Decision-Making Pitfall 3: The Abilene Paradox

In the case of groupthink and escalation of commitment, teams pursue a course of action largely because they are personally involved; a decision to discontinue might involve admission of a poor earlier choice. There is another kind of behavior that can lead teams to make undesirable choices—choices, in fact, that none of the individuals would have made on their own. Known as the Abilene paradox (Harvey, 1974), it is a kind of consensus seeking that has its roots in the avoidance of conflict. The Abilene paradox is basically a form of pluralistic ignorance: Group members adopt a position because they feel other members desire it; team members don't challenge one another because they want to avoid ...

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