It seems that markets, our dominant form of economic transactions, are not really designed to optimize trust. As Charles Green states:
The reason is simple: trust is not a market transaction, it’s a human transaction. People don’t work by supply and demand, they work by karmic reciprocity. In markets, if I trust you, I’m a sucker and you take advantage of me. In relationships, if I trust you, you trust me, and we get along. We live up or down to others expectations of us.
We currently organize around Tribal models, plus Institutions, plus Markets. In the 21st century, Networks are becoming the next dominant organizing model, as explained by David Ronfeldt in this diagram.
As the Network organizational model comes to dominance, I think we will see a return to trust as a lubricant of social and economic exchanges. Trust is an emergent property of effective networks.
If trust is a sign of healthy networks then, as Charles Green says, we are teaching the wrong things at school and at work.
Our public education and culture is loaded with the free-market versions of trust. We teach, “If you’re not careful they will screw you.” We passcode-protect everything. We are taught to suspect the worst of everyone, be wary of every open bottle of soda, watch out for ingredients on any bottle.
Then in business school, we are taught that if customers don’t trust you, you need to convince them you are trustworthy – partly by insisting on our trustworthiness. You can’t protest enough for that to work: in fact, guess the Two Most Trust-Destroying Words You Can Say.
I have noted that there is significant difference between cooperation and collaboration, with the former often overlooked in the workplace. Collaboration works well when the rules (like markets) are clear, and we know who we are working with (suppliers, partners, customers). However, in networks, someone may be our supplier one day and our customer the next. Cooperation is a better behavioural norm because it strengthens the entire network, not just an individual node. Cooperation is also a major factor in personal knowledge management, for we each need to share and trust, as our part of the social business (learning) contract.
In the network era, trust will become much more important, and it is not something that, once lost, we may be able to regain in a world where the network remembers everything, for a very long time. It truly is becoming a global village, for better and for worse. Trust should be taught, discussed, promoted, and practised, in schools and in business.