SCOTT DOW -
"When you're seeking consensus, one of the dysfunctions you've got to protect against is 'groupthink', and in episode 127, we share how that's done. Another dysfunction you've got to protect against is what psychologists refer to as the 'Abilene Paradox'. Groupthink and the Abilene Paradox are closely related, but there's a subtle difference.
- Groupthink is when people go along with a decision because they agree with it.
- And the Abilene Paradox is when people go along with a decision even though they disagree with it. In fact, a group can reach consensus even though most of the people disagree with the decision.
And here's why...
Your co-workers are social animals, and they want to be accepted by the rest of the group. It's a survival instinct and a heritable trait. So even though they disagree, they keep their mouth shut because they think everyone else is in agreement. And sometimes most everyone disagrees, but no one speaks up because they don't want to rock the boat.
You can use the same techniques to combat the Abilene Paradox we shared in episode 127, but here's something else you can do: encourage debate.
I worked with a CEO who always said, "I want to debate this, who has a different view?"
If no one spoke up she'd say, "Okay, I want someone to be the contrarian and poke holes in this."
Usually, people would start to speak up. If they didn't - she'd be the contrarian, and she would be the devil's advocate.
If you have the reputation of being a very opinionated leader, you've really got to protect against the Abilene Paradox because your people are going to assume what it is you want.
The best example of Groupthink and the Abilene paradox is BlackBerry. Remember them?
They dominated the mobile device market for business and were full of people that were wicked smart. But when Android and Apple came along, the BlackBerry executive team made a series of dysfunctional and fatal, consensus based decisions, and they were based on groupthink and the Abilene Paradox.
They decided that these consumer devices of Android and Apple weren't a threat and that apps would never be allowed on business devices. And what happened? They agreed...they reached consensus, on a series of miscalculations, and they've all but gone extinct.
So groupthink and the Abilene Paradox are real threats in consensus-driven cultures. You've got to promote diversity, disagreement, and debate, and you've got to encourage your contrarians, your devils advocates, and your naysayers.
And remember, if you surround yourself with 'yes men' and 'yes women', consensus is going to be easy. But you might end up like BlackBerry!"
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