Group decision-making to solve complex problems

For two weeks in the beginning of early January 2020, I was on campus at Johns Hopkins University attending a course entitled “Problem Solving in Public Health”. During this course, we were given a breadth of knowledge into various health care issues (e.g. infectious diseases outbreaks, health finance, environmental disasters, etc.) and taught an effective public health approach to overcoming major emergencies and problems.

What I learned quickly is that stakeholders in all fields work together in groups to solve complex issues. In order to collaborate effectively, strong facilitation and communication skills must exist in the team that is tasked with solving a problem.

In order to assist health professionals, the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) developed the Nominal Group Technique (NGT) as a method to gain consensus among stakeholders. While developed for health professionals, this tool can be applied across sectors and industries to optimize team performance. Employing the technique can be awkward at first, but as soon as everyone in your group understands the NGT process, the faster you are able to come to a group’s consensus in solving a complex problem. 

Below I have attached a brief that outlines the technique and provides readers with the four-step process to conducting NGT. 

What I found most impactful about the NGT process was its ability to generate new and exciting ideas, while keeping the group focused on the task at hand. Everyone has a vote and say on what is include and not, which helps to break down competition and influence to conform to the group, and provides everyone with a fair democratic process.

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