What is the 'Delphi Method'

The Delphi method is a forecasting process framework based on the results of several rounds of questionnaires sent to a panel of experts. Several rounds of questionnaires are sent out, and the anonymous responses are aggregated and shared with the group after each round. The experts are allowed to adjust their answers in subsequent rounds. Since multiple rounds of questions are asked and the panel is told what the group thinks as a whole, the Delphi method seeks to reach the correct response through consensus.

BREAKING DOWN 'Delphi Method'

The Delphi method was originally conceived in the 1950s by Olaf Helmer and Norman Dalkey of the Rand Corporation. The name refers to the Oracle of Delphi, a priestess at a temple of Apollo in ancient Greece known for her prophecies. The Delphi method allows experts to work towards a mutual agreement by conducting a circulating series of questionnaires and releasing related feedback to further the discussion with each subsequent round. The experts' responses shift as rounds are completed based on the information brought forth by other experts participating in the analysis.

Using the Delphi Method

First, the group facilitator selects a group of experts based on the topic being examined. Once all participants are confirmed, each member of the group is sent a questionnaire with the instructions to comment on each topic based on their personal opinion, experience or previous research. The questionnaires are returned to the facilitator who groups the comments and prepares copies of the information. A copy of the compiled comments is sent to each participant, along with the opportunity to comment further.

At the end of each comment session, all questionnaires are returned to the facilitator who decides if another round is necessary or if the results are ready for publishing. The questionnaire rounds can be repeated as many times as necessary to achieve a general sense of consensus.

Benefits of the Delphi Method

The Delphi method seeks to aggregate opinions from a diverse set of experts, and it can be done without having to bring everyone together for a physical meeting. Since the responses of the participants are anonymous, individual panelists don't have to worry about repercussions for their opinions. Consensus can be reached over time as opinions are swayed.

Disadvantages of the Delphi Method

While the Delphi method allows for commentary from a diverse group of participants, it does not result in the same sort of interactions as a live discussion. Response times can be long, which slows the rate of discussion. It is also possible that the information received back from the experts will provide no innate value.

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