Questions To Ask About Trust

As i gear up for the launch of The Trust Sketchbook next week, today i’m sharing a whole section from the accompanying ‘Trust Guidebook’, which provides detailed questions we can ask, as we work through the Sketchbook.

12 Aspects of Trust

Part 2: The Trust Sketchbook: Exploring 12 Aspects of Trust

From the initial research, i’ve identified 12 aspects of trust, which form the structure of ‘The Trust Sketchbook’. As you graffiti the Sketchbook, to make it your own, these are some questions, and ideas, that you may wish to consider.

TECHNOLOGY: people describe how they ‘trust‘ formal technology (provided to them by an organisation) less than they trust ‘social‘ technology that they own themselves. In one Organisation, people described seventeen different technologies that they use to be effective, but only one of those was owned by the Organisation. Some of the technologies they used they were specifically banned from using: were they bad people, or were they people trying to be effective, despite the system? Or within a system that does not listen to it’s own community?

The relationship between technology and trust is interesting, and dynamic: blockchain technology will evolve this relationship all over again. This is the time we should be doing the thinking, to be prepared.

1. Do you trust your work email differently to your personal one? Why?
2. How is consequence owned in formal technology? How is it owned in Social technologies like Facebook or Twitter?
3. Do you trust Facebook in a different way to a work system collaboration system like Yammer or Jive?
4. What makes you feel this difference? Do others around you feel the same?
5. Does the permanence of stories shared on technologies impact what you share?
6. Who owns that permanence? Is trust in technology related to control and ownership?
7. What are the risks if different people trust technology differently?

CREATIVITY: with so many organisations asking for agility, and seeking to innovate more effectively, what is the relationship between trust and creativity? Consider how you ‘trust in yourself‘, the role of trust in sharing, the importance of trust in self expression, exposing ideas, trust in co-creation.

1. What foundations of trust need to be in place to collaborate?
2. How many of these foundations can be put in place by an organisation?
3. Do you need trust to co-create?
4. Do you always trust yourself to do something right? What impacts this?
5. When we share things into a network, we risk judgement and consequence: how do we come to trust others enough to do this?
6. Creativity is about moving beyond certainty: do you trust yourself to do that?

FAILURE: can you trust the Organisation to keep you safe when you fail? Can you experiment without failing? We should explore questions about attitude to failure, and trust in the Organisation, or your co-creative community. An important aspect of failure is how we keep each other safe. Organisations often say ‘you can only learn if you fail’, or ‘it’s ok to fail’, but then when you fail at something important, they execute you. It’s easy to talk about failure, but it carries real consequence.

1. Can you fail safely without trust?
2. Is there a limit to this? Can you fail multiple times, or just once?
3. Do we need systems around failure to help us learn, or does it just happen?
4. Who gives permission to fail?
5. Do you feel you can fail safely, or is it contextual?
6. How do you deal with the failure of others? What is the role of a leader in this?

ETHNICITY: how do national or cultural traditions impact on understanding of trust? We will explore if trust varies around the world, and if there are times when these notions of trust collide. It’s often hard to consider ethnicity and trust, because we worry we will cross a line, but if we do not consider these things, how can we hold each other safely?

We know that people are treated differently, because of their ethnicity, and we know that different cultures adopt different views of community, family, religion, and so forth, so unless we talk about these things, we fall to reliance on stereotype and assumption. The only thing we know for sure is that if we are not brave enough to think and talk about our shared differences, we will fail to fully understand each other.

Trust as a tribal force can flow within internal networks: most of the people that i know (and hence trust) come from similar ethnic backgrounds to myself. That’s not a conscious choice that i’ve made: it’s how my community is made up. But underlying that, it means that i am more familiar (and more likely to trust?) people from a similar ethnicity? Or maybe not: all i can tell you is that people seem to be curious about this, which seems to be a good reason to explore this part of the Landscape of Trust.

1. Do you think that there are different ethnic views on trust?
2. Do you think it’s as easy for people of different ethnic backgrounds to find trust as it is for those from the same?
3. How important is shared experience to the building of trust?
4. How important is familiarity to building trust?
5. What are the consequences if ethnicity impacts on trust?
6. What could we do about this?

TAXONOMY: earlier i described the taxonomy of trust that i am considering, running from ‘no trust’, through ‘functional trust’, up to ‘invested trust’, and ‘blind trust’. How does this reflect our individual experiences? Explore how you feel trust, and whether there is a common taxonomy we can relate to.

1. What are the impacts of no trust?
2. Does your Organisation have functional trust?
3. Why would we want invested trust?
4. Should we explicitly discuss this within our teams?
5. Do we have to reward invested trust differently?
6. How do we avoid blind trust?

