Which of the following is a difference between brainstorming and the nominal group method?

Which of the following is a difference between brainstorming and the nominal group method?

Nominal Group Technique and Brainstorming are two Group Creativity Techniques named as PMBOK® Guide ITTOs. These two are indeed quite similar as they both include the generation of ideas / requirements e.g. in identifying project requirements. Yet, there are some major differences between Nominal Group Technique and Brainstorming that Aspirants should understand in order to identify the correct ITTOs for the processes.

This article will help Aspirants to differentiate between Nominal Group Technique and Brainstorming for the Exam.

Nominal Group Technique vs Brainstorming

  • Nominal Group Technique: The Nominal Group Technique is a technique for small group discussion in which ideas / requirements are ranked / prioritized by all the members of the group after generation of all the ideas / requirements.
    • The Nominal Group Technique was originally developed by Delbecq and VandeVen as an alternative to brainstorming.
    • The Nominal Group Technique prevents domination of a single person over the discussion by allowing the voices of all members to be represented.
    • Steps:
      • All the participants are divided into small groups of 5 or 6
      • Each group member are allowed several minutes to brainstorm their requirements / ideas separately
      • All the requirements / ideas are presented and recorded, no criticism is allowed
      • After clarifications, all the requirements / ideas are ranked / prioritized by all group members (e.g. by giving points based on their merits)
  • Brainstorming: Brainstorming is a group creativity technique in which member(s) are allowed to generate as many ideas / requirements as possible without criticism.
    • Ground rules: no “NO”s and criticisms are allowed.
    • Participants are safe to present their own creative ideas even though some ideas are unrealistic / absurd.
    • All generated ideas / requirements are recorded without any assessments.

Both Nominal Group Technique and Brainstorming are useful Group Creativity Techniques to help the project team to generate requirements and solutions to problems. These two allow equal opportunities for participants of all members of the group by avoiding domination.

Mock Exam Question

  1. David, the project manager, is working on a session collecting requirements from stakeholders for the project. At this stage, he aims to collect as many ideas from the stakeholders as possible within the session without imposing any judgement on the ideas proposed by the participants. What Group Creativity Technique would he employ?
    1. Nominal Group Technique
    2. Delphi technique
    3. Brainstorming
    4. Affinity diagram

    Solution: C
    As the project manager would like to get “as many ideas as possible without judgement”, the most appropriate Group Creativity Technique is “Brainstorming” (Nominal Group Technique is not the best answer as the technique involves prioritizing the ideas generated (i.e. judgement).

Summary: Nominal Group Technique vs Brainstorming

According to the above definition, it can be said that the Nominal Group Technique is brainstorming with prioritization:

  • Nominal Group Technique: brainstorming + group ranking / prioritization
  • Brainstorming: generating as many ideas as possible in a safe environment without any judgement from others

Note: other PMP® Group Creativity Techniques mentioned in the PMBOK® Guide include:

  • Delphi technique
  • Mind mapping
  • Affinity diagram
  • Multi-criteria Decision Analysis

Hope this article can illustrate the differences between Nominal Group Technique vs Brainstorming well.

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Quality Glossary Definition: Nominal group technique

Nominal group technique (NGT) is defined as a structured method for group brainstorming that encourages contributions from everyone and facilitates quick agreement on the relative importance of issues, problems, or solutions. Team members begin by writing down their ideas, then selecting which idea they feel is best. Once team members are ready, everyone presents their favorite idea, and the suggestions are then discussed and prioritized by the entire group using a point system. NGT combines the importance ratings of individual group members into the final weighted priorities of the group.

When to Use Nominal Group Technique

Use NGT when:

  • Some group members are much more vocal than others
  • Some group members think better in silence
  • There is concern about some members not participating
  • The group does not easily generate quantities of ideas
  • Some or all group members are new to the team
  • The issue is controversial or there is heated conflict

Nominal Group Technique Steps

Materials needed: Paper and pen or pencil for each individual, flipchart, marking pens, and tape.

  1. State the problem, question, or issue that is the subject of the brainstorming and ensure that everyone understands.
  2. Each team member silently thinks of solutions or ideas that come to mind when considering the problem and writes down as many as possible in a set period of time (5 to 10 minutes).
  3. Each member states aloud one idea. The facilitator records it on the flipchart.
    • No discussion is allowed, not even questions for clarification.
    • Ideas given do not need to be from the team members' written lists. Indeed, as time goes on, many ideas will not be found on their original lists.
    • A member may "pass" his or her turn and may then add an idea on a subsequent turn.
    • Continue around the group until all members pass or until an agreed-upon length of time.
  4. Discuss each idea in turn. Wording may be changed only when the idea’s originator agrees. Ideas may be stricken from the list only by unanimous agreement or when there are duplicates. Discussion may clarify meaning, explain logic or analysis, raise and answer questions, or state agreement or disagreement. The group may also combine ideas into categories.
  5. Prioritize the recorded ideas in relation to the original question using multivoting or list reduction. Typically, the solution with the highest total ranking is selected as the final decision. Other variations include estimating the amount of work required to implement each solution by assigning it a point value; the higher the point value, the more work involved.

    For example, Table 1 lists possible user requirements for a library card system. Three team members have assigned each user requirement a points value based on the estimated work involved.

Which of the following is a difference between brainstorming and the nominal group method?

Table 1: Nominal Group Technique (NGT) Example

Nominal Group Technique Considerations

  • The primary purpose of the discussion is clarification, not to resolve differences of opinion.
  • Discussion should be equally balanced among all ideas.
  • Keep all ideas visible. When ideas overflow to additional flipchart pages, post previous pages around the room so all ideas are still visible to everyone.
  • See brainstorming for other suggestions to use with this tool.

Adapted from The Quality Toolbox, Second Edition, ASQ Quality Press.