June’s Executive Message From CEO Chuck Funke

Dear ASEA Associates,

We hope you will enjoy the new ASEA News Center. The purpose of the News Center is to serve as a centralized hub for important information and updates related to ASEA. This platform will provide you access from the Virtual Office to timely information, resources, articles, and other materials to help better connect you to our company, products, and science in order to help you grow your business. We hope you will leverage it as a tool to stay connected and informed about all the amazing things at ASEA. 

One component of the News Center is an executive message, and this month’s message is about our core value of collaboration and why it is so critical to business success. 

I would like to introduce you to a concept known as the Abilene Paradox, or the Road to Abilene. The story goes like this:

On a hot afternoon visiting in Coleman, Texas, a family is comfortably playing dominoes on a porch, until the father suggests that they take a 50-mile/80-km trip to Abilene for dinner. The wife says, “Sounds like a great idea.” Their son, despite having reservations because the drive is long and hot, thinks that his preferences must be out-of-step with the group and says, “Sounds good to me. I just hope my wife wants to go.” The daughter-in-law (the son’s wife) then says, “Of course I want to go. I haven’t been to Abilene in a long time.”

The drive is hot, dusty, and long. When they arrive at the restaurant, the food is as bad as the drive. They arrive back home four hours later, exhausted.

The daughter-in-law dishonestly says, “It was a great trip, wasn’t it?” The son says that, actually, he would rather have stayed home, but went along since the other three were so enthusiastic. The father says, “I was delighted to be doing what we were doing. I only went to satisfy the rest of you.” His wife says, “I just went along to keep you happy. I would have had to be crazy to want to go out in the heat like that.” The father then says that he only suggested it because he thought the others might be bored.

The group sits back, perplexed that they together decided to take a trip that none of them wanted. They each would have preferred to sit comfortably at home but did not admit to it when they still had time to enjoy the afternoon.

The Abilene Paradox is a phenomenon that plays out every day where a group of people collectively agree to take an action that is counter to the preferences or beliefs of each individual in the group. This can happen when individuals are afraid to voice their true opinions or preferences, and instead go along with the group to avoid conflict or dissent.

The first step in combating the Abilene paradox is to recognize that it exists. Without awareness of the problem, it will persist. Knowing what to look for and challenging unanimous agreements can help create the opportunity for people to speak honestly. This requires that psychological safety exists in our relationships and in our organizations. 

People should feel comfortable expressing their opinions and concerns without fear of retribution. Leaders have a responsibility to create an environment that fosters open communication by actively soliciting feedback and valuing diverse perspectives. 

The core value of collaboration at ASEA states: We seek to leverage expertise from all areas of the organization.  Our greatest success comes when we combine our strengths to solve issues and achieve our objectives together. 

Several years ago I worked with a gentleman who would often say, “If we all think the same and approach things the same, then we only need one of us.” I found it amusing at the time, but have come to appreciate how necessary unique opinions, perspectives, and experiences help us get to the right outcomes. One of the greatest dangers in collaborating openly is allowing our egos to get tied up in our positions or opinions. That means that if our position isn’t adopted or accepted our ego goes with it. 

In today’s fast-paced and complex business environment, collaboration has become more important than ever before. By working together as a team, we can achieve far more than we ever could alone. Collaboration enables us to leverage diverse perspectives, tap into the collective knowledge and skills of others, and drive innovation and creativity.

When we collaborate, we are able to overcome difficult challenges, solve complex problems, and achieve our shared objectives. So, let us embrace the power of collaboration and work together to build a stronger, more successful, and more fulfilling future for ourselves and for ASEA. 

And it might not hurt to stop occasionally and ask everyone, “Are we getting on the road to Abilene?”