The Rules Of Trust

One of the interesting outputs from the Landscape of Trust work so far has been the narratives of ‘how trust fails‘: a common theme is that when trust fails, it breaches implicit rules. Not the formal rules (the ones we write in organisations), but the implicit ones in ‘trust based‘ relationships, friendships, bonds of reputation and respect. People describe these fractures as betrayal or a crossing of an unwritten boundary.

The Rules of Trust

I thought i’d sketch out an image for that, as i work up ideas for The Trust Sketchbook, so here it is, shared as part of #WorkingOutLoud.

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12 Aspects of Trust

I’ve started to tease out the 12 aspects of ‘trust‘ that i’ll use to guide the development of ‘The Trust Sketchbook‘. The Sketchbook is going to be my crowdfunded experimental Zine and will form a co-created and co-drawn reflection on ‘Trust in Organisations’. The 12 areas that i’ll explore in the Sketchbook come from the wider ‘Landscape of Trust’ study. I thought i’d provide a brief overview today.

12 Aspects of Trust

TECHNOLOGY: in the prototype study last year, we saw that people ‘trusted‘ formal technology (provided to them by an organisation) less than they trusted ‘social‘ technology that they owned themselves. With that in mind, we will explore consequence, ownership, permanence, implicit contracts, and visibility.

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

FAILURE: can you trust the organisation to keep you safe when you fail? Can you experiment without failing? We will explore questions about attitude to failure, and trust in the Organisation, or your co-creative community, to keep you safe.

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.

TAXONOMY: i’m developing a taxonomy of trust, from ‘no trust’, through ‘functional trust’, up to ‘invested trust’, and ‘blind trust’. How does this reflect our individual experiences? We will explore how we feel trust, and whether there is a common taxonomy we can relate to.

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. We will explore how trust is held, and whether it can truly and fairly be considered in currency terms.

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? We will explore the art and science of trust, and see if fact meets experience.

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.

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.

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.

CULTURE: organisations talk about a culture of trust, but is this type of culture almost an abstract construct? We will explore how the organisational view of trust meets the individual, and whether you can ever take a cultural view in organisations.

GENDER: in the preliminary work, there is a strongly held gender based difference in how men and women describe trust. We will 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.

The Trust Sketchbook

So those are the 12 aspects of trust that i’ll be exploring in The Trust Sketchbook. There are still two days left to be part of this experiment, and to help make the book a reality. You can take part here.

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‘The Trust Sketchbook’: 5 Days To Go

There are five days left to run for the Kickstarter Campaign for ‘The Trust Sketchbook‘, and i’m pleased to say that it’s gone extremely well, in fact, already passing the target that i need to run the experiment: The Trust Sketchbook is going to become a reality!

The Trust Sketchbook

I’ve set this micro project up as a Zine, a term often used to describe community created, or rapidly produced ‘magazines‘, outside a formal publishing network. That’s an element of The Trust Sketchbook: it’s intended to be informal, co-created, community based, and somewhat fun! It’s a guided journey through ‘What Trust Means To Me’, but instead of taking the scientific approach of ‘The Landscape of Trust‘ research (the main, large scale, research project i’m curating this year), it takes a qualitative, co-created, art based approach. So i get to play with art and science, which is always fun!

The Trust Sketchbook

The Trust Sketchbook will explore twelve aspects of trust: i’m not totally decided on what they will be yet, but it will be guided by the main research, and will include exploring role of technology, gender effects, experiences of failure, foundations, and expressions of trust.

The Trust Sketchbook

This is the second Crowdfunded book, and it brings a whole new dynamic to writing: a new level of engagement to the community, a certain pace that can be lacking otherwise, and, if i’m honest, it’s just great fun. There is a real buzz to it, which shouldn’t be overlooked: writing can be a bit lonely!

If you want to take part in ‘The Trust Sketchbook‘, you can do so here, but i will be #WorkingOutLoud as i draw and deliver it, so you can take part that way, as part of the community too.

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To Hear Stories Of Dissent

When i’m asked “how will we know if an organisation is Socially Dynamic“, my off the cuff answer is that it will be able to hear stories of dissent. Perhaps i should add, “and it will recognise that it can learn from them“. Too often, stories of dissent are driven out of earshot, hidden, or denied, or the organisations feels the need to respond to, or correct the story, whilst all it actually needs to do, is to hear it, and value it.

Friction - Dynamic Tension

At the heart of the Dynamic Tension in the centre of the Socially Dynamic Organisation is the ability to recognise both pillars: the formal, and the social, and to place equal value in both. Formal organisations feel that they can own and control stories, Socially Dynamic ones recognise that they are privileged to hear them, even when they disagree with them.

to hear stories, requires coherent communities, strong storytelling, high trust, social capital, strong reputation, a willingness to learn: that’s why strong Social Leadership is a core trait of the Socially Dynamic Organisation.

