Trust is not a thing or a destination, but an outcome from a transformation

Trust is not a thing or a destination but an outcome of a transition.

I have written over 214 articles on “trust” over the past 12 years.  I have read endless books and done countless presentations on the topic of TRUST. I have always searched for the relationships between trust and strategy, value, consent, privacy, identity, data and risk.   The well-reasoned articles include Imaging a Digital Strategy starting from TRUST, Trust is not a destination!, How can Brands restore user trust?  A segmentation model based on trust, The relationship between Trust, Risk and Privacy.  This article brings together some of the thinking already explored in previous articles but as the new drawing below.  

It started as I was playing with Laplace to Fourier and back.  These are the transformations between time and frequency.  Whilst time and frequency are related, to move between the domains in maths requires some fancy work.  On either side of the status is TIME and FREQUENCY, and between them are “transformations.”  A bit like our digital transformations, there is the before and the after.   This somehow got me thinking about trust. The before state and the after state, with the transformation being “trust.”  

The before status is untrusted or less trusted, and because of specific actions, the end state will either be more trusting, eventually leading to being trusted (a final state) or less trusted, eventually leading back to untrusted.  “Trust” itself never exists - it happens to be the word we use as the transition or transformation of state.  However, as we socially don’t want to talk about the existing state of trust, I have in you or what status of trust I have after the activities/ actions we use the word “trust” to hide, confuse and remain unclear, perhaps we don’t know ourselves.   

Do you trust me? This is not a very good question; what do you trust me for would be far better, but that is often too raw, so we prefer the former.

Does this framing of trust help?

We might adopt it within the team to allow us to define the starting and endpoints and the journey, avoiding the word naked word “trust.”  We also need to recognise hysteresis, which creates different paths between becoming more trustworthy and either losing trust (time and inaction) or the destruction of trust by action.  I would expect everyone has a different hysteresis, and it will vary by age, experience, value, relationships, chemistry and time.  We are all on the journey, but we also need to determine who is on the journey with us and if we want to walk at the pace of the slowest or leave a few behind.   

Perhaps there is a good reason we find it hard to define trust?