Harvey went on to coin this occurrence the Abilene paradox, in which there is a failure to effectively manage agreement. At the time, most managerial advice was focused on how to better manage conflict. Instead, Harvey argued that in modern organisations, learning how to deal with agreement was more pressing than the management of conflict.
The Abilene paradox is commonly confused with groupthink, but the two have different characteristics. Researcher Yoonho Kim explained that in groupthink, a unanimous decision is driven by the “high energy” desire for cohesiveness and group harmony. Conversely, the Abilene paradox occurs in a state of “low energy” in which there is a fear of disturbing the balance.
While numerous studies have examined the management of conflict and disagreement in organisations, far less is understood about managing agreement. In business, multiple decisions need to be made each day, and failure to agree can lead to delays or increasing costs.
Failure to speak up will be even more common if team members feel that they have been disenfranchised. Employees may feel disempowered from speaking up or have concerns that disagreeing will put their position at risk
When individuals feel they cannot put forward an argument, the company is less likely to explore alternative options, which can lead to less creativity
Going along with what the group has voted on may lead some members of a team to feel that the decision had little to do with them. As you can imagine, this lack of accountability can have negative effects on the business
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