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Delphi Technique explained

Delphi Technique - Toolshero

Delphi Technique: this article describes the theory and concept of the Delphi Technique , developed by RAND Corporation in a practical way. Next to what this research technique is, this article also highlights the approach, the definition and elemenst, how to apply and a practical Delphi Technique example. After reading you will understand the basics of this powerful decision making and problem solving tool. Enjoy reading!

What is Delphi Technique?

The Delphi Technique, or Delphi studies, started out as a technique to predict the future. It was developed by the RAND Corporation in 1950, as for the US air force.

The RAND Corporation is an American think-tank that was founded in 1946 by the US air force. A few years later, it became an independent non-profit. Originally, the Delphi Technique was aimed at predicting the impact of technology on warfare.

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For this decision making method, a group of experts (expert consensus) are asked to anonymously answer a survey and provide feedback on each other’s answers. This process repeats itself. The aim is to come up with concrete solutions.

Approach of the Delphi Process

The Delphi Technique uses a carefully designed list of questions that is developed and refined in several rounds. Sometimes, interviews are used.

The experts in question answer the questionnaire anonymously and are then confronted with each other’s knowledge and views. They do not know each other and do not know who else is in the panel of experts. These expert opinions are very valuable in the process.

There is a feedback mechanism; obtained information is recorded and reported to participants regularly, as part of a new attempt at information processing. The feedback is not just about the actual future expectations that are being expressed, but also the arguments and considerations that underpin these expectations. In this way, you can work towards a well-founded joint position.

By confronting the participants with each other’s ideas and insights in each new round, you can work towards a consensus. In this way, the Delphi Method asks experts for their recommendations.

The number of participants is not relevant. However, there must be the assurance that different interests and problem definitions are addressed, so that a problem or topic is viewed from different perspectives and discussed, and all participants respect each other’s contributions.

Delphi Technique model and Process - Toolshero

Figure 1 – The Delphi Technique Process

Delphi Technique definition and elements

The Delphi Technique is part of the research technique that is also known as ‘interactive survey’, which involves dialogue with the public (experimental application). It is based on an articulate research field, which in principle is capable of introducing the necessary expertise. It aims for a solution that consists of knowledge from the research field, rather than knowledge about it. Important elements within the Delphi method are:

  • It uses the opinions of a limited group of experts or people who have knowledge of the subject from their experience.
  • The subjects that an organisation wants to understand through the Delphi method are obtained by subjective means; the opinions of the group of experts are therefore very important.
  • The group of experts works towards a consensus, through step-by-step feedback of information, by repeating the question and providing feedback on each other’s answers.

Application of delphi technique

The possible applications of Delphi are endless. It is not only applicable for making forecasts or future forecasts, but it can also be useful for determining complicated policy decisions. In principle, the Delphi Technique can be properly applied for the following situations:

  • For an organisation in which the formal and informal communication lines have become blocked or are lacking. The anonymous method prevents personal contact, which means that stuck relationships do not get damaged any further and there is more room for new solutions and more respect for each other’s opinions.
  • In the case of problems that can be solved mainly when multiple experts are confronted with each other’s varying visions. Everyone’s individual subjective opinion contributes, so that their shared thinking will lead to an effective approach.
  • In the case of solutions that are too subject to individual opinions and perceptions of those involved, it may help to work with an anonymous group who independently express their views on the problem.
  • In the absence of objective data, such as customer reviews and other audience reviews. When the opinion of all these groups is important in a specific problem solving, the Delphi Method works very well.

The great advantage of the Delphi Technique is the anonymity. It is not shared who the participants are or who provided the information. This prevents distortion that can sometimes occur when participants conform to the opinion of an expert who has very high prestige.

What is a Delphi technique example?

Suppose there is a problem in a municipality regarding informing residents in different districts. If the Delphi Technique were to be used for this problem, this municipality would initially appoint a project leader and gather a group of experts involved in this problem statement. With the Delphi Method, the experts in the field of communication to citizens are systematically used to address this problem.

In the first round of the method, participants will fill in a questionnaire, with concrete questions about the problem statement. The project leader then compiles a summary of all completed questionnaires, which is then returned to all participants. By sharing all the views and relevant information, participants will be better able to reflect on their own views.

In the second round, participants re-enter the questionnaire. After each round, experts’ answers will become more similar without affecting each other. Of course, their own opinions and ideas are subjective and based on everyone’s individual experience or knowledge.

The experts are people working in research fields that directly relate to communication between residents and municipalities.

For example, consider a representative from every neighbourhood, a communications officer from the municipality, a communications agency employee and a local newspaper representative.

The query and feedback process is repeated until a consensus is reached between the participants.

Finally, by combining the expertise of the experts, recommendations can be formulated based on the more complete information, resulting in high-quality and useful recommendations.

Brainstorming and Delphi Technique

The Delphi Technique is often compared to brainstorming .

These is one essential difference between the Delphi Technique and the brainstorm technique : with the Delphi Technique, there is no direct group interaction. The participants do not engage in conversation with each other, cannot discuss with each other and do not build on each other’s ideas, as is done in brainstorming.

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It’s Your Turn

What do you think? Is the Delphi Technique applicable in today’s modern business and team challenges? Do you recognize the practical explanation of the Delphi oracle or do you have more suggestions? What are your success factors for a good decision making process?

Share your experience and knowledge in the comments box below.

More information

  • Dalkey, N. C., Brown, B. B., & Cochran, S. (1969). The Delphi method: An experimental study of group opinion (Vol. 3) . Santa Monica, CA: Rand Corporation.
  • Linstone, H. A., & Turoff, M. (Eds.). (1975). The Delphi method: Techniques and applications (Vol. 29) . Reading, MA: Addison-Wesley.
  • Rowe, G., & Wright, G. (1999). The Delphi technique as a forecasting tool: issues and analysis. International journal of forecasting, 15(4), 353-375.

