What is the Abilene Paradox? Meaning.
The Abilene Paradox is a phenomenon in which the limits
of a particular situation seems to force a group of people to act in a way
that is the opposite of what they actually want. This situation can occur
when groups continue with misguided activities which no group member desires
because no member is willing to raise objections, or displease the others.
The term was coined by Jerry B. Harvey in his 1988 book "The Abilene
Paradox and other Meditations on Management". Here is the anecdote in the
book which Harvey uses to elucidate the paradox:
The drive is hot, dusty, and long. When they arrive at
the cafeteria, the food is as bad. They arrive back home four hours later,
One of them dishonestly says, "It was a great trip, wasn't
it." The mother-in-law says that, actually, she would rather have stayed home,
but went along since the other three were so enthusiastic. The husband says,
"I wasn't delighted to be doing what we were doing. I only went to satisfy
the rest of you." The wife says, "I just went along to keep you happy. I would
have had to be crazy to want to go out in the heat like that." The father-in-law
then says that he only suggested it because he thought the others might be
The group sits back, perplexed that they together decided
to take a trip which none of them wanted. They each would have preferred to
sit comfortably, but did not admit to it when they still had time to enjoy
Six characteristics emblematic of a group failing to manage agreement effectively
To avoid the Abilene Paradox from occurring in business meetings, a useful technique is, when the time comes to make decisions, that somebody should ask: 'Are we going to Abilene here?', to determine the decision is merely a result of this kind of Groupthink, Spiral of Silence or Core Group Theory or is legitimately desired by the meeting.
Compare with: Bandwagon Effect Bias | False Consensus Bias | Cognitive Bias | Synectics | Bounded Rationality | Active Listening | Groupthink | Spiral of Silence | Core Group Theory | Team Management Profile | Six Thinking Hats | Delphi Method | Metaplan | Contingency Theory | Framing | Levels of Culture | Changing Organization Cultures | Competing Values Framework | Brainstorming | Spiral Dynamics | Whole Brain Model | Analogical Strategic Reasoning | Lateral Thinking | Analogical Strategic Reasoning | Gestalt Theory | TRIZ | Mind Mapping | Root Cause Analysis | Dialectical Inquiry | Johari Window | Delphi Method | Paralysis by Analysis
This ends our Abilene Paradox summary and forum.
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