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The Invisible Organisation: Why Social Leadership?

The answer to the questions ‘why Social Leadership?‘ may rather miss the point: it’s not so much a question of ‘why Social?‘, as much as a question of ‘why not just Formal?‘. Within the visible organisation, within the formal hierarchy, we need strong and effective formal leadership. We should continue to develop and refine our approaches to this. But in the Social Age, formal leadership alone is not enough, because we do not just lead in formal spaces. We exist in a space of dynamic tension, a tension between the formal and social systems, a fulcrum of power between formally moderated and socially moderated truths.

The Invisible Organisation - Social Leadership

Social Authority can subvert or avoid formal oversight and control: it’s the tacit, tribal knowledge and intent of the organisation, not standing in opposition to, but rather alongside and around, the formal position. Socially moderated stories are often deeply authentic, spread rapidly, and can be magnetic, in contrast to formal stories, which tend to be broadcast, lack authenticity, and grind to a halt unless pushed. The mechanism by which we can lead within the formal system will, therefore, be compromised, if we are unable to draw upon a different form of power, a new type of leadership.

A Socially Dynamic Organisation will understand this: it needs strong formal, and strong social, leadership. It needs both. Why?

Because social communities are strong ‘sense making‘ entities, able to filter and figure out where the true meaning lies, and what we can do with it. We are increasingly relying on socially filtered mechanisms of review, relevance, and reputation, within our wider lives, when we choose holidays, cars, and where to live, so why not within work? To have access to these sense making communities, we need to engage in them, we need to help them to thrive, and that’s a role for Social Leadership.


Because we need greater Resilience in times of constant change: as our formal strength can make us weak in the face of asymmetric competition. It can make us brittle: strength held within infrastructure, system, process, and mechanisms of control, can achieve effect at scale, but be brittle in the face of unknown disruption. If we can draw upon our formal and social strength, we have a greater potential to flex, and to do so in new and creative ways.

Denying Innovation

Because we need greater Innovation to face these challenges: not innovation within a system, but around and outside of it. We need to innovate ourselves: to reorganise, to build new organisations that recognise this new reality, the Social Age.

Mosaic of Fairness

We need every conversation to be fair, not just the big ones

Because we need greater Fairness: if we are to attract, retain, and gain benefit from, the greatest engagement and ideas, we need to earn that right. As change becomes constant, we must find ways to thrive at scale, to all hold the community safe, to ensure that nobody is disempowered or left behind in the flurry of change.

There are many reasons why we need Social Leadership, but the biggest question of all, is why we are even asking the question: it all starts with mindset. If we are comfortable, we may feel that we are safe, with the luxury of time on our side, whilst the truth is, we are in a great unknown ocean: new technologies, newly emergent sociology, new mechanisms of power and community. The only question that remains is why haven’t you started the journey?

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#WorkingOutLoud: bringing ‘The Trust Sketchbook’ to life

In parallel to the Landscape of Trust research, I’ve been working on a different methodology to explore the nature of trust between individuals, within communities, and in organisations themselves. Whilst the Landscape of Trust is a scientific study, producing quantitative results, The Trust Sketchbook will be entirely qualitative, reflective, subjective, and co-created. I am, if you like, trying to draw on both worlds, even if in a somewhat tongue in cheek manner.

The Trust Sketchbook

The idea for The Trust Sketchbook came about on idle Sunday sat in a coffee shop: I had been wrestling with the data from the preliminary Landscape of Trust research, reading the narrative accounts, and I started wondering about the value of a structured reflective space, and more than that, a space to explore trust not just through words but through drawing.

The Trust Sketchbook

I’m always guided by the principles of Scaffolded Social Learning, and this is no exception: The Trust Sketchbook is a scaffolded journey. A guided tour to think about ‘what trust means to me’.

The Trust Sketchbook

Colouring books have become very popular, so it seemed natural to extend the idea for an exploration into trust, and the first sketches I made were on the iPad. It was only later that I decided that for this subject, I would go entirely analogue, so my part of The Trust Sketchbook is being illustrated and handwritten in a Moleskine journal, my favourite journals to write and paint in.

The Trust Sketchbook

The format for The Trust Sketchbook will be a zine: I’ve played with a few different zines before, as I really like the format, a slightly guerrilla feel, a permission to play with layout and design, and somehow more deeply connected to the individual and community than a straight book.