How to cite this article: Mulder, P. (2017). Delphi Technique . Retrieved [insert date] from Toolshero: https://www.toolshero.com/decision-making/delphi-technique/

Original publication date: 04/04/2018 | Last update: 08/31/2023

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Patty Mulder

Patty Mulder

Patty Mulder is an Dutch expert on Management Skills, Personal Effectiveness and Business Communication. She is also a Content writer, Business Coach and Company Trainer and lives in the Netherlands (Europe). Note: all her articles are written in Dutch and we translated her articles to English!


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One response to “delphi technique explained”.

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The Delphi technique seems like one of the most efficient and non-organized ways of coming up with a direct solution. Some of the reasons why it wouldn’t be such a good idea to use the Delphi technique would be the ego of all the smart people. Basically, since all the geniuses think on their own and have different morals or ethics they will be subjected to think that only their opinion matters. Hence, they will be influenced by themselves to disagree with every opinion that isn’t theirs. This would most likely result to no solid solution to the problem which either some or all the smart people to come to a disagreement thus disapproving the Delphi technique. Not only would the experts believe that they are only right base don ego but by the fact that the opinions are anonymous so of course they would be biased towards their own word since they don’t know if the other person is an expert too. But on the other hand, if that doesn’t happen it would be very useful to use the Delphi technique. The experts can learn from each other mistakes and when agreeing on only one solution then they can use that exact solution on the specific problem going on in their lives. Not only that but there would be a guarantee of bias towards another’s opinion since all of them would be anonymous to each other. Ergo, the technique would be a guarantee way to solve an issue.

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Understanding and applying the Delphi technique

problem solving techniques delphi

Product managers have to wear multiple hats at work. One of these hats requires you to facilitate meetings. Everyone appreciates an effective, efficient meeting, and the Delphi technique can help you do this.

Understanding And Applying The Delphi Technique

Besides facilitation, the Delphi technique is a great tool for decision-making. It’s commonly used in various fields, including business, healthcare, technology, and public policy.

In this article, you’ll learn more about the Delphi technique including its five steps, benefits, and use.

What is the Delphi technique?

The Delphi technique is a systematic method for group decision-making. It’s used to gather opinions from a group of knowledgeable members to reach a group consensus. The process typically involves several rounds of questionnaires where the responses remain anonymous.

5 steps of the Delphi technique

You can incorporate the Delphi technique into your product team by following five easy steps.

1. Determine the problem

In product management, people tend to emphasize the “problem space” or the “problem statement.” You first have to understand the problem to solve, the purpose of the study, and the goal you want to achieve before conducting research.

In this step, the problem statement needs to be clear and specific. It outlines the gap between the current state and the desired state, providing a foundation for further investigation and problem-solving. With a clear problem statement, you can smooth out the process in later steps.

2. Identify a group of experts

The central tenet of the Delphi technique involves consulting with relevant stakeholders or individuals with expertise. Different perspectives can provide valuable insights and help the panel consider aspects that might have been overlooked.

In the previous step, you identified the problems to solve. Now you need to determine which “subject matter experts” to include, depending on the complexity of the problem.

3. Choose a facilitator

The facilitator of the Delphi process is usually, but not limited to, a product manager, project manager, or program manager. The facilitator should be neutral and have enough domain knowledge to understand the conversations.

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4. Launch rounds of questionnaires

To complete the Delphi process, you need to run multiple rounds of questionnaires or surveys. In each round, you’ll ask the panel of experts to provide their opinions, predictions, or judgments on a list of questions for the problem determined in the first step:

Delphi Questions

The above illustration shows how the rounds of questionnaires are iteratively designed and answered:

  • The facilitator hands out questionnaires
  • The panel of experts answers the questions anonymously
  • The facilitator reviews the answers to find the themes between the answers and then shows the themes to the experts.
  • The panel of experts adds new answers or adjust their original answers based on the feedback they receive from the panel
  • The facilitator designs questions for the next round based on answers from previous rounds

You can distribute your questionnaires before each round. Generally, there should be at least two rounds of questionnaires. The first round is usually for asking high-level questions to kickstart the whole process. The rest of the rounds are for follow-up questions and for experts to adjust their answers until a general group consensus is reached.

5. Analyze the feedback and results

Once the panel of experts reaches a consensus, we can analyze the results and evaluate risks. The team can create plans and action items.

What are the benefits of the Delphi technique?

The Delphi technique provides three key benefits for you as a product manager.

The responses of each expert are kept anonymous. This helps to avoid the influence of dominant personalities or opinions within the group. This setup also encourages open and honest sharing of opinions.

Systematic process of iteration

The Delphi technique is a structured and systematic process involving multiple rounds of feedback and iteration. The opinions of the subject matter experts can be refined over time, leading to a more reliable outcome.

Prevent groupthink

Groupthink is a psychological phenomenon where group members tend to conform to a dominant viewpoint without critical evaluation to avoid conflicts. In the Delphi process, by collecting individual opinions independently and collating them without direct interaction among participants, the risk of groupthink is minimized.

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The disadvantages of the Delphi technique

Although there are benefits to the Delphi technique, you should be aware of the disadvantages that come along with them to prevent affecting your process.


Multiple rounds of feedback and iteration take a lot of time. While choosing a decision-making process, you need to consider the time constraints. The Delphi technique may not be the best option if your organization needs to reach a quick decision in a short timeframe.

Expert bias

The success of the Delphi technique heavily depends on the expertise and knowledge of the participants. If the experts have biases or limited perspectives, it can impact the quality of the final outcome.

Difficulty in handling complex issues

The Delphi technique may be less effective in dealing with highly complex or technical issues where consensus is hard to achieve, or where there is a lack of relevant expertise among the participants.

How can product managers use the Delphi technique?

Product managers can leverage the Delphi technique to gather insights, make informed decisions, and forecast outcomes. Here are some areas PMs can try.

Market validation

In the early stage of product development, you have to conduct research to find product-market fit . While conducting market validation for your product, it’s crucial to gather expert opinions on market trends, demand for specific features, or predictions for future market conditions.

By using the Delphi technique, you can obtain insights into potential shifts in customer preferences and emerging market opportunities. On the other hand, PMs can explore potential opportunities and threats in the market with the Delphi technique as well.

