The Business of Trust

The era that we live in is characterized by an enormous trust deficit. The term and its associated feeling have become more common in the last few years than in the several decades that preceded it. While the deficit of trust, manifested as a feeling of insecurity, has existed ever since life existed, it became more predominant after communities were formed. Communities connect beings (whether animal or human) and depending on our own real and perceived weaknesses and strengths, they become the basis of bonds of security or insecurity.

Why is the current social environment so different than the ten thousand-year history of human societies? In earlier times, the reasons for trust deficit were visible and common enough to be easily understood. Food, mate, shelter, physical safety, typically characterized the four deep-rooted territorial instincts, (which exist to this day as seen in market-share wars, or in battles for cubicle-space at offices) and comprised most reasons for aggression. Over time, these four basic needs were replaced by more complex social needs in which the competition spread to a variety of other things – looks, wealth, property, or something as intangible as social praise. In current times, trust has become far more complex and difficult to decipher, and trust deficit exists for several reasons known and unknown.

Trust requires that the Trustor (one who trusts) must accept a certain degree of risk or vulnerability, for it involves a voluntary transfer of resources – emotional, physical, financial or material – with no tangible or quantifiable commitment from the Trustee (one who is trusted).  Leadership, law, economy, love, relationship, civilizations are all based on this bond of trust. Only when you trust your leader, will you allow yourself to be led. Law functions on the trust of citizenry to provide justice, if that is lost, anarchy will prevail. Economy, which results from successful commercial transactions are based on trust. As anyone will tell you, trust is also the armed forces – all depend on the essential element of trust too.

However, the most visible and direct impact of trust is seen in businesses. Business is trust. And it is only natural – the result of trust erosion in businesses is too painful, real, and immediate; one that threatens organizations with its potential to cause monumental and often irrecoverable harm.

Due to the benefits that connections bring to commerce and transactions, relationship connections in business have increased several times more than our social connections (and perhaps at the cost of our social relationships). So too has increased the need for trust in transacting businesses. We buy from stores we have never visited, we hire people we have never seen, and we partner with businesses over just a few electronically formed sentences.

The need for more trust is increasing exponentially with every connection we make, social or business; the need to have a more robust and scientific way of understanding trust is becoming imperative.


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