As I work around the Landscape of Trust I’ve been thinking a little bit about investment: not the money that we invest, but the other things, the things that we as individuals invest in the organisations that we work for, and the things that the organisations invest in us. I started wondering about what that balance looks like, so today I’m just catching a few thoughts and seeing how it shapes up. Partly this ties into something else I’ve been exploring around Social Leadership, which relates to the different types of currency that we use, such as reputation, or trust itself.
As individuals, we invest our time in the organisation: I guess you could argue that we sell our time to the organisation, but my senses that it’s still an investment, in that we could choose to sell it elsewhere. Time is the easy thing to measure: when we work for an organisation, we also invest something of our reputation, especially if our work is public. If we work for a GM food producer, or for a petrochemical company, some of our friends and contacts may judge us for our choices.
We invest the opportunities that we forego: the things we could be doing, the opportunity cost, even this is some kind of conscious investment by the individual in the organisation. We also invest our authority, the strength of our voice in our social communities, the power of our networks themselves. Today, if you hire me, in some ways you could argue that you are hiring the sense making capacity of my community. Indeed this is a strong argument for Social Leadership itself: our power comes from our sense making communities.
Of course we invest our trust in the organisation, although the trust research is indicating that that investment may not be total, and that we may in some senses be investing our pragmatism, or even selfishly exploiting the organisation for personal gain. Or, let’s reverse that, sensibly exploiting an organisation that may exhibit no sense of trust towards us. If the organisation is not investing in us, why would we invest in it?
Finally, in this shortlist, we invest our ignorance, our curiosity. The things that we don’t know, and are willing and able to learn, may well significantly benefit the organisation. So we could argue in some real sense that our ignorance is itself a quality that we invest.
And what about the flip side of this equation, what does the organisation invest in us? The mass of the organisation, its energy, resources, and momentum, in themselves may help us to be more effective, may benefit us in real and tangible ways. The resources that we have access to, certainly historically, would have been a key benefit of investing time in the organisation, although we should be aware that in the Social Age people may have alternative investment choices for their time.
The systems and infrastructure that the organisation can bring to bear can be of great benefit to us, supporting our learning and performance. Similarly the people that we are connected to through work can make is not only more effective in the moment, for direct support, but they may be recruited into our sense making communities and remain with us beyond this job, beyond this organisation. If we have strong Social Leadership skills, and utilise high social capital, they may choose to invest themselves in our communities, and invest their efforts in helping us to be successful.
The reputation of the organisation itself may be of benefit to us, and in some sense, when we invest in the organisation, the organisation invests its reputation in our care. Certainly we can see when people betray that trust that the organisation can be tangibly damaged, especially in an age where brand is substantially owned by the community itself.
Finally, money itself, which may ironically be the least of what the organisation invests in us. There certainly is a transactional nature to employment, but that may not be true of the Socially Dynamic organisation, in that money is simply the foundation of functional trust, whilst invested trust is more a matter of balance between what the individual and organisation are willing to spend.