Strategic planning

While conducting competitor analysis , insights from subject matter experts make the analysis more complete regarding competitor strategies, strengths, and weaknesses. The Delphi technique can help product managers forecast potential competitive moves and assess the impact on their long-term product strategy.

The Delphi technique is a valuable tool for product managers. The five-step method ensures a systematic approach to group decision-making by leveraging the expertise of subject matter experts while maintaining anonymity throughout the process.

The goal of the Delphi technique is to achieve a consensus or convergence of opinions among the experts. The final results are based on the collective judgment of the group. It helps to mitigate the impact of groupthink and interpersonal dynamics that can affect traditional group decision-making processes.

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  • The Delphi Method: Meaning, Pros, Cons & Uses

Olayemi Jemimah Aransiola


The Delphi Method is an iterative process often used for gathering and developing consensus among a group of experts. It is a process that combines the use of anonymous surveys and group discussions in order to reach a consensus. 

The Delphi Method is often used in situations where there is a lack of agreement or an absence of knowledge or expertise. In this article, we will explore the Delphin method, its pros and cons, and its importance.

What is the Delphi Method? 

The Delphi Method is a technique used to solicit and compile input from a group of experts in order to better understand a problem or to develop a solution. It is a process that combines the use of anonymous surveys and group discussions in order to reach a consensus.

The Delphi Method is most commonly used when there is a lack of agreement or an absence of knowledge or expertise. It is well suited to situations in which the experts are geographically dispersed and/or have different backgrounds and/or interests. 

This means that it is an invaluable tool for complex decision-making and problem-solving, and it is a great way to gain insight from experts without the need for face-to-face meetings. It is also beneficial for developing a well-rounded view of an issue, as the process allows for the inclusion of a variety of perspectives.

This method also allows experts to provide input without feeling pressure from the group. Furthermore, the Delphi Method was developed by the RAND Corporation in the 1950s and has been used in a variety of fields including business, public policy, health care, and engineering.

It is no surprise that it has become an increasingly popular decision-making tool for groups and organizations, as it allows for a diverse range of opinions to be considered without a single person dominating the discussion. It can also be conducted remotely and over a short period of time.

Characteristics of the Delphi method

The Delphi Method has several key characteristics that make it an effective tool for gathering and developing consensus among a group of experts.

  • Anonymity. All responses are anonymous and the identity of the participants is kept confidential. This allows experts to provide input without feeling pressure from the group.
  • Iteration. The Delphi Method is an iterative process. After the initial round of surveys are distributed, there may be several rounds of surveys sent out as the experts’ responses are collected and discussed.
  • The use of experts: The Delphi Method requires the use of experts who have knowledge or experience in the area being discussed. The experts are typically selected based on their expertise and knowledge.
  • Consensus. The Delphi Method is designed to reach a consensus among the experts. This is accomplished by having the experts provide input, discussing the results, and then revising the survey questions or making changes to the process.

Uses of the Delphi Method

The Delphi Method is a useful tool in situations where there is a need to reach a consensus on a complex issue. It has been used in a variety of contexts, including policy development, strategic planning, and organizational decision-making. It can also be used to generate innovative ideas and to support the development of creative solutions to problems.

The experts are asked a series of questions, and the responses are then used to form the basis of the market research. The experts are asked to provide their opinions on a particular subject, and their responses are used to form the opinion of the panel as a whole.

  • The Delphi Method can be used to help companies make decisions about their marketing strategies. For example, a company could use the Delphi Method to gain insight into how their customers perceive their products or services. The panel of experts could provide valuable insights into the customer’s opinions on the company’s offerings. This information can then be used to develop more effective marketing strategies.
  • The Delphi Method can also be used to assess potential risks and opportunities in the market. By gathering opinions from experts, companies can gain a better understanding of the potential threats and opportunities that may exist in the market. This information can then be used to develop strategies to mitigate these risks and take advantage of the opportunities.
  • The Delphi Method can be used to assess customer satisfaction levels. Companies can use the responses from the panel of experts to determine how satisfied their customers are with their products and services. This information can then be used to make changes to the product or service in order to increase customer satisfaction.

Steps To Carry Out the Delphi Method

  • Define the Problem: The first step in the Delphi Method is to define the problem or issue that needs to be addressed. This should include a clear description of the problem as well as the goal that needs to be achieved.
  • Identify Experts: Once the problem has been defined, the next step is to identify experts who can provide valuable insights into the issue. This can include people from outside the organization, such as consultants or industry experts.
  • Gather Data: The third step is to collect data from the identified experts. This can include surveys, interviews, or other methods of gathering information.
  • Analyze the Data: Once the data has been gathered, it should be analyzed to identify patterns and trends in the information. This can help to identify potential solutions to the issue.
  • Develop Solutions: After the data has been analyzed, the next step is to develop potential solutions to the problem. This should include a range of ideas and suggestions from the experts.
  • Reach Consensus: Finally, a consensus should be reached on the best solution to the issue. This is done through a series of iterations between the experts, where they discuss and debate the different solutions until they reach an agreement.

The Delphi method has been used for decades across a wide range of industries, from healthcare and finance to education and engineering. By leveraging the collective knowledge and insights of experts, the Delphi method is able to generate a consensus-based understanding of the situation or topic. 

However, just like any other decision-making process, the Delphi method has both advantages and disadvantages. 

Advantages of the Delphi Method 

  • Cost-Effective: The Delphi method is a cost-effective way of gathering opinions and insights from experts. It eliminates the need for costly in-person meetings or travels. 
  • Anonymity: This is one of the best advantages of the Delphi method as it allows experts to provide their opinions anonymously, thus eliminating the potential for bias. 
  • Reach: Another advantage of the Delphi method is that it can be used to reach experts who are geographically dispersed and would not be able to attend an in-person meeting. 
  • Efficiency: It is an efficient way to generate a consensus opinion without needing to bring all experts together in one place. 
  • Flexibility: The Delphi method can be used in a variety of situations and adapted to the specific needs of the issue or topic at hand.

