Tuesday, April 20, 2010

An Overview of Four Futures Methodologies (Delphi, Environmental Scanning, Issues Management and Emerging Issue Analysis)

In this paper on futures research by Trudi Lang, the author compares and contrasts the Delphi method with other futures methodologies. The Delphi technique is found to be different from the other three methodologies chosen by the author for this study viz., Environmental Scanning, Issues Management and Emerging Issues Analysis (EIA).

For the Delphi technique, the positives are that Delphi studies have an excellent record of forecasting computer capability advances, nuclear energy expansion, energy demand and population growth and the technique is also said to expose real agreements and disagreements among respondents as well as giving the facilitator simple and direct control over the scope of the study.

The key drawbacks of the technique are that there is a strong response of the group to conform with the statistical feedback of the panel, extreme points of view, which may provide new insights tend to be suppressed. Also, the way the questionnaire and process is structured can lead to a bias and a Delphi study is at the mercy of the view and biases of the coordinating team, who choose respondents, interpret the information and structure the question.

The author's evaluation is that it is difficult to evaluate the accuracy and reliability of the Delphi method, because the technique is based on determining the opinion of panel members and the findings thus become person and situation specific. In addition, much of the work undertaken to evaluate the Delphi technique has been done with university students asking almanac-type questions.

The author however mentions that the Delphi technique is found to be best suited for exploration of issues that involve a mixture of scientific evidence and social values and that the Delphi method to be considered as one of last resort - to deal with extremely complex problems for which there are no other models.

In conclusion, the author states that the Delphi technique is an "inside - out" methodology when compared to the other techniques which are "outside-in" and by their very nature are all inter-related. The author advocates an integrated approach in using the futures methodologies available so that the strengths of one can make up for the weaknesses of the other.


The author's research is thorough and a wide variety of resources have been referenced in her article. The author's conclusion is also valid; as for instance, the Delphi technique is far more successful than other techniques in gaining a consensus from a group but is weaker on allowing independent voices to be heard. In this regard, EIA provides a methodology that is more sensitive to these independent voices and could compensate for this weakness of the Delphi methodology.

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