When to use it | How to understand it | Example | How to do it | Practical variations


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How to understand it

When ideas or opinions need to be gathered from within a group, Brainstorming is not always the best solution, for example where the group prefers a more structured style of working or where some group members are dominant.

The Nominal Group Technique (or NGT) provides a structured method of collecting and organizing the thoughts of a group. This is done in a way that prevents the originator of individual thoughts becoming known.

This anonymous gathering of ideas results in the loss of the synergistic benefits of Brainstorming, where people key off each others ideas. However, many 'Brainstorming' sessions are in fact solely used for gathering the opinions of the group, rather than the original purpose of creative idea generation. In such circumstances, NGT is a quite suitable tool.

NGT sessions have two clear parts. The first part involves creation and transcription of thoughts so all can see them. This part of the session is kept brief by silent writing the thoughts and constraining discussion only to clarification questions (not criticism or debate). The second part of the session is the reduction of ideas to a final selection. Again, silence is used to focus individual effort and reduce the time spent. As a result, NGT can be a very efficient method of gaining common agreement within the team.

It is the lack of interaction between the team members that gives this tool its title of 'nominal' group technique, as the team is only nominally interacting as a group.



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