Trust is complicated: a word we use easily and frequently and yet one which contains a great deal of ambiguity when we try to nail down its meaning. We know it when we feel it, we know it when we lose it, we enjoy it when we have it, and yet it’s very hard to put a circle around it. I have a fairly simple aim with this work: to take the notion of trust and break it down into some pragmatic and practical areas that we can consider. I want to build a baseline of data, through surveying a range of organisations, to show how trust is manifest in these different sub areas, and to help understand the implications when it is lacking.
Because trust is so subjective, we can’t take a mechanistic approach, imagining that if we do this one thing we will effect this other reaction. The best we can do is to understand that there are nuances trust, perhaps levels of trust, and that some are easier to attain than others.
The reason for this research is that so much of my wider work around the Social Age is founded upon assumptions of trust: the Social Age sees the rise of communities, founded upon trust, developed and nurtured through high functioning connections.
Currently I am prototyping some of the questions which may form part of the baseline survey, and yesterday I shared some thoughts around the first of these, which indicated that many people have low or no trust in the organisation that they work for. Other questions currently in the field explore how trust is felt: for example, many people appear to value a sense of freedom, and it will be interesting to see how this correlates with the tendency of many organisations to restrict and control.
What if the things that we do to make us safe also erode the trust that we need?
You’ll see in the early work on the model above, and through the writing I did yesterday, that I’m starting to look at trust into tiers: functional trust, and invested trust. Functional trust is the bare minimum required for an organisation to be coherent, trust that you will be paid, that you are physically safe in most contexts, or that the organisation at least has some foundational belief in your value. Invested trust, by contrast, is a layer above this, and we take it for granted at our peril. Functional trust is the foundation, but invested trust is the win.
It’s that layer of invested trust but I’m currently trying to break down and expand upon. Some of the early responses have indicated that freedom is an important component of trust, so in future questions I want to expand upon what freedom means, how do we know it when we experience it or see it, and that is at the root of my existential angst today!
The problem with subjective constructs like trust, freedom and hope comes if we try to define them through other subjective constructs. We run the risk of creating a fallacious web of dependencies that is easily eroded when we differ on one term. To say I’m hoping to avoid that is obvious, but more easily stated than achieved.
And ultimately looking for a pragmatic view of this: the ability organisations to benchmark themselves against others, and to understand specific areas they can focus upon to earn the trust of those very people they have employed into their communities.
So far, the two components of invested trust that I’m thinking about of freedom, and nurturing. Freedom is coming through as a strong theme through the preliminary survey work, and nurturing I will explore further, but intuitively it seems as though in a trusted relationship there should be some developmental context, and intrinsic support for the development.
I’m conflicted as to whether reward will form a component of invested trust. So far it is featuring very low in the survey responses, I may simply be asking the wrong questions. It is possible that reward just forms part of functional trust, but again, I suspect that is not true. Being paid may be functional, but being rewarded over and above that feels like it moves into an invested type of trust.
I’m leaving this here today, in the hope that further research and type reflection will provide the answers.