Video: Group Think & The Escalation of Commitment In The 1996 Everest Disaster
The Mount Everest tragedy is one of the most famous case studies in Organizational behavior. This tragedy demonstrates the perils of group think and the escalation of commitment.
This is a 2 part post – first, a video outlining the tragedy and second a research paper.
Part 2: High-Stakes Decision Making: The Lessons of Mount Everest Click Here To Read The Rest
The Everest case suggests that leaders need to engage in a delicate balancing act with regard to nurturing confidence, dissent, and commitment within their organizations. First, executives must strike a balance between overconfidence on the one hand and insufficient confidence on the other. Leaders must act decisively when faced with challenges, and they must inspire others to do so as well. A lack of confidence can enhance anticipatory regret, or the apprehension that individuals often experience prior to making a decision. High levels of anticipatory regret can lead to indecision and costly delays. 71 This anxiety can be particularly problematic for executives in fast-moving industries. Successful management teams in turbulent industries develop certain practices to cope with this anxiety. For instance, some leaders develop the confidence to act decisively in the face of considerable ambiguity by seeking the advice of one or more “expert counselors,” i.e. highly experienced executives who can serve as a confidante and a sounding board for various ideas. 72 Naturally, too much confidence can become dangerous as well, as the Everest case clearly demonstrates. To combat overconfidence, leaders must seek out information that disconfirms their existing views, and they should discourage subordinates from hiding bad news. Leaders also must take great care to separate facts from assumptions, and they must encourage everyone to test critical assumptions vigorously to root out overly optimistic projections.