The Trust Sketchbook

I’m crowdfunding The Trust Sketchbook over on Kickstarter, because I like the idea of it being born from this type of community: it is a very experimental venture, born in the spirit of #WorkingOutLoud, although in this case it will be a sort of co-created #WorkingOutLoud!

The Trust Sketchbook

The sketches I’ve shared here are just initial ideas: once the fundraising is complete, I’ll make a judgement as to what kind of production we can use, then finalise the content, and produce the final illustrations by hand. As I say, it’s an experiment, so I have to go into it with a willingness to fail, or at least the recognition that failure is possible. If you haven’t yet taken part in the Landscape of Trust research, the scientific approach, then please do: in this phase I’m trying to gather 1000 narrative accounts about trust. But if you done that, or you want to explore a more creative approach, take part in the Zine project! And don’t worry if you don’t want to back it: i will continue to #WorkOutLoud as i create it, here on the blog.

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Captain’s Log: #Issue 16 – Writing Week

I’ve been writing a weekly, old school, email ‘Captain’s Log‘ newsletter: as this is a writing week, i thought i’d share it here:

In 2017, I’m dedicating one full week a month to long-form writing: clearing out my diary and working on books. This has been a writing week. I’m trying to use this week, plus a week in June, to complete the manuscript for a book that I will publish in the Autumn/Fall, called ‘The Change Handbook – Building the Socially Dynamic Organisation’. This will be a substantial text, my largest book to date, based upon research and work over the last three years.

The Change Handbook

The book is in two key parts. Firstly, looking at how organisations change, in predictable ways, and how we can help them to move from ‘Resistance’, through ‘Constraint’, to become fully ‘Dynamic’. The other half of the book is a broad exploration of ‘The Socially Dynamic Organisation’, what is it, and how we build it. Arguably, it’s two books put into one: one on change and one on this new type of organisation, but, for now, at least, I’m keeping it as one!

I’m actually working on draft 12 right now: it’s 380 pages, around seventy thousand words, with seventy new illustrations. I anticipate (aim for!) a final draft around 65k words, with around a hundred illustrations. As a general principle, I favour shorter books, but the nature of the topic is taking me here. For example, I carry out a fairly broad exploration of 32 ‘resisters’ and ‘amplifiers’ of change. So there you go: I’ve been #WorkingOutLoud on it all week, so check out the writing on the blog if you want to see behind the scenes.

In the news


If like me, you love small spaces, you’ll enjoy this piece on the ‘top 5′ co-working spaces in Europe:

I share it less for the fun aspect of these spaces, more for the reflection that the office is dying. The rapid rise of ‘co-working’ spaces is just a foretaste of the change to come, as these spaces form the new Guild houses, the new backbones of our self-owned, self-controlled, and self-directed ‘careers’. We will chart our own path, within the arms of our community.

On that note, you may enjoy this piece on ‘spaces, places, and community‘.

The Fear

This piece could be replicated in a thousand spaces, speaking of the attempts of existing, formal authority, to understand the impacts of AI, robotics, and automation. For me, these are hollow conversations: the market will exploit new technology to the extreme. Existing models of labour will fail, and we need to explore new mechanisms of organisation, of collectivism, of hierarchy, and of society, to see what works in the new space. Pretty much the only thing we should not be doing is trying to deceive ourselves that we can see or control the angle of development through political oversight or control:

On this note, this is the basket of seven innovative and emergent technologies that I’m betting will impact in the next 3-5 years.

The Future of Technology: innovation and impacts

My writing

As I said, I’ve been #WorkingOutLoud this week, sharing extracts of my writing on the book. This shares some snapshots of the writing.

And here is one piece on ‘validation‘, one of the 16 Resisters of change. These are shared un-proofed, as part of #WorkingOutLoud.

The Trust Sketchbook

To keep you in the loop, I’m 82% funded on The Trust Sketchbook, with two weeks still to go. This will be a sketchbook that can be used individually, or within teams, to explore ‘trust’ through art and reflection. I’m actually designing a prototype workshop about this, more on that soon…

You can take part in the Kickstarter Community here

What I’m thinking about

The most exciting thing on my mind is that I’m expecting a call later today to say that the new book has landed: ‘Social Leadership – my 1st 100 days’.

This is the second book I’ve written on Social Leadership, an accompaniment to The Social Leadership Handbook, and it’s hugely exciting (for me, at any rate!)

Social Leadership - my 1st 100 days

It’s a spiral bound, 240-page book, with 100 days of activities to develop Social Leadership. If you would like to prototype it, get in touch. The official launch will be the week of the 17th June.

Thanks for your interest and support as we explore the Social Age.


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