How do you count ‘Trust’?

You possibly haven’t heard of the Legatum Institute. Headquartered in London, it offers historical research and current investigation into the principles of prosperity.* A report a few years ago looked into how nations measure their wealth (GDP in the UK, GNP in the States). It quoted Robert Kennedy’s trenchant remarks in 1962:

”Gross National Product (GNP) counts air pollution and cigarette advertising, and ambulances to clear our highways of carnage. It counts special locks for our doors and the jails for the people who break them… Yet it does not allow for the health of our children, the quality of their education or the joy of their play… the beauty of our poetry or the strength of our marriages… It measures neither our wit nor our courage, neither our wisdom nor our learning, neither our compassion nor our devotion to our country. It measures everything, in short, except that which makes life worthwhile.”

 

A cynic’s view?

“He knew the price of everything and the value of nothing.”
I wonder whether Kennedy had read Oscar Wilde’s play Lady Windermere’s Fan? Written in 1892, the phrase is still worth pondering on. The value we place on something we are thinking of purchasing is subjective, and sometimes we all wonder why a friend or family member has spent their hard-earned cash on a product we wouldn’t even consider in our own list of ‘wants’.
Vive la difference

In contrast to the cynic’s view, Legatum seeks to understand what makes life worthwhile and aims to find ways to establish it in the Institute’s Principles of Prosperity Index. One of those unmeasured ‘goods’ is ‘trust’. The institute quotes studies which show that in more trusting societies innovation and investment are better ‘encouraged’.

 

Trust takes many forms.

Here at the Centre for Effective Intelligence we calibrate trust in six dimensions through an underlying concept: ‘trust as dependability or reliability.’

In brief, can you rely on me –
– for my forensic penetration of complex problems?
– for my careful and accurate attention to specific and orderly details?
– for my clarity and capacity to express my thoughts well?
– for my ‘outside the box’ thinking?
– for my ingenious exploration of ideas?
– for my ethical values?

When people speak of ‘trust’ they usually mean just the last in this list.

Of these six, it is normal that you can rely on a colleague for at least one in the list, and usually a few, in spite of your knowing it will not be all of them. However, there is for me a nuance in meaning between ‘dependability and reliability.’
“I rely on my car to start even on a freezing morning.”
“I depend on my car to get me to the office.”

Can you pin-point why I see a difference here, because I am finding it tricky. Maybe I am dancing on a pin-head, like the thirteenth century academic, Thomas Aquinas, who purportedly raised the question albeit in an entirely different context.** In a nutshell, I think I depend on colleagues, because they have knowledge and information that I do not have nor do I have access to it. So I am dependent on their integrity, their foresight and on their reliability to do the tasks they are responsible for. I hope that unravels the meanings a bit further.

 

Trust in big organisations?

From my experience of working inside a variety of big and smaller organisations, there seems to be two aspects of trust that stand out.

• The first is having trust in the structures: is the hierarchy of decision-making clear and reliably practised?
• The second is having trust in the colleagues with whom you work closely: especially do you appreciate how they each think? Not ‘what’ but ‘how’.

Effective Intelligence is focussed on this second aspect of trust: how do your colleagues think? If we refer to the list above, each of the qualities arises from a particular mind-frame, what we here call a ‘thinking-intention’. Viewed from a most simple analysis in Effective Intelligence, we would label the mind-frames either BLUE, RED or GREEN.

In brief, can you rely on me –
– for my forensic penetration of complex problems? BLUE
– for my careful and accurate attention to specific and orderly details? RED
– for my clarity and capacity to express my thoughts well? RED
– for my ‘outside the box’ thinking? GREEN
– for my ingenious exploration of ideas? GREEN
– for my ethical values? BLUE

Of course it is far more complex than this. For depth I suggest you find your own thinking profile: effectiveintelligence.com/yourthinking
It is probably worth 15 minutes now, while this opportunity is still without any charge.

Having a many-sided approach to trust enables me to collaborate with colleagues for what they can bring that is different from my contributions. Unfortunately not every aspect of the dependability list is always and universally welcome. For example, being an ‘outside the box’ dependable thinker means being dependably (annoyingly?) looking elsewhere for inspiration, just when the rest of the team are right at the point of making a decision.

When that happens, what to do? If the decision is urgently needed, and the team has put in a lot of spade-work and amassed relevant information that indicates that the pending decision would be well grounded in good data, then I would go for it and not accept the bid to look further elsewhere. That’s because I am naturally inclined towards getting decisions made as promptly as possible. Other colleagues are more sanguine about delay.

But that could be an age thing. When you are under 40 time has a different ‘feel’ from when you are over 50, let alone over 70!

 

* Q&A with Legatum Partner, Philip Vassiliou This is the world-wide educational mission of Legatum. For those of you who might be familiar with the Brooklyn Institute in the USA, it has similar social and educational ambitions, though focussed only in North America.
** How many angels can dance on the head of a pin? The Guardian: notes and queries

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