When to use it
Use it when you want to
Use it when the group is less comfortable with more psychological methods.
Use it when individuals in the the group may repress ideas because of timidity or dominance of others.
How to use it
Make sure the objective of the session is clearly displayed, for example by writing it on a whiteboard, and ensure everyone understands it.
Silent writing of ideas
Silently and privately, the team writes down their thoughts and ideas on 3″ x 5″ cards. When individuals have finished, they should wait quietly for others to finish.
Share and understand
The leader collects the cards, shuffles them (to ensure individual people’s ideas are not in batches), then reads them out, one at a time. If the idea is unclear, the team may discuss it, but only for clarification of meaning, not general debate.
The agreed final wording is then transcribed onto a flipchart or other surface that can be easily read by the whole team. If it is agreed that the point from a card has already been transcribed, then it need not be copied again.
When all cards are transcribed and their meanings understood, vote on which are to be selected. Voting is done by each member of the team, silently and privately writing down votes for the listed ideas. Each vote is written on a 3″ x 5″ card, along with the text of the item for which the vote is being cast.
A product line team cannot agree on the best sound-proofing for a plate press, and the production manager will not pay until they agree. They get the line facilitator to run an NGT session to help uncover the real problems. This reveals that a couple of people have preferred brands and no trials have been done. After a visit to a local trade show and internal trials, they agree on a compromise system.
How it works
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. Hence it is a ‘nominal’ group.
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.