Using a delphi study to confirm the characteristics of an engineering innovator

Daniel M. Ferguson, Kathryn W. Jablokow, Matthew W. Ohland, Senay Purzer, Jessica Dolores Menold

Research output: Contribution to journalConference articlepeer-review

5 Scopus citations


Few empirical studies describe the individual behavioral characteristics that lead to discovery, development and implementation of innovations. Even fewer studies focus on innovative behavior by engineers. After interviewing 53 engineering innovators about their experiences as an innovator and qualitatively analyzing the interview data, we identified twenty unique characteristics of engineers who had demonstrated extraordinary innovative behavior (Ferguson D., 2013). This finding was corroborated by a separate focus group study (Ferguson D. et al., 2014). We then initiated a modified Delphi study with 150 engineering innovators drawn from academic, corporate, and entrepreneurial organizations to examine the complex constructs associated with engineering (Ferguson D, Purzer S, Ohland M, Jablokow K, & Menold J, 2014). Delphi study participants were nominated as extraordinary engineering innovators from large, medium and small firms; from many different types of engineering activities or professional classifications; and as individuals who had experienced many of the different phases of the innovation process. This paper discusses our modified Delphi study methodology and the analysis process executed for the first Delphi survey round. In the first round of the Delphi Study, 150 participants ranked the importance of the innovative characteristics of engineers and indicated an 87% agreement with the initial characteristic definitions. Delphi study participants also provided over 600 comments to help us clarify and improve those definitions. After integrating the Delphi participant comments, we received a 96% consensus agreement on the revised definitions. Delphi participants also confirmed that the engineering innovativeness characteristics developed from our interviews covered all of the behaviors they had personally exhibited or observed as engineering innovators. The implications for engineering education and for professional engineering training and management are that these innovative characteristics should be developed, supported and enhanced in engineers if innovative behavior by engineers is desired.

Original languageEnglish (US)
JournalASEE Annual Conference and Exposition, Conference Proceedings
Volume122nd ASEE Annual Conference and Exposition: Making Value for Society
Issue number122nd ASEE Annual Conference and Exposition: Making Value for...
StatePublished - Jan 1 2015
Event2015 122nd ASEE Annual Conference and Exposition - Seattle, United States
Duration: Jun 14 2015Jun 17 2015

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Engineering(all)


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