Disadvantages of the Delphi Method

  • Time-Consuming: The Delphi method can be time-consuming, as it requires multiple rounds of feedback from experts. 
  • Lack of Face-to-Face Interaction: This method does not allow for face-to-face interaction between experts, which can lead to a lack of understanding of each other’s perspectives. 
  • Potential for Groupthink: The Delphi method can lead to groupthink, as experts may be reluctant to express dissenting opinions for fear of being seen as not aligning with the group. 
  • Inaccurate Interpretation of Results: This occurs because the Delphi method relies on the interpretation of the facilitator, which can lead to inaccurate results if the facilitator is not trained in the method. 
  • Subjectivity: As the Delphi method is based on the expertise and opinions of the participants, it can be subjective and potentially lead to biased results. 

In conclusion, it is an efficient, cost-effective way to gain insight from experts, while developing a well-rounded view of an issue. The Delphi method also provides insight from experts that can be geographically dispersed and/or have different backgrounds and/or interests. 

This insight is invaluable for organizations looking to make informed decisions and this is why the Delphi method is efficient.


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updated 16 Oct 2021

Delphi Technique a Step-by-Step Guide

Tools | By Duncan Haughey | Read time minutes

Four yellow genderless people standing around a blue questionmark thinking

For a project manager, it is essential to think about what future events may impact your projects. These events may be positive or negative, so understanding them allows you to prepare and plan to deal with them. But how can you forecast the future with any degree of certainty? The Delphi Technique can help.

The Delphi Technique is a method used to estimate the likelihood and outcome of future events. A group of experts exchange views, and each independently gives estimates and assumptions to a facilitator who reviews the data and issues a summary report.

The group members, known as panellists, discuss and review the summary report and give updated forecasts to the facilitator, who again reviews the material and issues a second report. This process continues until all participants reach a consensus.

The experts at each round have a complete record of what forecasts other experts have made. Still, they do not know who made which forecast. Anonymity allows the experts to express their opinions freely, encourages openness and avoids admitting errors by revising earlier forecasts.

This article looks at how to run a Delphi session. Upon completing this guide, you will be able to run a session enabling you to predict future events and their likely impact on your projects.

The technique is an iterative process and first aims to get a broad range of opinions from a group of experts. The results of the first round of questions, when summarised, provide the basis for the second round of questions. Results from the second round of questions feed into the third and final round.

The aim is to clarify and expand on issues, identify areas of agreement or disagreement, and find consensus.

Step 1: Choose a Facilitator

The first step is to choose your facilitator. You may wish to take on this role yourself or find a neutral person within your organisation. It is helpful to have someone familiar with research and data collection.

Step 2: Identify Your Experts

The Delphi technique relies on a panel of experts. This panel might be your project team, including the customer or other experts within your organisation or industry. An expert is any individual with relevant knowledge and experience of a particular topic. [1]

Step 3: Define the Problem

What is the problem or issue you are seeking to understand? The experts need to know what situation they are commenting on, so ensure you provide a precise and comprehensive definition.

Step 4: Round One Questions

Ask general questions to gain a broad understanding of the experts' views on future events. The questions may go out in the form of a questionnaire or survey. Collate and summarise the responses, removing any irrelevant material and looking for common viewpoints.

Step 5: Round Two Questions

Based on the answers to the first questions, the following questions should delve deeper into the topic to clarify specific issues. These questions may also go out in the form of a questionnaire or survey. Again, collate and summarise the results, removing any irrelevant material and look for the common ground. Remember, we are seeking to build consensus.

Step 6: Round Three Questions

The final questionnaire aims to focus on supporting decision making. Hone in on the areas of agreement. What is it upon which the experts are all agreed?

You may wish to have more than three rounds of questioning to reach a closer consensus.

Step 7: Act on Your Findings

After this round of questions, your experts will have, we hope, reached a consensus, and you will have a view of future events. Analyse the findings and put plans in place to deal with future risks and opportunities to your project.

Use the Delphi Technique to create work breakdown structures, identify risks and opportunities, and compile a lessons learned report. Use it anytime you would usually conduct a brainstorming session.

Predicting the future is not an exact science, but the Delphi Technique can help you understand the likelihood of future events and what impact they may have on your project.

[1] Cantrill JA, SibbaldB, Buetow S. The Delphi and Nominal Group Techniques in Health Services Research. International Journal of Pharmacy Practice 1996;4:67-74

Olaf Helmer and Norman Dalkey of the Rand Corporation developed the Delphi Method in the 1950s to address a specific military problem.

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The Delphi Method

The basic idea, theory, meet practice.

TDL is an applied research consultancy. In our work, we leverage the insights of diverse fields—from psychology and economics to machine learning and behavioral data science—to sculpt targeted solutions to nuanced problems.

The Delphi method is a technique used in group decision-making and some forms of qualitative research. It involves gathering a panel of experts, having them complete a survey or questionnaire individually, and sharing these anonymised answers within the panel to allow for feedback and debate. Each expert is presented with the questions again, and the process is repeated. It is expected that all opinions will eventually converge around a general consensus.

The Delphi method has been used extensively in forecasting, especially in business and technology. It’s also a commonly used tool in public policy: when policymakers use panels of experts to inform decisions around issues like healthcare, education and climate change, they frequently make use of the Delphi method.

Where all think alike, no one thinks very much. – Walter Lippman

Delphi Method  – A research/decision-making technique in which individual experts give their opinion on a particular subject, then respond to the opinions of others.  Afterward, they evaluate their decision again before presenting it for the final time. In most cases, an alignment of opinions arises surrounding a general consensus.

Wisdom of Crowds  – The theory that decisions made by groups are usually of better quality than those made by individuals.

Consensus  – A general agreement reached by members of a group.

Although the name was inspired by the ‘Oracle of Delphi’, a high priestess of Ancient Greece, The Delphi method has its roots in military warfare. The method was developed in the United States at the onset of the Cold War, as a way to predict the role that technology would play in future combative events. 1  So, unlike the vast majority of theories and methods we encounter in behavioral science, the Delphi method didn’t really come about by way of academic research.

