We face a crisis of trust. Trust in public institutions is at an all-time low. The Sydney Morning Herald reports on the 2017 Trust Baromoter by PR giant Edelman which documented an “implosion of trust” where one in two countries (including Australia) believe the entire system is failing and people harbour deep fears of immigration, globalisation and changing values.
The Cambridge Analytica scandal, flood of fake news, and revelations from the recent Royal Commissions into institutional abuse and the banking sector have further undermined our trust in people and systems.
This contrasts with our unwavering belief in emerging technologies. Oxford University Lecturer Rachel Botsman questions the blind faith that we put in our AI assistants, while she stresses the need to invest in trust to make the connected, share economy work. Why would you otherwise let a stranger sleep in your bedroom (AirBnB), drive you home (Uber) or work in your company (Airtasker)?
Having more trust positively affects many aspects of our personal and business life, but it’s about how we engage with people, not just technology.
An experiment with students done by psychologists at the University of Maryland offers clues on just how profoundly a lack of trust affects our ability to think creatively and be productive. Students were asked to solve a maze puzzle where you trace the line to guide a cartoon mouse through a labyrinth. One group had to solve a negative puzzle where the mouse avoided the threat of swooping owls, the other group performed a positive puzzle where a cheese looms at the exit as an incentive.
Later, the students sat an ‘unrelated’ test that measures creativity. The students who worked on the negative puzzle scored 50 per cent worse than the positive group. The people that sat the positive test, in contrast, became more playful and open to new experiences.
From the start-up seeking the build a transparent and innovative culture to the established enterprise looking to increase customer centricity and loyalty in a competitive market, trust is the central currency. How can we encourage more people to chase the cheese rather than running away from the owls?