Abilene Paradox - Explained
What is the Abilened Paradox?
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Table of ContentsWhat is the Abilene Paradox?What is Groupthink?Academic Research on Abilene Paradox
What is the Abilene Paradox?
The Abilene Paradox, proposed by Harvery (1988), is a situation in which a group of people make a decision that's against the general wishes or best interests of its constituent members. Usually, this occurs because individuals wrongly believe that their own preferences are counter to group preferences, so the individual members fail to propose their preference or speak up during the decision making.
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Characteristics of the Abilene Paradox
Six characteristics emblematic of a group failing to manage agreement effectively
- Members individually, but privately, agree about their current situation.
- Members agree, again in private, about what it would take to deal with the situation.
- Members fail to communicate their desires and/or beliefs to one another, and, most importantly, sometimes even communicate the very opposite of their wishes based on what they assume are the desires and opinions of others. People make incorrect assumptions about consensus.
- Based on inaccurate perceptions and assumptions, members make a collective decision that leads to action.
- Members experience frustration, anger, and dissatisfaction with the organization.
- Members are destined to repeat this unsatisfying and dysfunctional behavior if they do not begin to understand the genesis of mismanaged agreement.
What is Groupthink?
The tendency for members of a group to seek to agree at all costs is called Groupthink. Groupthink is similar to the Abilene Paradox in that members seek conformity and arrive at a suboptimal decision.
The primary difference is that individuals in a GroupThink scenario are not intentionally going against their own interests - rather they are simply seeking conformity for the perceived benefits. In the Abilene Paradox, individuals are actively acting against their interests.
Thus, GroupThink affects the clarity or effectiveness of thought. The Abilene paradox does not affect thought, it is an absence of action.