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Meaning & Definition

Abilene Paradox

The Abilene Paradox refers to a situation when a group makes a collective decision that is counter to the thoughts and feelings of its individual members. The Abilene Paradox occurs because individuals do not want to ‘rock the boat’ or ‘be a killjoy,’ even though their perceptions of the other members’ feelings are incorrect.

A group “goes to Abilene” when a member of the team proposes an action and no one takes a stand against it. While individual members of the team may believe that the plan is not sound, their fear of possible negative consequences if they oppose the plan, or their desire to maintain group harmony, keeps them from voicing their true opinion. Instead of mutual accountability and honest communication, the team begins acting on inaccurate data or “false consensus”. The person who originally made the suggestion may not even believe it is the best choice, but if no one is willing to give a differing opinion, a poor decision will be made.

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