The Delphi Method

named after the oracle at Delphi

As per Greek mythology; there was this hill whose top was surrounded by mists. That hill top was the residence of some oracles -- and the villagers were forbidden to go up there. Instead, the villagers would stand at the foot of the hill, and implore the Oracle up there to make predictions. Nobody could see the Oracle, but they would be able to hear the answers to their question floating down from the hill.

The Delphi Method was a system of obtaining consensus invented (discovered?) by people at the think tank; Rand Corporation. This is a method to crystallize some serious points about some specialised topic -- such as Nuclear Science, etc. It was particularly suitable for those topics where one can expect to find lot of strong, opinionated and intelligent personalities.

The problem with such learned personalities is that if you try to put them together into a room in order to obtain a convergent discussion, it is often like herding cats. There will be, invariably, some personal; equations such as one intellectual is over-awed by another one. Or one person here has some deep seated envy of another person there -- and so on.

In the Delphi Method, a group is gathered together but they are never told who all have been selected in the committee. Then the moderator prepares some questions and passes those to one of the learned intellectual. The answers given by that intellectual is returned to the moderator, without the intellectual knowing where those answers would be put to use.

The moderator then anonymizes the answer -- i.e. removes any identifiable marks and phrases that can indicate who had given those answers, and distributes that to other intellectuals. Asking them for their responses. When they do, the moderator iteratively does the same process: anonymize; and re-distribute.

In short, that bunch of intellectuals end up actually discussing with each other. Since only the contents are passed around and there is no knowledge who is actually behind the contents, the chances of personal equations coming in to corrupt the contents gets reduced.

In the end, the Delphi method of obtaining consensus gives very valuable answers. The Delph Method is still used in medical research, mission-critical situations such as the moon mission, inventing something disruptive and so on.

The Peer Content system we invented actually works very similar in principle to The Delphi Method. In our case, even the moderator is actually anonymous (That was one of the criticism of the standard Delphi Method: All the intellectuals know the moderator -- and then what happens, if there are personal equations between the moderator and the intellectuals in the group?)

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