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Nominal Group technique (NGT) is a structured variation of a small-group discussion to develop a set of priorities for action.
NGT goes a step further than brainstorming. It gathers reflections from individuals on a specific topic which generates discussion to build shared understanding. A moderator guides the group through a structured approach to prioritisation of their ideas or suggestions.
It is designed to promote the identification of key problems or in the development of solutions that can be tested further using more strategic deliberative processes.
- prevents the domination of the discussion by an individual
- encourages all group members to participate
- results in prioritised actions or recommendations that represent the groups’ preferences, providing context for final deliberation.
NGT helps to uncover and explore diverse views on an issue in a short space of time.
Rather than launching people into a discussion they had not time to consider, this technique allows for a quiet individual reflection time and writing of ideas before the discussion begins.
This approach leads to the generation of more ideas for consideration and higher quality decision making. It also increases the group’s sense of accomplishment and greater satisfaction towards the quality of the outputs.
NGT uses a structured format lasting between 60 – 90 minutes, to obtain multiple inputs from several people on a particular problem or issue. Groups consist of 5 to 9 participants and for larger numbers, sub-groups can be organised..
The round-robin methodology for capturing ideas is generally used as part of this technique. It fosters equal participation and allows participants to democratically identify their priorities for decision making.
An online NGT can be used for knowledge transfer which could provide support to other deliberative processes: (Using Online Nominal Group Technique to Implement Knowledge Transfer).
Research has indicated that traditional NGTs provide better outcomes than the online version. (Structuring group decision making in a web-based environment by using the nominal group technique)
|Bringing all voices into the discussion||This is critical when holding a NGT.|
|People process differently||Some people can think very
quickly, however they may not always think deeply and the result can be
limited in application. Some people need time to process the information they
are receiving to provide deeper insights as a result. NGT process allows time
for thinking in silence to support the contributions people make to
Some people can easily voice their concerns, while others prefer to capture their views in writing. NGT facilitates these abilities which increases the capacity of inclusive group participation.
|The spark||Some issues are so well entrenched that individuals “can’t see the forest for the trees”. A spark of an idea or an insight from one group participant can stimulate innovative thinking among other participants.|
|Think new people, new ideas||There is wisdom in the crowds (Surowiecki, 2000) and you get to hear new ideas when you meet new people in a deliberative process.|
|Structured approach||When there is conflict in an issue, a structured approach like NGT allows participants to focus on a process that leads to clear democratically.|
Before the session
- Prepare information on the topic for distribution to participants prior to the session, e.g. discussion papers, reports, draft plans, research papers, project scope or a copy of previous group discussions.
- Prepare a welcome statement that explains the purpose of the meeting, outlines individual roles and group norms; and describes how the output from the session will be used.
During the session
- Present a summary of information on the topic for discussion to prepare people for participation.
- Provide participants with paper (e.g. large sticky notes) and a marker pen.
- Outline the process to participants so they know what to expect and don’t jump ahead of the process outlined below.
Closeout the NGT by letting people know what will happen next with the results of the process.
- Write up the notes in the themes identified by the participants.
- Write up the rankings.
- Summarise the information for use in action planning or for use in further decision making.
No need to post ideas on notes that are already on the wall to help manage the display of ideas.Help the group to recognise ideas that are similar in context but may be worded slightly differently.
- NGT may itself be used as an evaluation tool with some modifications.
- Participants could be asked to rank their level of satisfaction with the process, what their thoughts were on the outcomes of the process or if the results were close to what they expected.
- The value of the outcomes to support decision making could be assessed on a likert scale, i.e. (5-1).
- Facilitator trained in the use of the technique.
- A meeting room large enough to seat a group of participants at tables set out in a U-shape configuration with plenty of space in between tables if there is a large number of participants.
- Flip charts, tape, markers pens and sticky notes for each participant and either 3” x 5” index cards or small post-it notes.
- Tally board or sheets to record ranking of ideas.
|Post it notes and marker pens||Have plenty of large and small post it notes and marker pens for participants to use.|
|Don’t censor ideas||Facilitate discussion on ideas to gain clarification, not to dismiss ideas or resolve differences of opinions.|
|Sort ideas into themes||Engage participants in sorting the ideas into themes on the wall.|
|Keep all ideas that make the wall||Keep all ideas (notes) visible on the wall – do not discount ideas that stand alone.|