An empirical assessment of key informant approaches in quantitative organizational research


Many quantitative studies in organizational research rely on CEOs and senior managers as single key informants. The assessments of the single informants form the basis for the investigation of variable relationships at the organizational level. Although previous research has been able to show that the reliability of single key informants is limited, especially when complex phenomena are being studied, many research areas still primarily survey single informants. Assuming that this is due to a lack of viable alternatives and a lack of urgency to change, data from two case studies is used to highlight the extent of inaccuracy in single-informant surveys and to compare it to the accuracy of alternative methods. Using the assessments of knowledgeable top-management informants as well as the assessments of the entire workforce on the organization's dynamic capabilities, we are able to show the extent to which multiple informants with and without management responsibility provided more accurate assessments than top-management single informants. A possible shift toward weighing acceptable error rates instead of selecting the most knowledgeable informant in key informant studies is discussed.