Saturday, April 17, 2010

The Delphi Technique; Lets Stop Being Manipulated

More and more citizens are being invited to participate in various form of meeting, councils, or boards to "help determine" public policy in one field or another. According to the author of this article Albert V. Burns, this sounds great, but in reality it is deception.

Generally, each meeting has someone designated to facilitate the meeting. The job of facilitator is to be neutral, non-directing helper to see that the meeting flows smoothly. Actually, he or she is there for exactly the opposite reason. To see that the conclusions reached during the meeting are in accord with a plan already decided upon by those who called the meeting.

The process used to "facilitate" the meeting called Delphi Technique. This technique was developed by the RAND Corporation for the U.S. Department of Defense in 1950s.

How does the process take place?

First, the person who will be leading the meeting, the facilitator must be a likable person with whom the meeting participants can agree and sympathize.

Facilitators are trained to recognized potential opponents and how to make such people appear aggressive and foolish. The audience are broken up into groups seven or eight people each.

Within each group discussion takes place of issues already decided upon by the leadership of the meeting. Generally, the participants are asked to write down their ideas and disagreements with the papers to be turned in and "compiled" for general discussion.

How do you know that the ideas on your notes were included in the final result? You Do not! You will come to a conclusion that you were probably in the minority. You do not even know if any one's ideas are part of the final conclusion.
Those who organized the meeting are able to tell the community that the conclusions, reached at the meeting, are the result of public participation.

Actually, the desired conclusions had been established, long before the meeting ever took place.


  1. This article has a very similar theme to an article I posted as well. It seems as though this technique is being used in ways to manipulate people in order to get a desired outcome while giving a population the illusion of a democratic conclusion.

  2. I think the Delphi technique is very effective with teachers, schoolchildren and community meetings. Even if the authorities use manipulation in these cases, people rarely know that they are being manipulated, and it will be difficult for them to end the process.

  3. I agree with Regis about the manipulation of a population with the Delphi technique as creating the illusion of a democracy. This is what the Oracle of Delphi probably was for the Greeks though. One person/group had an agenda, then interpreted the wisdom of the Oracle to support their need/want, and to make the population believe it was the wisest choice.

  4. My main problem with the articles posted my Regis and Narvan's articles is the authors' claim that the methodology is inherently unethical. If there is anything I have learned from this entire exercise, it is that there are excellent and useful ways to apply the methodologies we have studied, and people can also screw them up and manipulate them to do just about whatever they want. This author's accusations against the technique fall into the later category.