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Nominal group technique is a decision-making method that can act as an alternative to traditional voting methods. In traditional voting, solutions often are decided by a majority. A nominal group method, on the other hand, allows participant each to provide a solution and reasoning for why his or her solution can best solve a problem. This technique can allow for a greater degree of discussion among group members and may result in a solution that comprises ideas presented by each participant.
When practicing nominal group technique, each group member has an opportunity to present a solution for a problem. A participant can explain how he or she came to this solution and how it potentially can be beneficial. A moderator makes a list of solutions and may discard solutions that are duplicates of other ideas.
Once group members have created a list of solutions, voting takes place. To reach a quick decision, the highest ranking solution can be adopted by a group. Many proponents of nominal group technique, however, choose to encourage discussion as opposed to tallied voting.
Discussions by nominal group members can allow participants to perceive benefits and shortcomings of each solution that they previously had not recognized. Some mediators try to create hybrid solutions based on features of different solutions. By doing so, mediators can create a solution that addresses major concerns of each group member.
Proponents of nominal group technique believe that this method can give equal value to the opinion of each individual. In many situations, one or two individuals might dominate conversation, overshadowing ideas offered by less vocal group members. Nominal group technique ensures that each participant has an opportunity to present his or her perspective.
Individuals who are dealing with controversial or divisive subject matter also can benefit from nominal group technique. These kinds of discussions can be heated, and nominal group decision making can allow participants better to understand the viewpoints of their colleagues. Many nominal group participants find that individuals with whom they disagreed actually share similar goals and concerns.
Critics of nominal group technique believe that it is ineffective for dealing with complex problems. This method allows members to discuss only one problem and corresponding solution at a time. Problems with multiple facets are in danger of oversimplification. Others believe that this technique requires too much structure since a nominal group meeting has to be planned in advance. This can make nominal group technique a poor choice for individuals who need to solve problems quickly.
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