In 1969 the number of Delphi studies that had been done could be counted in three digits; today, in 1974, the figure may have already reached four digits. The technique and its application are in a period of evolution, both with respect to how it is applied and to what it is applied. It is the objective of this book to expose the richness of what may be viewed as an evolving field of human endeavor. The reader will encounter in these pages many different perspectives on the Delphi method and an exceedingly diverse range of applications.
For a technique that can be considered to be in its infancy, it would be presumptuous of us to present Delphi in the cloak of a neatly wrapped package, sitting on the shelf and ready to use, Rather, we have adopted the approach, through our selection of contributions, of exhibiting a number of different objects having the Delphi label and inviting you to sculpt from these examples your own view and assessment of the technique. For, if anything is “true” about Delphi today, it is that in its design and use Delphi is more of an art than a science.
However, as editors, we would be remiss if there were not some common thread underlying the articles brought together in this volume. As long as we restrict ourselves to a very general view, it is not difficult to present an acceptable definition of the Delphi technique which can be taken as underlying the contributions to this book:
Delphi may be characterized as a method for structuring a group communication process so that the process is effective in allowing a group of individuals, as a whole, to deal with a complex problem.
To accomplish this “structured communication” there is provided: some feedback of individual contributions of information and knowledge; some assessment of the group judgment or’ view; some opportunity for individuals to revise views; and some degree of anonymity for the individual responses, As the reader will discover, there are many different views on what are the “proper,” “appropriate,” “best,” and/or “useful” procedures for accomplishing the various specific aspects of Delphi. We hope that the reader will find this book a rich menu of procedures from which he may select his own repast if he should seek to employ the Delphi technique. When viewed as communication processes, there are few areas of human endeavor which are not candidates for application of Delphi. While many people label Delphi a forecasting procedure because of its significant use in that area, there is a surprising variety of other application areas. Among those already developed we find:
· Gathering current and historical data not accurately known or available
· Examining the significance of historical events
· Evaluating possible budget allocations
· Exploring urban and regional planning options
· Planning university campus and curriculum development
· Putting together the structure of a model
· Delineating the pros and cons associated with potential policy options
· Developing causal relationships in complex economic or social phenomena
· Distinguishing and clarifying real and perceived human motivations
· Exposing priorities of personal values, social goals