While there are many group methods for solving an issue or reaching a goal, the nominal group technique differs in a few key ways. Let’s look at what the nominal group technique is and what makes it unique.

What is the nominal group technique?

Like other group problem-solving methods, the nominal group technique involves utilizing a group to make decisions, solve problems, and generate solutions. The difference with this technique is that, with this method, every member of the group shares their view of the situation. From here, any duplicate solutions are eliminated, and what is left is ranked in order of preference by vote. The most favored solution is then decided as the decision to run with.

There is an alternative version of this method that focuses on hybridization, in that, various solutions combine to create hybrids. This way, a sort of super-solution can be created that uses the most favorable aspects of the solutions proposed.

3 benefits of the nominal group technique

There are some clear benefits to utilizing the nominal group technique over other group participation methods which should not be overlooked:

1. Efficiency

This technique can be an ideal way to gather everyone’s ideas quickly and come to a consensus.

2. Better ideas

Since this technique is so collaborative and democratic, better ideas might be heard than in other group technique options.

3. Equal participation

This technique, in its design, fosters the equal participation of all members of the group.

Why is the nominal group technique important to understand?

Understanding how the nominal technique works can be useful in the workplace for the following reasons:

1. It is useful if you find some group members tend to dominate.

If you have had experiences where a few group members have dominated the proceedings, leaving little room for others, this group technique is worth understanding as an alternative.

2. This technique is a great introduction for new team members.

Understanding how to implement the nominal group technique gives you a tool to get a feel for new team members as it encourages their equal participation and input.

3. Power imbalance

If there is a dynamic in the workplace where some key individuals hold the bulk of the power, the nominal group technique can act as a great leveler.

An industry example of the nominal group technique

A toy company is having difficulty deciding what product would be best to lead with for the upcoming year. A group meeting is called, where the nominal group technique will be utilized. Ten members from throughout the company are chosen to be part of the group.

At the beginning of the meeting, a team leader introduces each member of the team. Each participant is given a sheet of paper and is asked to list all of their ideas about which product would be best. Once everyone has written down their ideas, each participant is asked to share them with the group. Once everyone has shared, a group discussion takes shape where all of the ideas are discussed. Finally, voting and ranking of the ideas take place. It is ultimately decided to release the top three choices at the beginning of the new year.

5 best practices when thinking about the nominal group technique

Each stage of the nominal group technique has at least one practice to consider that will likely contribute to a more successful meeting:

1. Maintain a feeling of equality in the introduction phase

Foster a feeling of equal footing early on in the process by not putting any emphasis on any member of the group during the introduction phase of the meeting. Briefly introduce everyone in a manner that has them on the same footing and explain the process and procedure.

2. Independent generation of ideas

During the next phase, when each participant is to be writing down their ideas, be sure to make sure this happens in silence without collaboration.

3. Avoid debate as ideas are being shared

At the next stage, when participants go around the table sharing their ideas, there will possibly be an inclination for some members to begin to debate the merits of different ideas. Preemptively avoid this by making sure that everyone understands what the rules are for the exercise.

4. Do not spend too long on a single idea

During the group discussion, there could be the temptation to spend a lot of time on a single solution. This should be avoided. By allowing any one idea to take a longer amount of time in the spotlight, the voting process could be influenced.

5. Share the results immediately

When the voting is done, share the results immediately so that it feels like there is a swift feeling of closure to the process.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ) about the nominal group technique

1. What is the difference between the nominal group technique and brainstorming?

The tallying and equal participation in the nominal group technique separate it from brainstorming.

2. How many people participate in the nominal group technique?

The technique works best with 5 to 10 participants, but it works well with large groups as well.

3. Is the nominal group technique anonymous?

This technique is definitely not anonymous during the sharing of ideas portion of the group discussion. The ranking itself is anonymous.

The nominal group technique democratizes your group problem-solving sessions

If you have tried other group problem-solving techniques and found that they left a lot of room for improvement, the nominal group technique has many built-in attributes that could make for a more satisfactory process.

About the Author