In our first article of this series, we learned how a family trip to Abilene on a 104-degree Texas afternoon led Professor Jerry Harvey to discover what he calls “The Abilene Paradox.” The paradox occurs when groups take actions in contradiction to what the individual members really want to do. Remember that Professor Harvey described the Abilene Paradox as the inability to manage agreement rather than the inability to manage conflict.
We’ve also explored six tell-tale signs that will help us recognize when we might be on a” trip to Abilene” and four underlying psychological dynamics that create the conditions for the Paradox. The question is…what do we do about it?
If we believe our group or organization is caught in the Paradox – and is “on the road to Abilene” –Professor Harvey recommends we speak up and confront the Paradox in a group setting. Working within the context of a group is important, because the dynamics of the Abilene Paradox involve collusion among group members.
The first step in the confrontation is to “own up” to our true beliefs and be open to the feedback we receive when we share them. By owning up, we let others know we’re concerned that the group may be making a decision based on inaccurate data. To illustrate this, let’s revisit this workplace scenario (from article two). (more…)