The process of elicitation and synthesis of the collective understanding of a cultural domain held by a group of stakeholders is challenging. This problem typifies the pre-project activity from which a coherent understanding of the benefits sought from infrastructure investment must emerge to inform the business case rationale. The anthropological freelisting method is evaluated as a solution by determining its ability to be operationalized in a practical form for project application. Using data from the stakeholders of a large NHS Scotland building project, the use of multidimensional scaling for data analysis is compared with participatory pilesorting to determine which freelisting protocol balances insight with practicality. Neither approach is found to offer an ideal method of characterizing sought benefits. The social construction of pilesorting promotes reliability while the analytical rigour of multidimensional scaling remains attractive to auditors. Their distinct insights suggest that both approaches should be combined in future and used alongside further post-elicitation devices from anthropology such as cultural consensus modelling or structured conceptualization.
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