Trusting ourselves and each other


Word trust in three languages (source: Peskovnik: http://www.peskovnik.org/).

I have always been asking myself what it takes for us to feel that we can do meaningful things. Move mountains. Accomplish things and reach such great results that are beyond our wildest imagination.

And why are people, institutions, and countries often stuck in their ways? Dissatisfied with their situation, while having hard time to get things going and make a change? What is there stopping us? Is it something as basic as fear and lack of trust in ourselves and each other?

I have observed that in too many situations, be it at work or in everyday life—we attempt to address things too technically, thinking that our intellect and logic will do the job. If it makes sense, then surely it will give us the result we want. We focus solely on using our brains, but we forget that we also have our hearts and emotions. They play an important role when it comes to trust.

According to the OECD, trust is essential for key economic activities, most notably finance. Trust in institutions is important for the success of government policies, programs, and regulations as they most often depend on cooperation and compliance of people.

In today’s very dynamic and complex world, one can observe a global decline in willingness to trust. The recent economic and financial crisis and its aftermath caused people, institutions and countries to be—often unintentionally—closing down. And this has happened in spite of their wish to be rather opening up. Especially recently, we’ve been observing a lot of signs that confirm this. Now, is there anything that we can do about it to change this trend?

Analysis of trust rests on behavioral science and experimental economics.[1] However, an important question is whether in the finance sector[2] that appreciates facts and figures actors can accept that analyzing the concept of trust is worth attention. Studies support my observation that it is. It, however, requires emotional energy as it is linked to a wide range of non-technical concepts, like fear, pain, and confidence. Being willing to trust brings along fear of exposure. Trusting means taking the risk of getting hurt. It also means to be willing to let go of power. This can be really scary for many of us, but certainly worth consideration.

It is common knowledge that trust needs to be earned. We know very well that it takes a long time to develop and only a moment to lose. I recently came across Covey’s bestseller “The Speed of Trust”. He claims that “contrary to what most people believe, trust is not some soft, illusive quality, that you either have or you don’t; rather, trust is pragmatic, tangible, actionable asset that you can create—much faster that you probably think possible.[3] Providing recipes for success on such a complex concept as trust can be problematic. Nevertheless, the book highlights elements that seem important for developing trust at different levels in our society. It brings tangibility and factuality to the otherwise “hidden dimension” and is certainly worth reading.

There are signs of changes in our understanding of the role that trust plays. Just two weeks ago I joined a short workshop in Ljubljana, part of the “Europa Unfinished Masterpiece” project. This unconventional project highlights the importance of using our hearts and senses, not just minds, and gives attention to concepts in support of developing trust.

I encourage us all to pay attention to how we can increase the level of trust that we have in ourselves and each other. This will help us as individuals, institutions, and countries to open up, let go, connect, share knowledge, learn how to effectively communicate and collaborate—and as a result—deal with the challenges that we have to solve and the changes that we have to make.

 

[1] Discussed at the Bled Strategic Forum 2016 (Hidden Dimensions: The Key Disruption of the Future (Needs to be Trust)).

[2] We at the CEF support capacity development for finance officials in South East Europe through learning. The CEF’s learning program focuses on the technical topics of public financial management, tax policy and administration, and central banking. Our experience has shown us that knowledge in a particular technical area (like, for instance, program and performance budgeting) cannot alone support individuals, institutions, and countries to push their reform agendas forward. Instead, when managing reforms, attention must also be devoted to non-technical or leadership-related areas. They are all linked to the concept of trust.

[3] Covey, S.M.R. with Merrill, R.R., 2008. The Speed of Trust: The One Thing that Changes Everything. New York: Free Press.


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About Jana Repanšek

Jana has a deep interest in how institutions learn, in particular the social and human enablers of learning and knowledge sharing. She believes that institutions can transform by focusing on people: strengthening trust among them; motivating with high standards, optimism and clear communication; promoting flexibility, openness and out-of-the-box thinking, and forming alliances.

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