Before you get outraged at the title and rush to answer 'yes' of course, let's actually step back and look at this one. Over the last few years we've seen a sharp increase in the amount of 'stuff' (yeah, you can tell this article will be scientific eh?) that's available, we're sharing more than ever and that's a good thing. The downside is that there's a greater than ever opportunity for the bad side to rear its ugly head too; plagiarism, rip-offs and cyber-bullying to name a few.
Once upon a time we used to share our stuff directly with a few people. Sometimes we'd even publish something and it would get shared with more and if you were famous you'd even make television. Nowadays the most humble and even the most limited of individuals can reach a potential audience of millions upon millions with nothing more than a few swipes of their thumb. So does trust play a part in this?
It really does depend, so let's start with the extremities where the answer is simpler. If you're pushing stuff out publicly via Facebook (open to all or with options that allow that to happen), Twitter via a general tweet or a public post on LinkedIn or your blog site the answer is actually 'no, not really'. If you're reading this from your mental asylum (it does explain some things) or raging at what I'm saying that's fine - it doesn't directly hurt me and I feel comfortable sharing my thoughts here for anyone (and yes, I mean anyone) to get to, reply, discuss, agree, disagree etc. If you're in the public domain and it's right out there then whether you trust those that get it or not is irrelevant - you simply can't trust everyone who could read it could you?
On the other end of the scale maybe you have an intimate circle of families/friends/mentor type relationship. These relationships are pivotal on trust and it's a bond that often takes years to build (and an instant to destroy if you break that trust). I don't think many of us would argue that these small and intense relationships require a level of trust to be able to share things that you probably wouldn't want broadcasted.
The difficulty comes in between; what about a small internal network or circle that you share things with first before going public if at all? I know there's a lot of circles (hey, I've even joined a (the) NZ WOL circle recently) and it seems logical that some like-minded individuals come together there. How important is it that they trust each other? Again it depends on the situation, there's a level of trust to me that seems to be directly proportional to the level of intimacy of the situation. What I mean by that is that if I'm sharing something I really don't want to 'get out' then I must really trust that person. That doesn't necessarily mean that by not sharing those things we don't explicitly trust those around us, it just means there's levels of trust and sharing.
It comes to a point I made in an earlier blog this week about what's the biggest threat to
doing the right thing where I revealed one of the big problems is our tendency to see things in black and white. Trust is a sliding scale. Who would you trust with your life? Very few people I would expect, despite the fact that if you entrusted a large number of people with it they would probably take extraordinary care with it (in fact I remember an article a while back of people guarding other people's stuff more vigilantly than their own). What about your career? Your current job? Your wallet? Your daily report? The weather? A news item? A bit of gossip? A dollar? You see it's a sliding scale and our networks are probably built around a level of trust that we and the others in our group feel comfortable with.
The question someone raised today in #pkmchat was what would happen if someone in the group betrayed that trust. My response is that the group and individual would do what they always do, they would evolve around the issue and become slightly different. Maybe that would mean the person would leave the group and the group would adjust its level of trust within, maybe the group would exclude the member and maybe things would return to normal. The answer again is a greyscale not black and white and it will always depend on the breach and the personalities involved.
So here's my offering as to how to move beyond some of the trust issues. I tend to work out loud (before it was WOL and after) and say for the most part this is what I do, this is what has happened and what I've found. Sometimes I'm right and here it is for celebration. Sometimes I'm wrong and here's the learnings so far - or even, can anyone help? I think WOL can be a really effective counter to trust issues we may have. If someone has guns out for me and I share my learnings (you can call them failures if you will) it kind of takes away a lot of their ammunition (watch the end of 8Mile to catch my drift here). What do you say to someone who says 'sorry, screwed up when we did that and this is the learning'? You can shout, you can rant but if they're truly working out loud, they'll just apply that and move on and let you and everyone else know about it. So to me, trust in the wider sense is less of an issue.
There's also a way to counter-act trust issues in smaller groups and circles. Here the important thing is to have integrity. Now integrity is a really easy word to throw around, but what I really mean by it is that when you talk to private small groups, be mindful of what you say and consider carefully the feelings of others. If that sounds a bit hammy, maybe it is, but if I talk to different people I'm always mindful of what I say about others. I don't like the political games of playing people off against each other. I've seen too many people run down one person when with one group and another with another (does that make sense!). I remember an old boss was once described to me as someone who ran with the foxes and hunted with the hounds. It's that duplicity or lack of trust that actually puts relationships at risk. To me that means that the trust issue may actually lie as much with yourself as the others that you perceive untrustworthy. Mmm... I'm not totally convinced of my own point here - but hopefully you can see where I'm going with it! If you've got the integrity to not put others down and keep yourself above that level you're less likely to run into many of these trust issues. I'd also like to say I've learned some of this from my own actions over the years, life in perpetual beta will allow you to work through that...
So, back to the original question is trust a key part? I say yes, it's important first and foremost to be trustworthy yourself - maintain your integrity no matter what. If you work this way and at least use some of the principles of WOL and sharing the outcomes and learnings then for the most part the answer is actually 'not so much'. Of course those smallest and most intimate groups will always be built on trust - just don't take them for granted.
Yeah or nah? Happy to discuss further...