In 1944, General Henry Arnold commissioned a report for the United States Air Corps on technological capabilities that might be deployed by the military in the future. After much trial-and-error of conventional approaches to forecasting, including quantitative models and trend extrapolation, it became apparent that a novel technique was required when forecasting situations that involve yet-to-be-determined parameters. As a result, the American public policy think-tank RAND Corporation, led by Norman Dalkey and Olaf Helmer, developed the Delphi method. In its early applications, the technique was used to investigate the probability and potential effects of future attacks on the United States. Experts made estimates, discussed them, and then estimated again, in a process that would be known as ‘Estimate-Talk-Estimate’. The idea was that opinions would eventually start to converge around the same repeated estimations.

Since then, the Delphi method has been deployed in a wide range of settings, including business, government, medicine, and science. 2  While there is great variation in how the technique is used, the general structure of Estimate-Talk-Estimate defines the Delphi method. In policy-making, the Policy Delphi 3  is used to generate the most divergent political views on how a major policy issue should be addressed. It’s also been influential in the development of direct democracy and stakeholder engagement, as policymakers increasingly try to involve a wide range of experts in their decision-making.

That said, the Delphi method was not the first technique to advocate for the leveraging of groups in decision-making. Scientists and mathematicians had long observed the benefits of using groups instead of individuals to make decisions. In 1907, Francis Galton (a cousin of Charles Darwin) observed how the average of all the entries in a county fair ‘guess the weight of the ox’ competition proved incredibly accurate – more so than the guesses of most individuals, even farmers and so-called cattle experts. 4  The concept was developed and is known today  as the  Wisdom of Crowds.

The organisation behind the Delphi method. RAND is a public policy think tank headquartered in Santa Monica, California. Norman Dalkey and Olaf Helmer led the Delphi method project within RAND, initially with the aim of fostering collaboration amongst military experts.

James Surowiecki

American journalist and former staff writer at  The   New Yorker . Surowiecki is best known for his 2004 book entitled  The wisdom of crowds: why the many are smarter than the few and how collective wisdom shapes business, economies, societies, and nations . He argues that in most circumstances, large groups show more intelligence and generate better decisions than individuals.


Once declassified by the US government, the Delphi method rose in prominence and was adopted by several fields. By 1980, a range of papers and books on the subject had been published, especially in the social sciences and public policy.

In recent years, the Delphi method has developed from its initial application as a forecasting tool, to wider use in qualitative research and stakeholder consultation. Scaled-down formats appear in business settings today; for example, during face-to-face meetings during which participants give initial opinions, offer feedback to the group, and then re-confirm their final viewpoints. This variation is sometimes used as an alternative to brainstorming in strategy meetings.

Other variations include the Policy Delphi 3 , which seeks to consult the most extreme opinions around an important public issue, giving governments an idea of some arguments they need to consider when drafting new policy. An example of this is the ‘Citizen Assembly’ consultation tool that’s been successfully deployed in countries like Canada, Ireland and the Netherlands, amongst others. 6

Finally, the Argument Delphi 7  is more process-driven, used to foster continued discussion and evaluate relevant arguments surrounding a topic, instead of aiming for consensus. Through its many variations and use in more and more fields, the Delphi method remains more influential now than ever.


The main argument against the Delphi method is that it strips group-decision making of the group context. Real-time discussion and debate doesn’t happen because experts give their opinions and receive feedback without interacting with the other members of the panel. The influence of contextual factors that come with being in a group – for example, social pressure -is not as prominent  in the Delphi method as in conventional group decision-making (committees or meetings). Experts don’t get the opportunity to debate with one another because the Delphi method calls for ‘controlled feedback’, which is generally not interactive. 8

Another problem arises when participants either misunderstand the questions being asked, or the items used in a questionnaire invoke a variety of interpretations. Open-ended questions are a particular challenge here, because they make it difficult for facilitators to identify patterns in opinions. Challenges also arise when the ‘experts’ involved possess varying levels of expertise. Unfortunately, the Delphi method does not account for psychological forces such as the imposter syndrome, or the role of cognitive  biases .

Case Studies

United states air corps: cold war scenario forecasting.

As we’ve mentioned, the Delphi method was initially developed for the US Air Corps in an effort to predict the likelihood of Soviet attacks during the Cold War. Dalkey, Helmer and their team at RAND Corporation (known as Project RAND at the time) sought to use expert advice to predict how the Soviets would select and attack US military targets. They were specifically looking for estimations of the number of atomic missiles that the Soviets would be expected to use in their attacks, and the impact these would have on US resources. In essence, they were trying to predict how Soviet military strategists would act towards the US in the future.

To do this, the team at RAND Corporation  involved a range of experts and collected their estimations through what became the Delphi method. Their goal was to  “collect the most reliable consensus of opinion of a group of experts by a series of intensive questionnaires interspersed with controlled opinion feedback.’ ’ 2

Healthcare – Clinical Guidelines

The Delphi method has proven to be particularly useful in the development of clinical guidelines for certain diseases and illnesses. What’s especially beneficial is that it allows for a broad range of expert opinions to be considered; in fact, most clinical research has evolved to extend this ‘expert’ title to patients, caregivers, (e.g. parents) and patient advocacy groups. As Natalie Street from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention observes,  “Clinicians are experts, but the patients with the disease are also experts. They’re the ones living with it on a daily basis.”   9  The anonymity of the Delphi method allows patients to share their voice, without fear of being challenged, or at worst, ridiculed, by medical experts. Patients and caregivers  can offer their opinions in a controlled environment, and the chance of the  Reactive Devaluation Bias  occurring is much lower. Finally, the very fact that patients are involved in the consultation phase greatly increases the likelihood that they will follow the guidelines themselves (see:  Ikea effect . )

