Thursday, September 3, 2015

Mind Control with the Delphi Method

Hammer. Rake. Spatula. All tools. Tools that when used properly can be useful. But no guarantees. Here's another tool: Delphi Method.
The Delphi method is a structured communication technique or method, originally developed as a systematic, interactive forecasting method which relies on a panel of experts. The experts answer questionnaires in two or more rounds. After each round, a facilitator or change agent provides an anonymous summary of the experts' forecasts from the previous round as well as the reasons they provided for their judgments. Thus, experts are encouraged to revise their earlier answers in light of the replies of other members of their panel. It is believed that during this process the range of the answers will decrease and the group will converge towards the "correct" answer.
Source: Wikipedia.
I'm familiar with the Delphi Method from business. For example, when estimating how long a development project will take, the project team members use the Delphi Method to come up with a group estimate that is better than the estimate of a single project member, even the most senior. At least, it usually is. But no guarantees.

What the Delphi Method is not is mind control. It wasn't developed for the U.S. Defense Department "for use as a psychological weapon during the cold war" as one tinfoil hatter asserts. Nor is it intended for "manipulating ANY meeting toward a predetermined end." At least not any more than a hammer is, although I suppose someone could raise a hammer in the air at a meeting to get attention. But if that happens, don't blame the hammer.

What does all this have to do with Richardson?

Twice I've seen attempts to get input from regular people be disparagingly referred to as using the Delphi Method, as if the process itself is nefarious.

First were the meetings the City of Richardson held with stakeholders of the West Spring Valley Corridor to determine their careabouts for the neighborhood. I know the city facilitator was smitten with the keypad polling devices used to survey the focus group. Despite claims by some critics, I don't know if the Delphi Method was actually used. I suspect not. It was never called that or described as such in any presentation I heard. I had serious reservations about the city's conclusions from these focus groups, but I didn't blame the Delphi Method. It's just a tool in any case, and a tool that probably wasn't even used in this case.

Second are the surveys of RISD parents to obtain input and feedback as part of a stated goal of the school district to ensure excellence in operations. This, too, was called the Delphi Method by critics of the RISD and was described as a method of bullying parents into giving the "right" answer. Despite claims by some critics, I don't know if the RISD is actually using the Delphi Method here, either, but I highly doubt it. If there's any bullying going on here, it's not by using the Delphi Method.

A word of advice to the tinfoil hatters. If you suspect the city and school district are really trying to control your minds, find out what the methods they are using are really called. Hint: it's not Delphi Method. The actual Delphi Method is just a simple tool. Like a rake. It's a forecasting method. It's not a mind control technique. Know what you're talking about. Otherwise you just sound crazy to people who have ever used the real Delphi Method.