Not long ago, my subscription to the local newspaper expired. The paper sent me a notice asking me to renew for $190, but I was on the road for weeks and didn’t respond to the notice. By the time I returned home, there was a message from them on my voicemail asking if I wanted to renew for $90 instead.
I’ll never trust their promotions again.
Trust is the third of these three forces that will play a major role in our future. In the communication age, trust has assumed an entirely new economic and structural significance. In an industrial economy based on physical resources, trust was important, but if it was broken, few would find out. In today’s electron-based economy, if trust is broken, people tweet it to the world.
Does your phone company ever call you to say, “Hey, we have a lower rate for new customers, and since you have been a valued long-time customer, we are going to give you that lower rate as well”? No, you have to call and complain and threaten to switch to a different phone service. Then they’ll tell you there’s a lower rate. Does that make you trust them more? No, it makes you think, “How long have I been getting ripped off?”
Why do they and so many other businesses continually do things like this? They’re not evil, and they’re not stupid. They just aren’t thinking about building trust into their business plans; they assume it. We can no longer afford to assume trust or to see it as a “soft” value or ancillary trait: it has become the central plank of the twenty-first-century economy.
When it comes to digital relationships, trust is the new currency.
I don’t want to give out my credit card or buy from you if I think you’re going to share my name and information with everyone. The more we dematerialize our world, the more we rely on trust. Trust is the glue that holds the Net-enabled economy together.
Digital trust is the trust that develops between people who will never see or meet each other physically. How do you create digital trust? The same way as any other kind of trust: by operating with honesty and integrity and delivering on your promises. Yet because managing trust is assumed and therefore invisible to them, many companies unwittingly break this rule constantly. How? By the way they do nearly everything, from changing prices (raising or lowering — most recently, Netflix), hiring and firing, changing policies, even rolling out new products and services. And once you lose trust, it’s very difficult to get it back.
Every time you implement any kind of change, this presents an opportunity to escalate trust, or to undermine and diminish it. Before you make the change, ask yourself, “Will this raise, maintain, or diminish trust?” If the change will lower trust, then don’t do it — at least, not in that way. Find a different way to make that change so you at least maintain your current level of trust. (And if you find someone in your organization who can raise the bar on trust, then reward them openly because you get the behaviors you reward, and that is a behavior you want to see repeated.)
For example, when a company lays off thousands of employees, what does that do to the employees who still work there? It depends on how you lay them off. You can let one thousand people go and end up having everyone trust you more — both those who were laid off and those who are still with you. How? By giving them career counseling, re-education, and placement support to make them more re-employable and job-adaptable.
One thing I’m absolutely certain about is that the future is all about relationships, and good relationships are all based on trust.
Create your futureview
Most of the time we occupy ourselves with the questions of the moment, and these by definition tend to be questions of reaction. No wonder the future seems so random and events continually surprise us; why it’s so easy to see success as a crap shoot.
It’s so easy to keep doing things the way we’ve always done. There’s something weirdly reassuring about slipping back into crisis mode. It’s what we know, and that makes it comfortable: a world of effort and lament driven by hindsight and happenstance. Creating your own tomorrow-lab provides a door out of that cycle of reaction and disappointment and leads you to a future of success the future you know is possible.
Remember, massive global technology-enabled transformation is happening. It is transforming how we work, play, learn, live, and do everything. It will do more so tomorrow, and even more so next week. It will bring massive disruption for those who don’t see it coming — and massive opportunity for those who do.
Daniel Burrus is considered one of the world’s leading technology forecasters and business strategists, and is the founder and CEO ofBurrus Research, a research and consulting firm that monitors global advancements in technology driven trends to help clients better understand how technological, social and business forces are converging to create enormous, untapped opportunities. He is the author of six books, including the national bestseller “Flash Foresight: How To See the Invisible and Do the Impossible” as well as the highly acclaimed Technotrends. Be sure to check out Volume 2 of Daniel’s “Know What’s Next Magazine,” an annual publication on strategies for transforming your business and future.