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  • RAND Corp. (2021). Delphi Method. Retrieved 11 February 2021, from  https://www.rand.org/topics/delphi-method.html
  • Gupta, U. G., & Clarke, R. E. (1996). Theory and applications of the Delphi technique: A bibliography (1975–1994).  Technological forecasting and social change ,  53 (2), 185-211.
  • Franklin, K. K., & Hart, J. K. (2007). Idea generation and exploration: Benefits and limitations of the policy Delphi research method.  Innovative Higher Education ,  31 (4), 237-246.
  • The Real Wisdom of the Crowds. (2021). Retrieved 11 February 2021, from https://www.nationalgeographic.com/science/phenomena/2013/01/31/the-real-wisdom-of-the-crowds/
  • Surowiecki, J. (2005).  The wisdom of crowds . Anchor.
  • Beekers, E. (2021). Are citizens’ assemblies the future of participation? – CitizenLab’s Blog. Retrieved 15 March 2021, from https://www.citizenlab.co/blog/civic-engagement/are-citizens-assemblies-the-future-of-participation/
  • Mukherjee, N., Huge, J., Sutherland, W. J., McNeill, J., Van Opstal, M., Dahdouh‐Guebas, F., & Koedam, N. (2015). The Delphi technique in ecology and biological conservation: applications and guidelines.  Methods in Ecology and Evolution ,  6 (9), 1097-1109.
  • Rowe, G., & Wright, G. (1999). The Delphi technique as a forecasting tool: issues and analysis. International journal of forecasting, 15(4), 353-375.
  • RAND Corporation. (2021). Giving Patients a Voice in Medical Guidelines. Retrieved 11 February 2021, from https://www.rand.org/blog/rand-review/2019/12/giving-patients-a-voice-in-medical-guidelines.html

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Delphi Method: A Strategic Approach to Decision-Making in Business

Master strategic decision-making with the Delphi Method. Enhance business outcomes using expert consensus. Unlock informed choices today.

In today's complex and rapidly evolving business environment, decision-makers are often faced with scenarios that require structured foresight and collective intelligence. The Delphi Method is a systematic interactive process used to gather opinions and insights from a group of experts to aid in decision-making and forecasting.

A technique steeped in history yet still profoundly relevant, the Delphi Method is utilized across various sectors to navigate uncertainties and generate consensus-driven outcomes. In employing a structured communication technique, the method effectively aligns expert opinion on complex issues not easily quantified or analyzed through traditional methods.

This article will delve into the intricacies of the Delphi Method, unravel its stages, and highlight its unique applications and inherent limitations in business and broader fields.

Understanding the Delphi Method

Explanation of the delphi process.

The Delphi Method operates through a series of iterative rounds designed to transform opinion into informed consensus. Initially, in the exploration phase , a facilitator, known as the Delphi manager, identifies a central question or series of problems and selects a panel of experts. These experts, typically diverse in background yet specialized in the issue at hand, are invited to provide their insights independently. This ensures that the Delphi process is not subject to the undue influence of a single, dominant personality, as can occur in traditional committee or board meetings.

As the method moves into the consultation phase , experts are given the opportunity to re-evaluate their views after being presented with a summary of the panel's responses. The anonymity of contributions allows each expert to consider the information provided by peers without the risk of groupthink or peer pressure influencing their own opinions. This iterative feedback loop is central to the process; it refines and narrows the range of answers as participants revise their earlier estimates in light of the group's collective intelligence.

In the conclusion phase , the process repeats until a predetermined stop criterion is met, such as a consensus or stability in responses. The final outcome synthesizes the collective expertise into a cohesive decision or forecast, refined through the successive rounds of discussion and revision. This phase solidifies the Delphi Method's utility in providing a clarified perspective on issues where individual judgments may have been too varied or complex to form a clear direction.

The Role of Experts in the Method

The success of the Delphi Method hinges upon the selection of experts who carry the knowledge and experience necessary to inform the issue at hand. Their role extends beyond mere participation, as they collectively constitute a de facto think-tank, offering depth and diversity to the conversation. The selection process must be diligent and strategic; experts are chosen not just for their expertise but also for their ability to contribute unique perspectives to enrich the collective understanding of the topic.

Once chosen, these experts become the driving force behind the Delphi process. The role of experts involves independent thought as well as a willingness to adapt and refine perspectives in light of group input. Each is tasked with considering the input of peers, highlighting areas of agreement and dissent, and aiding in the construction of a refined understanding of the complex subject matter. The iterative nature of the method ensures that the experts' roles evolve as the rounds advance, securing an integrated output reflective of the panel's combined wisdom.

Importance and Use Cases of the Delphi Method

Advantages of using the delphi method.

The primary advantages of the Delphi Method lie in its ability to transform subjective insights into a collective forecast or decision that is more accurate and reliable than what an individual expert might provide. The process excels in issues lacking clear data or where future events are uncertain. It offers a structured approach to harnessing expert opinion, mitigating the biases and pressures that may influence individual judgments. Moreover, by circumventing direct confrontation, it promotes the expression of independent thought and fosters an open exchange of ideas.

Industries that use the Delphi Method

The use of the Delphi Method transcends industries, demonstrating its versatility and effectiveness. In the medical and healthcare fields , the method is pivotal in developing clinical guidelines and shaping policy by consolidating expert medical opinion. Public policy and social research have benefited from its use in areas ranging from environmental forecasting to educational reforms. It allows policymakers to cast a wide net of expert opinion and distill it into actionable insights.

The method also has found firm footing in the arena of business and marketing . Companies use the Delphi Method for strategic planning, product development, and forecasting market trends. By bringing together leaders in the field, businesses can inoculate their strategies against biases and make data-informed decisions in the absence of complete information.

Specific Examples of the Delphi Method Application

The application of the Delphi Method can range from small-scale problems to grand strategic initiatives. Technology firms, for example, routinely employ the method to predict future trends or determine product feasibility. Consulting firms may facilitate a Delphi session to aid a client in identifying new market opportunities or in assessing risks related to new investments.

Specific examples include the use of the Delphi Method in anticipating the impact of regulatory changes in healthcare or in constructing scenario planning exercises for corporations. The method's adaptability to various informational needs makes it an invaluable tool in many annotative and predictive circumstances.

