Innovation: Decision making tools

This post discusses 2 methods for decision making methods: Nominal Grouping Technique and Delphi Method.


Decision making tools:

To provide opportunities for creative and innovative thinking one must (Hashim et al., 2016):

  • Keep asking and looking for answers
  • Making associations and observing correlation
  • Anticipating on future events and happenings
  • Making speculation on possibilities
  • Exploring ideas, actions, and results

Nominal Grouping Technique

A tool for decision making is known as Nominal Grouping Technique (NTG), where it can be used to identify elements of a problem, identify and rank goals by priorities, identify experts, involve people from all levels to promote buy-in of the results (Deip, Thensen, Motiwalla, & Seshardi, 1997; Hashim et al., 2016; Pulat, 2014).  Pulat (2014) describes the process as listing and prioritizing a list of options that is created through a normal brainstorming session, where the list of ideas is generated without criticism or evaluation.  Whereas Deip et al. (1977) describe the process as one that taps into the experiences of all people by asking them all to state their idea on a list, and no discussion is permitted until all ideas are listed, from which after a discussion on each item on the list can ranking each idea can begin. Finally, Hashim et al. (2016) stated that the method is best used to help a small team to reach consensus by gathering ideas from all and exciting buy-in of ideas.

Deip (1977) and Hashim et al. (2016) lists the following advantages and disadvantages to the process:

+     Dominance by high-status, aggressive, or verbal people can participate along with everyone in an equal manner.

+     gain group consensus when everyone is involved

+     The focus remains on the problem and avoids premature evaluation of ideas

+     Minimal interruptions of creative ideas during the silence phase

+     Discussions only clarify items and eliminate misunderstanding

–      Cross fertilization of ideas is diminished

–      May reduce flexibility

–      Bringing everyone to the table may be costly

Delphi method

Dalkey and Helmer (1963), described that the Delphi project was a way to use expert opinion, with the hopes of getting the most strong consensus of a group of experts.  Pulat (2014) states that ideas are listed, and prioritized by a weighted point system to help reduce the number of possible solutions with no communication between the experts or of the results during the process until the very end.  However, Dalkey and Helmer (1963) described the process as repeated interviewing or questioning individual experts while avoiding confrontation of other experts.  Questions are centered on some central problem and between each round of questioning consists of available data requested by one expert to be shown to all experts, or new information that is considered potentially relevant by an expert (Dalkey & Helmer, 1963; Pulat, 2014).  The solution from this technique improves with soliciting experts with a range of experiences (Okoli & Pawlowski, 2004; Pulat, 2014).

Benefits and limitations (Dalkey & Helmer, 1963; Okoli & Pawlowski, 2004):

+     Encourage independent thought

+     Decreases group thought bias (predisposition to be swayed by another person or an entire group)

+     Minimize confrontation of opposing views

+     Easy to correct misconceptions that a person harbored over certain facts or theoretic assumptions

+     Ensuring that relevant data gets feed to all the experts

+     Allows experts to change their mind to obtain results that are free from bias

+     More penetrative analysis on the problem, through each round

–      Very costly on time and resources due to the multiple rounds and seeing each expert 1 on 1

–       Vague questions invite critical comments while providing little value to solving the problem

The main difference from the Delphi technique and nominal grouping is the avoidance of conflict through conducting decision-making processes on a one on one fashion rather than in a group setting.  Given that ideas can be triggered by words (or a particular word order), the nominal approach could, in theory, generate more solutions than the Delphi technique (Hashim et al., 2016; Deip et al., 1977).  Hashim et al. (2016) stated that other triggers for imagination/creativity/ideas could be images, events, possible events, conflict events, conflict occurrences, emotions, environment, culture, games, music, etc. But, with independent meetings rather than a group meeting, solutions are well thought out and avoid group thought bias (Dalkey & Helmer, 1963).  When, selecting between these two techniques, the type of problem and desired outcome of the process should drive the methodology.  However, there are many other different types of decision-making techniques as well, like multi-voting, basic brainstorming, etc. (Pulat, 2014).


  • Dalkey, N., & Helmer, O. (1963). An experimental application of the Delphi method to the use of experts. Management science9(3), 458-467.
  • Deip, P., Thesen, A., Motiwalla, J., & Seshardi, N. (1977). Nominal group technique.
  • Hashim, A. T., Ariffin, A., Razalli, A. R., Shukor, A. A., NizamNasrifan, M., Ariffin, A. K., … & Yusof, N. A. A. (2016). Nominal Group Technique: a Brainstorming Tool for Identifying Learning Activities Using Musical Instruments to Enhance Creativity and Imagination of Young Children.International Advisory Board23, 80.
  • Okoli, C., & Pawlowski, S. D. (2004). The Delphi method as a research tool: an example, design considerations and applications. Information & management42(1), 15-29.
  • Pulat, B. (2014) Lean/six sigma black belt certification workshop: body of knowledge. Creative Insights, LLC.

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