Group Dynamics, Group Think and Abilene Paradox

Group Dynamics is branch of social psychology which studies behaviours that occur within a group and between groups. Group Dynamics when applied to real life situation helps us in understanding things which are otherwise difficult to comprehend.

One such aspect of Group Dynamics is Group Think.  In Group Think the members of group reach consensus without critically analysing the situation. Many aspects of situation get ignored, resulting in unanimous decision.

'As a team we can create problems none of us could cause as individuals.'

US Navy’s belief in its strength was so strong, that nobody thought that Japan could attack their fleet at Pearl Harbour. The possibility of Japanese attacking Pearl Harbour based was not even considered worth discussing. When Japan actually attacked, US Navy was taken by surprise and naval base was completely destroyed.

Group Think Time

Another aspect of Group Dynamics is Abilene Paradox. Term comes from anecdote narrated by Management expert Jerry Harvey.

A family is spending time playing game of dominoes in hot afternoon.  Father in law suggests that they should to go place called Abilene for lunch. His daughter and wife too agree, his son in law is reluctant but also agrees. Finally husband, wife, their children and in laws go to Abilene for lunch, the journey is uncomfortable due to heat and non-air conditioned car. The family does not like food at hotel. They come back home feeling tired.

Each member confesses that he/she did not want to go, but agreed because he/she did not want to displease others. Finally father in law said that he had casually made a suggestion, he himself did not expect others to agree.


Abilene Paradox is different from Group Think. In Group Think all members agree on something because they feel that it is correct thing to do, in Abilene Paradox each member internally disagrees, but externally agrees, as he does not want to rock the boat or displease other members.

It is quite common in organisations for a team to do something in which no one believes just because the top boss wants it. Nobody wants to question assumptions of top boss. Everyone is eager to implement what top boss desires, knowing fully well that it is waste of efforts.



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