Criticisms and Limitations of the Delphi Method

Drawbacks of the delphi method.

Despite its methodological soundness, the Delphi Method is not without criticisms. Skeptics point out that the method's reliance on expert opinion does not guarantee accuracy—experts, after all, can be fallible. The drawbacks may also include the potential for a lack of accountability, as anonymity could lead to less investment in the process' outcomes. Also, the time-consuming nature of multiple rounds can be a deterrent, particularly for time-sensitive projects.

Areas where the Delphi Method Can be Ineffective

There are areas where the Delphi Method may be ineffective , specifically where issues are not amenable to expert judgment or where factual data are more reliable than informed speculation. Instances requiring immediate decision-making or those that involve personal values and preferences may not be suitable for this method. Additionally, when the scope of input required is too broad, the Delphi Method may become unwieldy and impractical.

Addressing the Limitations

To support the efficacy of the Delphi Method, careful attention to process management is crucial. The facilitator must ensure a diverse and balanced panel of experts, maintain the process's integrity, and set clear objectives and stopping criteria. Selection of experts needs to be approached methodically, aiming for a group that represents a comprehensive understanding of the topic. The careful design of the process can ameliorate many of the criticisms, maximizing the Delphi Method's relevance and reliability.

The Importance of the Delphi Method in Various Industries

Throughout its history and ongoing adaptations, the Delphi Method has proven to be a potent tool, its structured approach bringing order to the chaos of decision-making. By leveraging the collective intellect of experts, the method offers an innovative way to tackle complex and uncertain scenarios across various industries, providing clarity and foresight amidst ambiguity.

Navigating the Limitations of the Delphi Method

As we navigate the limitations inherent in any methodological approach, it becomes apparent that a method's worth is often determined by the diligence with which it is applied. Expert execution of the Delphi Method can yield insights and decisions that integrate nuanced understanding with strategic direction. It is a testament to the enduring nature of collective wisdom, a principle well-captured by the Delphi Method's thoughtful process. Whether used to procure a problem solving certificate or in designing online certificate programs , it holds a strategic position in the fabric of decision-making within the business world and beyond.

What are the key steps involved in the Delphi Method for strategic decision-making in business?

The Delphi Method stands as a structured communication process. Experts achieve consensus through it. It requires several rounds of questionnaires. Feedback is anonymous. This preserves independent thought. Each round refines the previous answers. The process continues until consensus emerges.

Key Steps in the Delphi Method

1. select participants.

Identify and recruit subject matter experts. Diversity in knowledge enhances the process. Ensure participants have relevant experience. Their willingness to engage is crucial.

2. Design Questionnaires

Craft clear, concise questions. The initial questionnaire gathers basic information. Later rounds delve deeper into the topic. Each questionnaire reflects the previous round's insights.

3. Conduct Multiple Rounds

Expect several rounds for consensus-building. Feedback from one informs the next. Anonymity allows free expression of ideas. Critiques don't target individuals, only ideas.

4. Provide Controlled Feedback

Summarize the responses. Share with all participants. Maintain anonymity. Allow members to reassess their position. Feedback informs subsequent rounds.

5. Reach Consensus

Strive for agreement among the experts. Consensus does not mean unanimity. It signals general agreement. The process ends when stability of opinion occurs.

6. Report Results

Summarize the findings. A coherent report captures the consensus. Detail where agreement and disagreements lie. Highlight actionable items for strategic decisions.

Benefits of the Delphi Method

Flexibility marks the Delphi Method. It adapts across disciplines. Participants contribute without the need for face-to-face meetings. Time-efficiency improves as geographical constraints disappear. Anonymity reduces the impact of dominant personalities. More reticent members participate openly.

Challenges to Consider

Complexity can arise without careful design. Questionnaires must remain clear throughout the process. Time requirements can stretch with multiple rounds. Participants' engagement may wane over time. Interpretation of consensus needs care. Ensuring all understand what consensus means is essential.

The Delphi Method offers a structured approach. It enables expert-driven strategic decision-making. Through careful design and execution, it promotes a depth of insight. Aligning this method with clear business objectives can lead to robust, strategic outcomes.

In what specific ways can the Delphi Method enhance the decision-making process within a business context?

The delphi method in business decision-making, structured communication.

The Delphi Method uses rounds of feedback. It starts with a question. Experts give anonymous responses. Anonymity reduces bias. It stops dominant personalities from controlling discussions. Each round refines the answers. Feedback evolves toward a collective agreement.

Consensus Building

Consensus is key in decision-making. The Delphi Method encourages it. Experts see what others think. They can adjust their views. Iterative rounds lead to a middle ground. This builds a shared solution. Agreed-upon decisions likely see better implementation.

Wide Range of Knowledge

Business challenges are often complex. The Delphi Method brings together diverse expertise. Each participant contributes special knowledge. This cross-pollination enriches the decision-making process. It leads to well-informed business decisions.

Future Scanning

Forecasting is tough. The Delphi Method excels here. Experts predict future trends. Their collective intelligence foresees potential outcomes. Businesses prepare better for what lies ahead.

Mitigating Groupthink

Groupthink can derail good decision-making. The Delphi Method counters this. Participants remain separate. They consider the issue independently. The structured nature of the method prevents premature consensus. It promotes critical thinking and solution diversity.

Actionable Outcomes

Decisions must lead to action. The Delphi Method produces clear outcomes. Each round sharpens the focus. The final consensus is actionable. Businesses know the next steps to take.


Meetings can be expensive and time-consuming. The Delphi Method needs no physical meetings. Experts participate remotely. This saves time and money. Decisions happen without costly disruptions.

In conclusion, the Delphi Method streamlines business decision-making. It brings experts together effectively. It encourages critical and independent thinking. It helps forecast future trends. It avoids groupthink. It produces clear, actionable outcomes. It also saves time and money. Businesses do well to embrace this powerful tool.

What are the potential challenges or limitations when implementing the Delphi Method in a business environment?

