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Masterchef SA and the Abilene Paradox

April 11, 2012 14 comments

First published in Bolander Lifestyle & Property, April 11 2012

The Masterchef SA judges, Andrew Atkinson, Benny Masekwameng and Peter Goffe-Wood.

Ever had that bizarre experience where you’re part of a group of people who decide on the spur of the moment to do something crazy, but only later discover that nobody was keen on the idea in the first place, but didn’t want to “rock the boat” by saying so?

In management science terms, this is known as the Abilene Paradox, first postulated by George Washington University professor of management science Jerry B Harvey, in a 1988 Organisational Dynamics  article. It amounts to a form of groupthink, whereby individuals in the group feel that their negative response to the suggested course of action is contrary to that of the majority. Since most people are disinclined to “rock the boat” they remain silent, and the whole group ends overtly supporting a course of action that they individually, privately do not support. Once somebody has the courage to voice their true feelings about the matter, others tend to follow with alacrity. All it takes is one person of courage to open the floodgate of truth.

Watching the comments unfold about MasterchefSA, which premiered on MNet three weeks ago, provides one of the finest examples of the Abilene Paradox I’ve ever encountered. Read more…

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