Diving and the Abilene Paradox

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boulderjohn

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The Abilene Paradox is a management concept that shows how a group can come to consensus on a plan that every member opposes. It is based on a supposedly true story in which a family is gathered on a sweltering day with nothing to do. The patriarch says they could go to Abilene, and after some hesitation, they all agree on it. They crowd into a car (no air-conditioning), drive to Abilene (where they still have nothing to do), and drive back. The patriarch had only meant it as a wild suggestion and really didn't want to do it, but others interpreted it as desire. Eventually they came to an agreement to go to Abilene because no one wanted to hurt anyone's feelings by disagreeing. The Abilene Paradox occurs when everyone in a group mistakenly thinks the rest of the group is in agreement and does not want to raise their objections because of a fear of rocking the boat.

I was part of a group of divers last week, diving with an operation with a policy of starting the ascent when a diver reaches 700 PSI. For the most part, we were delighted with the dives. The problems came as the dives went on toward their ends. On those 10 dives, we averaged 88 minutes of dive time. On some of those dives, that was great, because we had something interesting to see the entire time. On most, though, at the end we were drifting in open water, sometimes high over the top of the coral below, sometimes over sand flats, for what seemed like an eternity. On those last dives, I felt a great sense of relief when the DM finally signaled that we would begin the ascent.

I suspect I was not alone. I suspect every one of us would have gladly spent the last 10 minutes of those dives back on the boat, but we couldn’t. We each knew that if we decided we had had enough and signaled the desire to go up, then the dive would have ended, and everyone else would have had to go up, too. We did not want to be the one to end the dive for everyone else just because we were totally bored.

In hindsight, I think we should have talked it out on the boat. I should have had the courage to speak up and tell the DM that if the only purpose of drifting over sand is to maximize gas usage, I would prefer to be on the boat, and I bet we all would have agreed. That is how you avoid the Abilene Paradox. Individuals must be willing to speak up and voice objections. Hopefully, I will have such courage next time.
 

scubadada

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Sorry to hear you are Covid+ and still in Cozumel.

Why did you end the dives that way rather than finishing the dives down on the reef? You might have gotten less time out of the dive, but with better quality. Were any of the dives NDL limited or was it gas?

My son and I dived with Aldora. Our dives were quite long but we never ended them the way your group did. We approached NDL several times but headed shallower to finish the dive. I exceeded my NDL by a couple minutes on one dive, it cleared as we went shallower and did affect the dive.
 
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boulderjohn

boulderjohn

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Sorry to hear you are Covid+ and still in Cozumel.

Why did you end the dives that way rather than finishing the dives down on the reef? You might have gotten less time out of the dive, but with better quality. Were any of the dives NDL limited or was it gas?

My son and I dived with Aldora. Our dives were quite long but we never ended them the way your group did. We approached NDL several times but headed shallower to finish the dive. I exceeded my NDL by a couple minutes on one dive, it cleared as we went shallower and did affect the dive.
We were also with Aldora.
 

scubadada

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We were also with Aldora.
That's interesting. So why that profile rather than staying down on the reef until NDL or gas limited the dive?

Did the group ascend to "finish" the gas when you were already pushing NDL? Just trying to understand, thanks

Take care
 
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boulderjohn

boulderjohn

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Why did you end the dives that way rather than finishing the dives down on the reef? You might have gotten less time out of the dive, but with better quality. Were any of the dives NDL limited or was it gas?
Yes, that would have been better, and I did give them that suggestion. At times it seemed as if the DMs goal was to get maximum dive time.

In theory, all dives were limited by gas. I say in theory, because I never got to the supposed 700 PSI limit before ascending. I know my two friends have SACs at least as good as mine (the wife is better, but she had a smaller tank), and I am sure the other guy was doing as well. I think the DM finally decided enough was enough.
 

jale

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Is not drifting in the blue warm water a nice thing to do?
If I had been with you I would have been pissed off by your preference of being in the boat rather than uw :)
 
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boulderjohn

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Is not drifting in the blue warm water a nice thing to do?
If I had been with you I would have been pissed off by your preference of being in the boat rather than uw :)
And, see, that's the problem. If I think that might be true, I am not going to do anything but go with the flow.

Maybe I'm just old, but after 85 minutes, if there is nothing going on around me to look at, I'm ready for the surface.
 

scubadada

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Yes, that would have been better, and I did give them that suggestion. At times it seemed as if the DMs goal was to get maximum dive time...

...Maybe I'm just old, but after 85 minutes, if there is nothing going on around me to look at, I'm ready for the surface.
I'm with you, quality over simple quantity. Thanks for your replies.
 

Doc

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Actually, we were in Odesa, for sure nobody wanted to go to Midland, so Abilene it was.

Just some historical background.
 

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