What is the Delphi method?
The Delphi method is a framework for forecasting process based on the results of several series of questionnaires sent to a panel of experts. Several series of questionnaires are sent to the group of experts, and the anonymous responses are aggregated and shared with the group after each series. Experts are allowed to adjust their responses in subsequent cycles, depending on how they interpret the “group response” provided to them. Since several series of questions are asked and the panel is informed of what the group as a whole thinks, the Delphi method seeks to obtain the correct answer by consensus.
Understanding the Delphi method
The Delphi method was originally designed in the 1950s by Olaf Helmer and Norman Dalkey of the Rand Corporation. The name refers to the Oracle of Delphi, a priestess in a temple of Apollo in ancient Greece known for his prophecies. The Delphi method allows experts to work towards mutual agreement by conducting a series of outstanding questionnaires and disseminating related comments to advance the discussion in each subsequent round. Experts’ responses evolve as rounds are completed based on information provided by other experts participating in the analysis.
The Delphi method is a process for reaching group consensus by providing experts with series of questionnaires, as well as the group’s response before each subsequent series.
How the Delphi method works
First of all, the group leader selects a group of experts according to the subject examined. Once all participants are confirmed, each group member receives a questionnaire with instructions for commenting on each topic based on their personal opinion, experience or previous research. The questionnaires are returned to the facilitator who collects the comments and prepares copies of the information. A copy of the compiled comments is sent to each participant, with the possibility to comment further.
At the end of each comment session, all the questionnaires are returned to the facilitator who decides if another round is needed or if the results are ready to be published. The series of questionnaires can be repeated as many times as necessary to achieve a general feeling of consensus.
The pros and cons of the Delphi method
The Delphi method seeks to gather the opinions of a diverse set of experts, and this can be done without having to bring everyone together for a physical meeting. Since participants’ responses are anonymous, individual panelists do not have to worry about the impact on their opinions. Consensus can be reached over time when opinions change, making the method very effective.
However, although the Delphi method allows comments from a diverse group of participants, it does not result in the same type of interaction as a live chat. A live discussion can sometimes produce a better example of consensus, as ideas and perceptions are introduced, broken down and reassessed. Response times with the Delphi method can be long, slowing down the discussion rate. It is also possible that the information received from the experts does not provide any innate value.
Key points to remember
- The Delphi method is a process used to arrive at a group opinion or decision by interviewing a panel of experts.
- The experts answer several series of questionnaires and the responses are aggregated and shared with the group after each series.
- Experts can adjust their response each round, depending on how they interpret the “group response” provided to them.
- The end result is supposed to be a real consensus on what the group thinks.