Directorpoint President John Peinhardt has said that “brainstorming is the separation of idea generation and idea evaluation”. There is, perhaps, no better way of maximizing the benefits of brainstorming in the decision making-process than NGT. Nominal group technique (NGT) is a form of structured small-group discussion designed to more effectively and efficiently reach a consensus.
NGT emphasizes highly engaged, collaborative deliberation with no single group member dominating the conversation. There are a few things you need to do in order to effectively apply this technique. The meeting space should be arranged in a layout which promotes collaborative discussion. This means members should be seated in a circle or U-shape. Members must also be properly equipped. A whiteboard or flip pad is recommended for the group as well as five index cards for each member.
The process of performing nominal group technique is as follows:
- A designated moderator must present a question or problem to the group.
- Group members then individually brainstorm their own ideas or solutions.
- The products of individual brainstorming are read aloud to the group and recorded on the whiteboard or flip pad by the moderator. Any group discussion during the recording of ideas is done solely for the purposes of clarification; not debate.
- Each point is discussed amongst group members. The focus of this discussion is on gaining a deeper understanding of each idea. Again, debate is discouraged.
- Once each idea has been discussed and group members feel they have gained a solid grasp on each point, voting begins.
Each group member has five index cards. On each, they have written a number, one through five. On each card, members write an idea which has been presented to the group. The card labeled “five” indicates the idea the group member feels should receive the highest priority. A score of “one” indicates the lowest priority.
- The votes are then tallied to determine (1) which ideas should be pursued and (2) the orders in which they are to be pursued.
It’s easy to see the pros and cons to this method of decision making. The absence of debate means that ideas may not have the chance to be fully fleshed out. At the same time, it keeps the decision-making process objective not subjective. In with logic; out with petty politics.
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