The Delphi method is a forecasting process framework. Experts answer questionnaires in two or more rounds. After each round, a facilitator provides an anonymous summary of the forecasts. They include reasons for judgments. Thus, the range of answers decreases. The group converges towards the "correct" answer.

Challenges of Implementing the Delphi Method

Expert selection.

Choosing the right experts is crucial. The outcome depends on their expertise. Diversity in expertise is necessary as well. It can prevent groupthink. Experts must be willing to revise their views. Stubbornness can hinder the process.

Time Considerations

The Delphi method is time-consuming. Multiple rounds are necessary for consensus. Experts need time for thoughtful responses. Rushed decisions can compromise the process's integrity. Coordinating schedules poses another challenge. Time zones can create delays.

Feedback Synthesis

Facilitator roles are critical in the Delphi method. They must summarize feedback effectively. Biased summaries can affect the results. Summaries should stimulate informed discussions. They should not influence them unduly.

Participation Motivation

Encouraging continued expert involvement is difficult. Initial enthusiasm can wane. Participation may drop in later rounds. Ensuring high response rates is challenging. The process requires sustained motivation.

Information Overload

The process can generate vast amounts of data. Handling this information is tough. Participants may have difficulty processing all the data. This can lead to suboptimal decision-making.

Cost Implications

The method can be costly. It involves expert time and resources. Budget constraints can limit the number of rounds. Consequently, this affects the quality of the output.

Technology Dependence

The Delphi method relies on technology. Online platforms are common for surveys. Any technical hiccups can disrupt the process. Reliable tech support is essential.

Anonymity Issues

Anonymity is both a strength and a challenge. It can reduce the effects of dominant personalities. But it can also lead to a lack of accountability. Participants may not feel responsible for their contributions.

Consensus vs. Agreement

Aiming for consensus is a challenge. True consensus is difficult to achieve. The facilitator’s definition of 'consensus' affects the outcome. Some may settle for general agreement. This might overlook minority opinions.

Limitations of the Delphi Method

Limited scope.

The method focuses on specific questions. It might not capture the complexity of the business environment. Contextual nuances can be lost.

Qualitative Data

The Delphi method generates qualitative data. Interpreting this data can be subjective. Numeric data is easier to measure. Qualitative data analysis requires careful handling.

Changing Environments

Business environments evolve rapidly. The Delphi method may become outdated. This happens before the process completes. New information may render previous rounds obsolete.

Complexity Management

Managing the complexity of the method is daunting. It requires meticulous planning. Also, a keen understanding of the process is necessary.

Potential Biases

Despite anonymity, biases can influence the process. Confirmation bias can surface in feedback interpretation. Facilitators need to remain neutral.

Adaptability Limitations

The Delphi method is less adaptable. Once the process starts, changing course is hard. This can be problematic in dynamic business settings.

The Delphi method has both merits and drawbacks. It provides structured expert judgment. Yet, the challenges and limitations warrant careful consideration. Implementing it in business demands a strategic approach. With prudence, it can be a powerful tool for decision-making.

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  1. Delphi Technique explained - Toolshero

    In the absence of objective data, such as customer reviews and other audience reviews. When the opinion of all these groups is important in a specific problem solving, the Delphi Method works very well. The great advantage of the Delphi Technique is the anonymity. It is not shared who the participants are or who provided the information.

  2. Delphi Method: Definition, Stages, Pros, Cons, Examples - Indeed

    The Delphi method is the process of gathering a panel of experts and engaging in several rounds of questions about how to make certain business decisions or solve an organizational problem. Every answer the experts provide is anonymous. After each round, facilitators review and sort through all the answers.

  3. Delphi Technique Explained with Examples - ProjectPractical

    The Delphi Technique is a simple way to structure the conversation between users and potential buyers. A company can determine what people think and feel about their product and then decide what steps to improve it. Additionally, it’s a consensus-building method that seeks the opinions of a panel of experts.

  4. Understanding and applying the Delphi technique - LogRocket Blog

    The Delphi technique is a valuable tool for product managers. The five-step method ensures a systematic approach to group decision-making by leveraging the expertise of subject matter experts while maintaining anonymity throughout the process. The goal of the Delphi technique is to achieve a consensus or convergence of opinions among the experts.

  5. Delphi method - Wikipedia

    The Delphi method or Delphi technique (/ ˈ d ɛ l f aɪ / DEL-fy; also known as Estimate-Talk-Estimate or ETE) is a structured communication technique or method, originally developed as a systematic, interactive forecasting method that relies on a panel of experts.

  6. The Delphi Method: Meaning, Pros, Cons & Uses - Formplus

    Introduction. The Delphi Method is an iterative process often used for gathering and developing consensus among a group of experts. It is a process that combines the use of anonymous surveys and group discussions in order to reach a consensus. The Delphi Method is often used in situations where there is a lack of agreement or an absence of ...

  7. Delphi Technique a Step-by-Step Guide - Project Smart

    The Delphi technique relies on a panel of experts. This panel might be your project team, including the customer or other experts within your organisation or industry. An expert is any individual with relevant knowledge and experience of a particular topic. [1] Step 3: Define the Problem. What is the problem or issue you are seeking to understand?

  8. The Delphi Method - The Decision Lab

    The Delphi method is a technique used in group decision-making and some forms of qualitative research. It involves gathering a panel of experts, having them complete a survey or questionnaire individually, and sharing these anonymised answers within the panel to allow for feedback and debate. Each expert is presented with the questions again ...

  9. Delphi Method: A Strategic Approach to Decision-Making in ...

    23 November 2023. In today's complex and rapidly evolving business environment, decision-makers are often faced with scenarios that require structured foresight and collective intelligence. The Delphi Method is a systematic interactive process used to gather opinions and insights from a group of experts to aid in decision-making and forecasting.

  10. Delphi Technique In PMP - Explained!

    The Delphi Technique is a method used for gathering and synthesizing knowledge from a group of experts through a series of structured questionnaires. It is primarily used for forecasting, problem-solving, and decision-making in complex scenarios where direct consensus is difficult to achieve. Expert Panel: It involves selecting a panel of ...