Nominal Group Technique

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Nominal Group Technique (Delbecq and Van de Ven (1971), is a structured from of BrainStorming or BrainWriting, with up to 10 participants and an experienced facilitator (or up to 3-4 groups of up to 10 participants, with a spokesperson for each group and a single facilitator overall)

Contents

Underlying Principles

NGT is based on three fundamental, research-based principles:

  • ‘Nominal’ Groups are thought to generate higher quality ideas than interacting groups typical of Classic Brainstorming. A nominal group consists of several people (usually gathered in one room) who are prepared to work as a team to resolve a problem. This sharing of ideas (which are anonymously submitted) promotes a sense of involvement and motivation within the group.
  • The ‘round robin’ element provides encouragement and equal opportunities for all members to contribute. Contribution from all participants is encouraged and every individual’s idea is given equal standing, whether unique or not.
  • Reliable communication requires that the recipient’s understanding of a message be checked with the sender, especially in the case of ‘new ideas’ being put forward. Checks for accurate communication are built in to the technique.

Standard Procedure

Various forms of the procedure can be undertaken, however, the classical form suggested by Delbecq et al. uses the following steps:

  1. Anonymous generation of ideas in writing, begins with the facilitator stating the problem and giving the participants up to 10 minutes to jot down any initial ideas privately. The facilitator also writes down his own ideas.
  2. Round-robin recording of ideas, allows each person in turn to read out one idea, which the facilitator writes up on a flip chart for all to view and numbered sequentially. This is repeated going around the groups until all ideas are exhausted and any duplicates are eliminated.
  3. Serial discussion to clarify ideas and check communication is encouraged by the facilitator. Working through each ideas systematically asking for questions or comments with a view to developing a shared understanding of an idea. Discussions are calm and controlled to aid clarification of the idea, they are not heated debates
  4. Preliminary anonymous vote on item importance is usually carried out in the method described under Anonymous Voting.
  5. Further discussion and voting, takes place if the voting is not consistent. Steps 3 – 4 can be repeated and any ideas that received votes will be re-discussed for clarification.

Adaptation for ill-structured problems

Modification of NGT, undertaken by Bartunek and Murnighan (1984), helps to deal with ill-structrued problems. Normal ideas are generated and listed, followed by the facilitator questioning if the ideas are relevant to the same problem. If not, the problem is said to be ill-structured and the ideas generated are clustered into coherent groups (see Snowball Technique ). These clusters of ill-structured ideas are then treated as problems in their own right and the NGT procedure is applied to them. Regular breaks are taken by the participants to ensure the group feel they are still working on the original problem

Adaptation for greater anonymity

Useful where low trust conditions exist i.e. the presence of significant status or stakeholder differences. (see Improved Nominal Group Technique - INGT)

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