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 decisionmaking 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 characteristics (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 noncommittal."
Suddenly, the amiable facilitator becomes "devil's 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. S/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.
The method works. It is very effective with parents, teachers, school children, and any community group. The "targets" rarely, if ever, know that they are being manipulated. If they do suspect this is happening, they do not know how to end the process. The desired result is for group polarization, and for the facilitator to become accepted as a member of the group and group process. He/she will then throw the desired idea on the table and ask for opinions during discussion. Very soon his/her associates from the divided group begin to adopt the idea as if it were their own, and pressure the entire group to accept the proposition.
This technique is a very unethical method of achieving consensus on a controversial topic in group settings. It requires welltrained professionals who deliberately escalate tension among group members, pitting one faction against the other, so as to make one viewpoint appear ridiculous so the other becomes "sensible" whether such is warranted or not.
DISRUPTING THE DELPHI
Note: The Delphi is being used at all levels of government to move meetings to preset conclusions. For the purposes of this dissertation, "facilitator" references anyone who has been trained in use of the Delphi and who is running a meeting.
There are three steps to diffusing the Delphi Technique when facilitators want to seer a group in a specific direction.
1. Always be charming. Smile. be pleasant. Be Courteous. Moderate your voice so as not to come across as belligerent or aggressive.
2. Stay focused. If at all possible, write your question down to help you stay focused. Facilitators, when asked questions they don't want to answer, often digress from the issue raised and try to work the conversation around to where they can make the individual asking the question look foolish or feel foolish, appear belligerent or aggressive. The goal is to put the one asking the question on the defensive. Do not fall for this tactic. Always be charming, thus deflecting any insinuation. Innuendo, etc. that may be thrown at you in their attempt to put you on the defensive, but bring them back to the question you asked. If they rephrase your question into an accusatory statement (a favorite tactic) simply state, "That is not what I stated. What I asked was... [repeat your question.]" Stay focused on your question.
E mail your comment on this article to email@example.com and have it posted here.