What Is Trust?

dancing trust.jpg

Do I trust you?

Why not? Likely we have never met. In this one-way medium, I have no way of knowing who you are. Since I don’t know you, what is the harm in trusting that you will read to the bottom of the page?

A Willingness to Accept

If we go to the dictionary, we will see the word faith defined as "a belief that someone or something is reliable, good, honest, effective; confident expectation of something; hope; reliance on the integrity, strength, ability, surety."

Faith is belief that something will happen. A confident expectation that something will happen. A reliance on the integrity, strength, or ability of something, or surety that something will happen.

Trust is a willingness to accept vulnerability to something outside of one's control. When I put trust in you, I am accepting vulnerability by taking a chance that you could do something to harm me. My willingness to accept that vulnerability hinges on two factors:  what I know about your behavior and how much risk am I taking.

Trust Is Acceptable Uncertainty

In the current relationship that we have, I risk little by trusting you. I am not exposing myself to risk because we are not in a dialogue; you have limited ways to talk back to me. Sure, you can send me an e-mail, or you could call me on the phone and have a chat. You have little risk in this relationship, since this is nothing more than a monologue that you are reading.

You, as the reader, must place a wager on the uncertainties concerning whether I know what I am writing about, whether the material you are reading is worthy of your time, and whether, in the end, you will walk away with something more than what you started with.

How much value do you think you will get from reading this article? How much faith are you placing in the decision to read further? Now 381 words into the article, how confident are you that you will finish, and how confident are you that you will feel different from when you started?

How willing are you to accept the risk of no value?

Why This Couplet on Distrust and Trust?

Over the past few months, I have engaged in a series of discussions about the Material Handling and Logistics Roadmap. In some of these engagements, I facilitated group discussions about 10 major trends in logistics and the key capabilities that supply chain organizations must develop to address these challenging trends.

While I am sensitive to all these trends, and in some form deeply engaged with them, there is one that stands out for me as the most important:  workforce development. In the eyes of many supply chain leaders, the issue of the workforce is in the physical world, in the truck driver shortage, and in the difficulty of attracting people to work in warehouses and distribution centers. While I think these are important concerns, I think they will resolve themselves as labor markets evolve. My workforce development focus is higher in the chain of command, on the managers and leaders of the supply chain.

My focus should not surprise any longtime readers of this publication, or anybody who has seen any of my presentations at professional conferences. While our colleges pump out more people with degrees in Supply Chain and Logistics, I see the pool of knowledge becoming shallow. College graduates have book-based academic knowledge, sometimes broad in content, but lacking any depth of understanding of how the supply chain really works. The passive learning that happens in the classroom, the one “smart” person in the front of the room presenting information masquerading as knowledge and wisdom, is the root cause of the shallow depth of real knowledge I see in my client engagements.

While I support the idea of college degrees that focus on Supply Chain and Logistics, I assert that they are necessary but insufficient to meet the workforce demands of the next decade. These college programs teach the language of the profession, the conceptual ideas behind supply chain and logistics management, but they teach little about the practicalities of the profession.

Supply chain and logistics management are primarily practical arts, the design and physical execution of flowing materials, goods and services from the source to the point of consumption. Effective practitioners understand there are three channels in the supply chain (physical, information, and financial). Exceptional practitioners believe that they have to create knowledge in the organizations they lead, not through necessary but insufficient training, but by engaging the practitioners in their teams to develop trust and then implement ideas that improve that specific supply chain.

Developing knowledge requires trust.

Reintroducing the Process of Creating Knowledge

Two years ago, I wrote a series about creating knowledge, looking at the work of Ikujiro Nonaka, and the concept of a place called ba. In my work related to the workforce development issues highlighted by the MH&L Roadmap, I continue to use the concept of ba as the second stage of knowledge development, when an idea moves from being tacit to explicit at the point in time when someone expresses their idea to another person.

Ba requires trust. As a colleague of mine puts it, he gets so worked up with an idea that he has to stop talking to himself about the idea and talk to someone else who can understand the problem … and the idea. Fear of rejection, because the other person does not understand, does not share the problem, or just does not care about the problem, holds this colleague back from talking about his ideas. In me, he has trust that I will listen, that I share in the problem, that I give a damn about what he has to say.

Here is where TRUST comes into play. The second critical step in creating knowledge is when we make the effort to talk to someone else about our idea. Until we take the leap of faith to become willing to accept uncertainty, our ideas remain unborn. It is only when we accept uncertainty, establish trust, and enter into ba with someone else that we can birth our ideas.  

This article is an acceptance of that uncertainty. Did you read this far? Did I create a level of trust with you? How are you going to express your trust?

This short video by Ze Frank helps make the same points about trust. Notice how long it takes, how much work, to develop the level of trust of the two acrobats. See the scars, and the expressions. Will you invest the additional 3:13 minutes of time for reinforcement of the idea?

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