Trust No One

“Trust No One.”

Those were the ominous words I saw recently on a poster promoting the new Harry Potter movie.  In the context of the life and death struggle between the forces of good and evil portrayed in the movie, the warning may well be justified.  However, when that approach migrates from Hollywood fantasy to the workplace, we have a problem.  This is particularly so when your workplace is engaged in an Enterprise 2.0 initiative.  If there is no trust, it’s hard to have community.  Without community, social media tools will struggle to realize their potential behind the firewall.

In a recent post on the importance of trust in community formation, Charles H. Green points to Francis Fukuyama’s book, Trust, which discusses the importance of “social trust.” In that book, Fukuyama defines trust as:

The expectation that arises within a community of regular, honest, and cooperative behavior, based on commonly shared norms, on the part of other members of that community.

He then goes on to explain the great value of trust and community:

The greatest economic efficiency was not necessarily achieved by rational self-interested individuals but rather by groups of individuals who, because of a pre-existing moral community, are able to work together effectively.

It all begins with trust.

In the movie, people were asked to prove their bona fides time and time again before another was willing to trust them. How to do you establish  trustworthiness in a physical or virtual community? Fukuyama tells us that it’s through “regular, honest and cooperative behavior,” resting on a bedrock of shared norms. According to Jeffrey Phillips, trust is earned within the context of realistic expectations and a willingness to work together to achieve a common goal:

Trust has to be earned.  I want to know if we are in error, and I want to fix any mistake we made, any expectation we failed to meet, as quickly and effectively as possible.  Trust should not be predicated on the expectation that your partner will never fail, only that they will do their absolute best to avoid failure, and will admit any mistake and fix the problem as quickly as possible.  Over time, a partner that consistently demonstrates their willingness to work in this manner will gain anyone’s trust.  It is hard to gain trust when there are unrealistic expectations or when there is a blame first mentality.

Overcoming paranoia to create a sense of trust and shared purpose may be one of the biggest challenges for a community manager.  The good news is that most of us long for community, trust and shared purpose.  We just need a little encouragement to achieve it.

[Photo Credit: The Angry Robot]

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The Cost of a Dysfunctional Community

Cynics sneer at what they characterize as the Kumbaya tone of some social media advocates. As far as these cynics (or as they prefer to say, realists)  are concerned, only Pollyanna would make such rosy projections of network effects and community building.  Exhortations to share and share alike, or to just give your personal intellectual property away without charge or expectation of reciprocity are met with disbelief.  This is so far outside the reality of life within many businesses that it’s not surprising that management occasionally finds the social media talk high on new age bromides and low on concrete facts.

One of the problems facing those of us who try to explain the value of Enterprise 2.0 tools is that most companies have not measured the cost to the enterprise of their failure to nurture internal social networks and a spirit of collaboration. Does management know how many deals weren’t closed because expertise was hidden rather than shared? Has management measured the hits to efficiency and effectiveness that result when critical information is buried in a silo rather than easily accessible via the community?  Does management understand the impact that dysfunctional communities have on employee morale and productivity?

Until you’ve counted the cost of a dysfunctional community, how can you properly value the potential benefits of social media tools that could help build and strengthen a healthy community?

[Photo Credit:  Niall Kennedy]

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