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Abilene paradox

The Abilene Paradox is a paradox in which the limits of a particular situation force someone to act in a way that is directly the opposite of their actual intention.

The paradox was created by management guru Jerry B. Harvey[?] in his book The Abilene Paradox and other Meditations on Management.

The paradox's name comes from an anecdote in the book that Harvey uses to illustrate the nature of the paradox:

A sunny afternoon, a family playing cards on a terrace. One of them thinks they should move -- not that he cares, on the contrary, but he thinks the others want to -- so he proposes a trip to Abilene. No fun, hot, bad food. Back home one of them admits that he had preferred to stay home. Everybody would have liked that, only they did not admit to it when it was still time to enjoy the afternoon.

This anecdote was also made into a short film for management education.

The Abilene Paradox theory is often used to help explain extremely poor business decisions, especially notions of the superiority of "rule by committee."

The paradox is sometimes also used as a criticism of the Preferential Voting[?] system. For example, say a person wants to vote for Candidate C, yet realistically realizes that Candidate C will never beat the much more popular Candidates A and B. The person thus votes for Candidate A, whom he doesn't like, yet believes to be the best alternative to candidate C. The voter has thus committed the Abilene Paradox by performing an action that is in direct violation to his actual desire.

See: Groupthink



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