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Monday, 15 March 2010

A Trip to Chokhi Dhani

Speech # 3

I believe each one of you sitting here must have faced, on countless number of occasions, disagreements in group. Be it in your family - discussing on what to have for dinner, or with your team at work place - discussing how to go about a new initiative. And I believe you all being bright shining individuals are thoroughly aware on how to deal with disagreements in group. Therefore what I am going to tell you today is about the problem of agreements in groups. [Long Pause]. Yes, Yes I know - you all must be thinking - "The group is agreeing and this guy standing here is saying that there's a problem in that!"

Ok hear this story - Tejesh (my contemptory), Pooja (junior to me), Aniket (another junior), and I were sitting together playing the game of scrabble. We all were happy to be sitting there - playing the game of scrabble, when out of nowhere I casually suggested that we go to Chokhi Dhani for our lunch. After a brief silence Tejesh said mildly, "Ok". Aniket added, "If you 2 say so" and Pooja said, "Ok".

So we went to Chokhi Dhani. The way was long and filled with cloud of dust. The day was very hot and humid. It was suffocating inside the car and when we finally reached that place - the food turned out to be horrible. [on seeing an expression of disagreement on the face of audience] It is a sad truth that the food of Chokhi Dhani which used to be so good a few years ago had lost its taste. But anyways, as expected everyone was sulky and no one talked to each other on the way back. When we were back in the room - the emotions came out in the open. Fingers were pointed at each other and after a while all the fingers pointed at me. I merely shrugged off my shoulders saying that I had just suggested, I did not force you to go...

Whenever I recall this incident it makes me think - what made the people do this strange thing of suppressing their own voice and simply going along with what everyone else was saying? It seems like a paradox to me. For the time being let's call this the Chokhi Dhani paradox.

Now you must be thinking that how costly could this Chokhi Dhani paradox could be? At max it can cause another unsatisfactory afternoon meal. [Pause] But I can tell you that it has led to a debacle of atleast $1.6 billion [such wild expressions of surprise was something which I had totally not expected at this point to of time but I carried on...] , it caused the 4th largest IT industry of India to collapse endangering the employment of 53,000 employees. Yes people - I AM talking about Satyam.

Ramlinga Raju, the nizam of Satyam proposed that Satyam should buy 2 other companies run by his family members. Not only the price was stupidly overvalued but also these companies were in the field of real estate - something entirely different from what Satyam does. Such absurdity and no one raised finger! Board of Directors comprising ex-dean of IIT Delhi, dean of IIMB, professors from Harvard etc, all - ALL just AGREED!

Why? Why?

This thing - when people go against their own intuition and agree with what everyone else in the group is saying, is a classical management philosophy called The Abilene Paradox. Everyone in the group is vary that on disagreeing they would have to face the heat, would be given a cold shoulder, would be blamed for causing the deal to fall apart and thus they are reluctant to voice what they think is the minority opinion.

[on seeing that there was a person waiting outside to come in] Would you all agree that I should end my speech here and let the gentleman in? [Some people got confused - some people clasped their hands together in preparation for a speech ending clap...]. NO! You should not [Loud Laughs] - you should ask, "has this guy completed with his speech - has he told us everything we need to know" No. I have told you the paradox but haven't told you - how to resolve it!

And the answer is: question! Critically question whatever is being said to you. Critically question whatever you are being asked to agree upon. But questioning will not lead you anywhere coz if not done properly it can be seen as criticism or disagreement. Thus what becomes more important is communication. If our communication with our fellow mates are strong and open - we will not agree on seemingly stupid ideas just to please each other. And now I feel that I can hence leave you with this thought that better communication could save you $1.6 billion!


Idea Courtesy:

The Professional, Subrato Bagchi
Abilene Paradox was Introduced by Prof. Jeery. B. Harvey. More on Wiki


  1. Nice idea but the person who definitely will be behind bars is the proposer of the idea will just make a hasty the case of chokhi dhani .all fingers pointing to you :-D

  2. Yeah, thankfully I was spared :D