CURRENCY: can trust be bought or sold? Can we quantify the invested level? Or is this a convenient language that we have inherited: convenient, but imperfect. Consider how trust is held, and whether it can truly and fairly be considered in currency terms.

1. What would your currency (or currencies) of trust look like?
2. What happens if we each have a different view of currency?
3. What is the relationship between trust and money?
4. What happens if we reward trust, or hold trust, in the wrong currency?
5. Can you ‘save’ trust, like money?
6. Do we ‘spend’ trust, like money? Is it finite?
7. What happens when we spend too much?

NEUROLOGY: how is trust held in the brain? Can we visualise and image trust? And does the way the brain processes trust relate to how we describe or experience this? You will explore the art and science of trust, and see if fact meets experience.

1. Is trust about gut instinct?
2. Is trust logical?
3. If it’s innate, is trust biased?
4. Can you learn how to trust?
5. Can you learn not to trust?
6. Do we learn from the failure of trust?

VISIBILITY: how visibly do we hold trust? Does it make a difference if we can see it, or is an implicit value good enough? We will explore how we personally visualise and share trust with others.

1. Is a visible ‘trust score’ a good thing? (We already have ‘credit scores’ after all…)
2. In ‘role based trust’ we rely on visual clues: does that make this type of trust easier to navigate, or more vulnerable to misinterpretation or deception?
3. How can we make trust more visible?

ORGANISATIONAL: in the prototype study, people identified that ‘organisational‘ trust was different from that held between individuals, but this was not universally held to be true. We will explore our individual and collective views of trust and the ways that it is held in organisations.

1. Does the trust you have in your friends differ from that you have in the Organisation you work for?
2. Is it just stronger or weaker, or actually different?
3. If there are different types of trust, how many are there?
4. Do Organisations need to earn trust, or can they demand it?
5. How are they enabled if they hold it? How are they weaker if they lack it?
6. Does your Organisation trust you?
7. How would trust in Organisations be manifest in the everyday?

GROUP: do groups hold trust? Do teams or organisational functions have any inherent grouping of trust? We will explore group dynamics in trust, as well as what happens when trust ceases to be shared equally in a group.

There are risks if groups hold trust: they can turn on someone, or silence dissenting voices. They can be too strongly internally referential. We know the risks fo echo chambers: the internal trust of a group can contribute to this.

1. What is the risk if a group hold trust too strongly?
2. Is it harder, or easy, to join a strongly trust bonded group?
3. We often talk about ‘community’: does community need trust?
4. How does trust relate to the idea of ‘echo chambers’?
5. What rituals can we use to explore trust within groups? E.g. induction rituals carry ‘trust’

CULTURE: Organisations talk about a culture of trust, but is this type of culture almost an abstract construct? One view (which i tend to subscribe to), is that culture is always held in tribes, which aggregate into an Organisation. But the repository of trust is the tribe. Consider how the organisational view of trust meets the individual, and whether you can ever take a culture wide view in organisations.

1. Who owns Organisational culture?
2. What is the role of leaders in this?
3. How does culture change, and what is the importance of trust in this?
4. Can leadership project trust? What is the importance of action?
5. Can a high trust culture ever be a bad thing? How is it held to account?
6. How can we build greater trust within our culture?
7. Where does trust live in an Organisation?

GENDER: in the preliminary work, there is a strongly held gender based difference in how men and women describe trust. Explore this, and see if it’s intuition or evidence based, as well as how we individually feel about this, and whether it steers our actions.

It’s a contentious area: personally, i don’t believe that men and women have different notions of what trust is, but i do believe that we experience different cultural norms, and culturally normalised inequality, and i think it is that which we are hearing in the research. But what do you think?

1. Do men and women experience trust differently?
2. Are men more likely to trust other men, or women?
3. Are women more likely to trust other women, or men? Or is there no effect at all?
4. Do men and women experience the failure of trust differently?
5. Is there a cultural aspect to this?

Us these questions to guide your deliberations, individually, and in groups, as you explore the Landscape of Trust, but remember, it’s fine to be uncertain.

This is a landscape that changes, it changes in the view, as we move around, and it changes in the experience, as we feel it underfoot. It’s fine to change your mind, it’s fine to disagree, and it’s fine to retrace your steps, to explore further.

About julianstodd

Author, Artist, Researcher, and Founder of Sea Salt Learning. My work explores the context of the Social Age and the intersection of formal and social systems.
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7 Responses to Questions To Ask About Trust

  1. Love it all – Very thought provoking

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