The Delphi Method

The name Delphi Method was inspired from the Greek legend regarding the oracle at Delphi, Greece. The oracle resided at the top of a mountain surrounded by mists. The villagers would gather at the bottom of the mountain and pose questions to the oracle who will reply anonymously from the top.

The modern Delphi Method was developed by Rand Corporation of USA. There are lots of sites on the Internet that explain the method in a more understable manner. (See the references to this chapter)

The Delphi Method is used as a brainstorming and knowledge construction technique where there could be some chances of personality conflicts occuring. The administrator (who was the only person whom everyone knew) had to take responses from each participant, strip them off identifying marks and characteristics, format it in an impersonal style and distribute it to the other participants. And do the same process all over again for each reply till the discussion converged to a solution. The administrator never contributed to the discussion. He was merely the central coordination point.

The Delphi Method should not be looked upon as a panacea that will ensure knowledge building. The method does have significant deficiencies too. For example; it is quite friable. The attention of the experts can easily be distracted and the convergence can fail. It usually works better when there is a single decision to be arrived. However, if the administrator is dedicated in motivating at least some people, such deficiencies can be overcome. And when The Delphi Method does work, it really rocks!

It is undeniable that The Delphi Method has produced a fair amount of notable results. The Rand Corporation had predicted the first space satellite would be launched in the middle of 1957 due to such expert-opinion elicitation methods, and sure enough the Russian satellite was launched on Oct 4, 1957. Even today many notable commercial organizations such as Sony, etc. are known to use The Delphi Method or methods derived from it for brainstorming and knowledge construction.

The Delphi Method has been adopted for use on this website with a few changes: Even the administrator (in this case, the webmaster) is kept anonymous. This should reduce biases even further. As per a study conducted by the American Association for the Advancement of Science( ), the importance for anonymous communication cannot be overstated. A PDF file on the net (") gives their report on one conference conducted by them :

"Among the findings were that online anonymous communication is morally neutral; that it should be considered a strong human and constitutional right; that online communities should be allowed to set their own policies on the use of anonymous commmunication; and that individuals should be informed about the extent to which their identity is disclosed online"

Why should there be a need for anonymity? one may ask. Will it produce credible knowledge? That's answered in the next chapter…


  1. is the original "classic" document that explained the method.
  3. (written by one of the inventors of the Delphi Method)
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