Group wisdom and conclusions derived through the Delphi technique

Managers in law departments might want to avail themselves of a decision-making method known as the Delphi technique. Cass Sunstein in Infotopia: How Many Minds Produce Knowledge (Oxford 2006) at 208, outlines the three key aspects of the technique, which is sometimes called the nominal group technique (See my post of Dec. 9, 2005: Delphi method (nominal group technique); Aug. 25, 2009 #2: criticism of Delphi technique; and Feb. 1, 2006 #1: introduced in 1964 by Rand researchers.). “First, it ensures the anonymity of all members [of a group that is trying to make a decision] through a private statement of views.” Anonymity reduces the effects of peer pressure, dominant personalities, or a prevailing majority opinion.

“Second, people are given an opportunity to offer feedback on one another’s views.” These conclusions also are given anonymously and fed back to the group through a facilitator. “Finally, and after the relevant communication, the judgments of the group members are elicited and subject to statistical aggregation.” Meaning, you collect and analyze the opinions.

Len Fisher, The Perfect Swarm: The science of complexity in everyday life (Basic Books 2009) at 83-84, describes the method a bit differently. “Circulate the problem to group members.” Next, “Collate the responses, suggestions, and supporting arguments.” Third, “send the collation back to the group members and ask them to rate the suggestions.” He does not mention anonymity but the process, which continues until the group tires or reaches consensus, is stated more clearly.

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