Delphi surveys, culture, and complexity

I was contacted recently by a research student asking me to take part in his Delphi Study. The European Commission Joint Research Centre has a very clear explanation of what a Delphi study is.

The Delphi method is based on structural surveys and makes use of information from the experience and knowledge of the participants, who are mainly experts. It therefore yields both qualitative and quantitative results and draws on exploratory, predictive even normative elements

There is agreement that Delphi is an expert survey in two or more 'rounds' in which, in the second and later rounds of the survey the results of the previous round are given as feedback (Cuhls 1998). Therefore, the experts answer from the second round on under the influence of their colleagues' opinions, and this is what differentiates Delphi from ordinary opinion surveys.

Thus, the Delphi method is a 'relatively strongly structured group communication process, in subjects, on which naturally unsure and incomplete knowledge is available, are judged upon by experts', write Häder and Häder (1995, p. 12). Giving feedback and the anonymity of the Delphi survey are important characteristics.

Characteristics of Delphi are therefore specified as (see e.g. Häder and Häder 1995):

  • Delphi studies always tackle issues formulated in statements about which uncertain and incomplete knowledge exists. Otherwise there are more efficient methods for decision-making.
  • Delphi involves making judgments in the face of uncertainty. The people involved in Delphi studies only give estimates.
  • The experts involved need to be selected on the basis of their knowledge and experience so that they are able to give a competent assessment. They have the opportunity to gather new information during the successive rounds of the process.
  • The Delphi method stresses the psychological processes involved in communication rather than mathematical models (Pill 1971 p. 64; Dalkey 1968 and 1969; Dalkey, Brown, Cochran 1969; Dalkey, Helmer 1963; Krüger 1975).
  • Delphi tries to make use of self-fulfilling and self-destroying prophecies in the sense of shaping or even 'creating' the future.

If you consider yourself expert in organizational culture and complexity science and would like to participate in the survey please follow the instructions below, and/or contact Gregory Yelland, the researcher on this.

From Gregory Yelland, PhD candidate, Health Research, Department of Community Health Sciences, Faculty of Medicine, University of Calgary, Phone: 306-716-6789

I am contacting you today to request your help as an important contributor to Organizational Culture and Complexity Science knowledge with my PhD research. I am asking that you participate in a Delphi survey project designed to identify the key factors for understanding and assessing organizational culture from a complexity perspective.

This Delphi survey is one component of my PhD research, in which I am attempting to develop a complexity-based framework for understanding organizational culture. Specifically, a framework based on the view of organizations as complex adaptive systems. This Delphi project consists of three questionnaires; the first of which will probably take 30 – 40 minutes to complete. Following completion of this questionnaire you will be invited to participate in two follow-up questions over the next 7 weeks. I estimate completing all three questionnaires will take 60-90 minutes.

The individuals who complete all three questionnaires will be entered into a draw to win an iPod Touch. I anticipate 30-40 participants so your chances of winning are very good!
Simply click on the link below, or cut and paste the entire URL into your browser to access the survey:

The password for the questionnaire is Delphi-1.

Please enter the iPod code below in the survey in order to be entered in the iPod draw.
iPod code: 58738

I would appreciate your response by midnight, December 30, 2010.

This survey project has been approved by the Conjoint Health Research Ethics Board at the University of Calgary. Your input is very important to this research and will be kept strictly confidential – your responses will only be reported in the aggregate.

Please contact me at if you have any questions or would prefer to complete a paper survey.