Julian Stodd's Learning Blog

The Need for Trust

The formal structure of an organisation is visible, clear, codified by rules, system, and process. It’s the management structure the determines whether i have power over you. In parallel to this, runs the social structure, and it doesn’t work in this way. Social structures are multi layered, complex, adaptive, conflicting, and strongly tribal, and it’s the nature of bonds within this system that i’ve been exploring with the Landscape of Trust research.

Trust is complex: probably not one thing, but rather a basket of forces that, in aggregate, we look at and decide, ‘do we have trust’. And we do that at the level of the individual, the group, and the organisation. Trust is not a ‘one time’ force, but rather something that we constantly assess, so if we have it today, i may break it tomorrow.

I’ve been gathering stories of trust: how it forms, grows, and fractures, and those stories reflect the complexity of the subject. People describe trust differently, and that’s led to me consider twelve aspects in the research: clear differences emerge based upon gender, age, the use of technology, culture, and ethnicity. Not, i suspect, differences in what trust means, but rather in how we experience it. For example, people ‘trust’ formal systems less than social ones. And, generally, if we experience ‘trust’, we will feel it as ‘freedom’. A freedom to explore, to collaborate.

To thrive in the Social Age, we must build a more Socially Dynamic Organisation: one that finds it’s strength in it’s diversity, a strength built not on codified power, but on community power, and reputation based authority. And an organisation with trust at it’s heart: broader networks of trust, bonds which cross over formal structure, building a secondary web that transcends it.

If we want innovation, if we want fairness, if we wish to build a deep capability in transformation, we need to create conditions for community, and that should start with trust.