The Delphi Technique

The Delphi Technique was originally conceived as a way to obtain the opinion of experts without necessarily bringing them together face to face. In Educating for the New World Order by Bev Eakman, the reader finds reference upon reference for the need to preserve the illusion that there is lay, or community, participation in the decision making process, while in fact lay citizens are being squeezed out.

A specialized use of this technique was developed for teachers, the Alinsky Method (ibid., p. 123). The setting or group is, however, immaterial. The point is that people in groups tend to share a certain knowledge base and display certain identifiable characteristic (known as group dynamics). This allows for a special application of a basic technique. The change agent or facilitator goes through the motions of acting as an organizer, getting each person in the target group to elicit expression of their concerns about a program, project, or policy in question. The facilitator listens attentively, forms task forces, urges everyone to make lists and so on. While she is doing this, the facilitator learns something about each member of the target group. He/she identifies the leaders, the loud mouths, as well as those who frequently turn sides during the argument – the weak or non-committal.

Suddenly, the amiable facilitator becomes devils advocate. He/she dons his professional agitator hat. Using the divide and conquer technique, he/she manipulates one group opinion against the other. This is accomplished by manipulating those who are out of step to appear ridiculous, unknowledgeable, inarticulate, or dogmatic. He/she wants certain members of the group to become angry, thereby forcing tensions to accelerate. The facilitator is well trained in psychological manipulation. She/he is able to predict the reactions of each group member. Individuals in opposition to the policy or program will be shut out of the group.

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