Tuesday, 3 September 2013

Herds of goats and group decisions


Happy goat, after eating all the grass of the football pitch Emergency meeting at FC Barcelona headquarters.

Last Saturday some wild goats entered the training fields of FC Barcelona, and ate all the grass of the pitches.

Some goats eating the grass of the football fields One week before Spanish league starts, the team has no place for training.

That way, the president, Sandro Rossell, the sports director Andoni Zubizarreta, the physical trainer, Elvio Paolorosso, and the coach, Tata Martino, have a meeting today.

They must decide where they will train all this week.

President of FC Barcelona, Sandro Rossell The president starts by proposing an idea:

- What about making a week of training sessions in Andorra?

The sports director says it’s a good idea.

The physical trainer also thinks it's a good decision.

And the coach, given that everyone agrees with the idea of training in Andorra, either demurs.

Andoni Zubizarreta, sports director of FC Barcelona Elvio Paolorosso, physical trainer of FC Barcelona Gerardo 'Tata' Martino, coach of FC Barcelona

So, acting unanimously, they decide that this week FC Barcelona will train in Andorra.

Everyone agrees, but... do you think they’ve made the right decision?


If all participants have expressed what they really thought was best for the team, the decision should be correct, right?

Well, in this case, they haven't taken the best decision.

Do you think they voted against their minds?

No, everyone has really voted according to what they thought was best for the club.

So, were all wrong? It’s assumed that if they’re working in those posts, it’s because their high capacity to make such decisions correctly, right?

It’s true. They have enough capacity to perform the job. And none of them was wrong. However, all together took a wrong decision.

How can it be possible?

Let's see what was thinking each one of them, and what they said.

Thoughts of Sandro Rossell, president of FC Barcelona Let's start with the president, Sandro Rossell.

He thought the sports director would prefer to put a distance between the team and the Barcelona media reporters, so that the players could train more relaxed to face the new season. And Andorra is an excellent place to achieve this purpose.

Sandro also believed that the physical trainer would like a high-altitude preparation, as this would provide players a superior physical background, with which they'll cope with greater guarantees the season.

And he thought that the new coach would agree on having all the team concentrated for one more week, as there have been several changes of players during the summer, and this could promote a better feeling between them and the new coach.

However, the unexpected organization of the stay outside Barcelona was going to cause several problems to him. He personally would have preferred they had made the training sessions at the Mini Estadi, a few meters from Camp Nou, but he realized that all the others would prefer the option of Andorra, and therefore suggested this idea.

Thoughts of Andoni Zubizarreta, sports director of FC Barcelona Let's see what happened to Andoni Zubizarreta, sports director of the club.

Rossell had already expressed his preference, so Andoni thought that the president wanted the stay in Andorra because it could be a good promotion for the club.

Also, he thought the physical trainer would welcome the fact that the players could breathe the fresh mountain air, not the pollution of the city.

And surely the coach should enjoy the stay in this small country for a week, as he knew of his interest in mountain tourism.

Therefore, Zubizarreta thought everyone would like rather training in Andorra, and so gave his vote. Nevertheless, with the money they were going to spend on Andorra, he could have signed a central defender that the team needed.

Thoughts of the physical trainer of del FC Barcelona, Alvio Paolorosso What happened with the physical trainer, Alvio Paolorosso?

He was working for the club for a few days, so he didn’t know an alternative place for training. Anyway, it was clear that going to Andorra should be a favorable option, as both the president and the sports director had expressed their wishes for the team of training there.

In addition, the coach certainly would like to get away from the bustle of Barcelona. Tata Martino had been very busy with his move from Argentina, so he would appreciate positively this little ‘holidays’ in the mountains.

Therefore, he also gave his vote in favor of Andorra. However, after the grueling promotional tour around the world the team had made in recent weeks, he thought it might be better to train at sea level, at the Mini Estadi, and not to subject the team to an altitude training which could exhaust them.

Thoughts of Gerardo Tata Martino, coach of FC Barcelona And finally, let's go over the thoughts of the coach Gerardo 'Tata' Martino.

It was clear that the other three preferred to go to Andorra, instead of training at the Mini Estadi.

He was convinced that the president had in mind to get a good economical return on the team's stay in Andorra, and therefore had suggested that destination, and that the sports director believed advisable not to modify the schedule of trainings of the youth teams at the Mini Estadi.

Gerardo also assumed that the physical trainer would love to change boring training sessions on the pitch for funny training mountain routes.

However, Tata Martino, after several weeks of touring around the world, wanted to come into contact with a well-prepared grass like the Mini Estadi, instead of the Andorran sports fields, which probably would not be in perfect conditions.

But given that everyone else seemed to prefer the other option, both for what they’ve voted and for what he believed they were thinking, he chose to vote in the same direction.

Camp Nou and Mini Estadi So everyone would have preferred to train at the Mini Estadi rather than making a concentration of 7 days in Andorra...

In addition, we must add that the all have 'sacrificed' their personal interests for what they thought it was the general interest of the team, so their frustration can be even greater.

This is an example of what is called 'Abilene Paradox'. This paradox, which affects the fields of psychology, sociology and business, was described by Jerry B. Harvey, from the George Washington University, in 1988.

It's about bad decisions taken often by groups, either neighborhood communities, families, friends, teams, parliaments, boards of directors, or entire societies. And it may affect to small decisions like choosing a restaurant to have dinner, or economic decisions affecting a large number of countries.

In all these cases, both small and large groups of people end up doing something that none of them want individually.

Why is this?

Sometimes it’s because all the people follows the opinion of the leader / the majority / the 'herd', either to avoid problems, to not discuss, to not become the killjoy, or because it’s not well seen going against the general opinion.

This way, people somehow feel ‘pressured’, consciously or unconsciously, to go for what is supposed most of the people thinks.

Andorra So, nobody is willing to take the first step to express an objection to the 'group think', at least at the time of the decision. Although it’s not uncommon that at the slightest setback, everyone runs to criticize the decision, stating that they already knew what was going to happen, and that they should had voted another choice.

In fact, the latest researches make scientists believe that the human brain is programmed to change its point of view if it doesn’t fit the norm.

Moreover, studies suggest that 'Groupthink' does not only apply to the time of voting, but even after a while, the group components end just thinking the way everybody believe they should think. In this manner, the human brain protects itself from the contradiction of thinking one way and acting contrary.

And which is the way to avoid falling into this paradox?

Well, the only way is promoting within the group the exchange of information between members and the respect for all opinions, so that alternative and effective solutions may arise.

If you are interested in the topic, you can check more about the Abilene Paradox on Wikipedia and on Mystrategicplan.com