The world is facing a crisis in traditional trust. And that’s a good thing. Traditional trust has facilitated a type of god-like leadership and management model based on hierarchy and ego.
A survey of 28,600 young people in 30 countries, published by Viacom in 2017, found that only 2% of trusted politicians and only 9% trusted religious leaders. These astonishing figures are to be celebrated.
Think of the societies where there is huge trust in politicians, religions, and the establishment. These are among the most corrupt, and often the most backward societies on earth. Too much trust breeds contempt, exploitation and neglect.
Young people see the world as imperfect, according to the Viacom survey. “They are losing faith in religious leaders, government and politicians, even in their own judgment. Their approach to life is grounded and realistic, with most saying they “keep it real” and are true to the people they’re closest to. When asked who inspires the most confidence in them, the most common answer was “Mom.””
That’s wonderful. I have great hopes for our younger generations. They are no longer in thrall to politicians, religious leaders, brands, or other ‘great’ leaders. On the other hand, the older generations are flocking to the illusionary certainty of the jingoistic, poisonous nationalism and tribalism that is reaching epidemic proportions right now.
The old model of trust is gone for good. In an educated, connected society—which is the essence of what the Web is facilitating—people question, share and search for opinions. They increasingly make decisions based on use. Is it easy to use? Is it useful?
Right now, I’m trying out a piece of software. I have a 14-day trial and during that period I’ll decide how easy-to-use and how useful this software is. No marketing has any possibility of reaching me. The 10 most important leaders on earth can ring me and plead with me to buy this software. I won’t listen to them. Here’s who I might listen to: People like me who have also used this software. My peers.
Counterintelligence expert Robin Dreeke has written an interesting book on trust. In an interview with Knowledge@Wharton, he outlined his five principles of building trust:
- Suspend your ego.
- Be nonjudgmental.
- Honor reason.
- Validate others.
- Be generous.
Many of these principles can be used, not so much to get people to trust you, but rather to get people to use the products and services you offer. How do you make something useful? Dreeke talks about “trying to understand the human being you’re interacting with, why they have the thoughts they have, how they came to be the human being they are and how they make the choices they make.” That sounds like a good strategy for understanding what is useful to them.
Knowledge@Wharton believes that social media has had a negative impact on trust. Yes, it has made people less trustful of idiotic, arrogant leaders. But social media and artificial intelligence have the revolutionary potential to rewire societies. To help us discover what is truly useful and what is truly important. And many times, yes, the best answers may come from your Mom, or your friend’s Mom, or that teenager in Tokyo who shares exactly the same obsessive hobby as you.