The buzzword word at our Global Business Policy Council CEO Retreat in Cartagena has clearly been “trust”—which we looked at from all angles. There’s a growing lack of trust in our companies, governments, and societies. There’s the ongoing risk of losing it, even at the first hint of a mistake—and then the tremendous challenge of regaining it. For leaders, there’s the imperative to do what’s necessary to restore and protect it, almost at any cost. Trust, in short, is a relationship currency that is always at risk of being depreciated.
One of the questions raised is where technology helps or hurt trust-based relationships. As the forever-young 82-year-old French philosopher and Stanford Professor Michel Serres explains, the digital revolution has redefined our relationships across the board—with time, space, knowledge, work, and, of course, other people. With information (right or wrong) fully and instantly available at our fingertips 24/7, we will always find a source for distrust and skepticism. So, we have to invent new and proper ways of dealing with this transformation, ways of ensuring that technology doesn’t erode but rather helps build trust.
Just like any other relationship, trust requires two parties. Yet, we tend to look at it solely as the accountability of those in leadership positions: executives, government, or other organizational leaders. What about our responsibility—as employees, citizens, partners, friends, followers—to give trust to those we have elected, selected, or otherwise decided to join?
Of course, following this direction would require that we embrace the concepts of presumption of good and forgiveness, and have the confidence that people in leadership positions will learn from their mistakes and therefore need our active support. It’s quite a change from the way Western civilization is going! Yes, there will be mistakes and setbacks, and the leap of faith is undeniable—but what if this was the price to pay for, or rather the beauty of, tomorrow’s world starting today?