The Nominal Group Technique Explained

by Carl Senior on Jan 14, 2022

Are your team meetings dominated by one or two individuals?  The Nominal Group Technique can help navigate the invisible danger of authority bias, improve group participation and facilitate the decision-making process.

Psychology 3 min read
Share

“The Nominal Group Technique is a fantastic way to gain clarity in your thinking and empower reticent team members to voice their often extremely valuable ideas and opinions.” – Carl Senior, Behavioural Scientist and Cognition Scientific Board Member

NGT defined

The Nominal Group Technique (NGT) is a structured method for group brainstorming, which encourages contributions from everyone in the room. At its core, it is designed to facilitate agreement on the relative importance of issues, problems or solutions. 

How does NGT work?

1. Once the purpose and desired outcomes from the session have been explained, participants are each given five minutes to answer a specific question. This is done individually, without any discussion. 

2. Each person is then asked to share a single response. These are all recorded on a flipchart, for the whole group to see. This should take around 15-30 minutes.

This sharing of ideas often prompts further thoughts, so although there is no discussion at this stage, participants are invited to keep jotting down ideas as they arise.

The person recording the ideas on the flipchart must do so without judgement, criticism or reaction. 

3. There is then an opportunity for explanation, discussion and clarification, which results in a refining of the list of ideas. Often, ideas are merged or amalgamated to create possible solutions.

Categories can also be established at this stage if appropriate. No ideas should be discounted or taken out and all new ideas that come up should be added to the list.

This should result in a clear list of solutions.

4. For about five minutes, each person is asked to select and write down (on separate post-it notes) the five solutions they feel will have the most impact, and then rank them in order, by putting a number on each post-it note. 

The factor with the highest impact will be scored 5. The factor with the least impact will be scored 1. Going back to the next most positive, this will be scored 4, and the next least positive, scored 2. The remaining factor is scored 3.

The post-it notes are handed in to be counted, and the top five solutions are calculated and shared with the group.

What are the advantages of NGT?

The outcome of the process is the mathematical aggregation of each member's preferences, so no one is favoured or listened to more than anyone else. 

The process prevents the domination of discussion by a single person, encourages the more passive group members to participate, and results in a set of prioritised solutions.

When NGT is particularly useful

  • When some are much more vocal or confident than others
  • When some think better in silence
  • When there is a concern that some may not participate
  • When the group struggles to generate enough ideas
  • When there are new members of the group
  • When the issue in hand has the potential to be controversial

NGT considerations

The primary purpose of NGT is clarification, not to resolve differences of opinion.

Discussion should be equally balanced among all ideas.

All ideas should remain visible – when ideas overflow to additional flipchart pages, previous pages should be posted around the room so everyone can see them.

Conclusion

The NGT methodology is an extremely powerful tool for reaching group consensus and extracting valuable ideas from all team members. It can also be tricky to use correctly without the guidance of a professional. 

Cognition’s team of psychologists and cognitive scientists can help you plan, lead and evaluate the findings of your NGT sessions for maximum strategic insight and ROI. Get in touch with the team today to discuss your requirements.

Carl Senior

by Carl Senior
Jan 14, 2022

A behavioural scientist with 20 years’ experience working at the interface between social psychology and organisational behaviour. Carl joined Aston University, UK in 2004 as Reader in Psychology after holding a visiting fellowship in Behavioural Sciences at the National Institutes of Health, USA. He is a Visiting Professor to the University of Gibraltar and was elected a Fellow of the British Psychological Society in 2015. Carl is also a member of the Cognition scientific board.