Trust and mistrust

Mistrust is potentially as valuable as trust because when properly managed, it can help to counter our human tendency towards confirmation bias – a tendency to see what we want to see. We are heavily influenced by social stereotypes, and as individuals we believe we have better than average judgment about whom to trust. Maintaining a degree of ‘prudent paranoia’ (Kramer, 2009) helps reawaken our sense of danger, and serves as a early warning system that reminds us to gather more information about our situation.

The possible dangers of being too trusting lie in the fact that trust entails risk. People often go to great lengths to appear the opposite of what they really are, backing themselves up with what appear to be hard data to counter the concerns of others. Evidence like this can be difficult to ignore because it seems more credible than paranoia. It is relatively easy for organisations and governments to manipulate facts, impressions, and interpretations so that they seem acceptable.

Business is fundamentally about making connections between people, so a degree of trust between individuals and teams is critical to success. However, the articles by Kramer (2009) argue convincingly that there is also a need to temper our tendency to over-trust.

(Source: Kramer, 2009, cited in B325 website).

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