No Future Without Trust: Embracing the Trust Economy in Uncertain Times

As globally economies face socioeconomic transformations and breakthrough developments such as blockchain and AI rewrite the rules of industry, Trust Futurist Philipp Kristian Diekhoener decodes how companies can make the most of the digital economy by designing and managing for trust.

Most people naturally agree trust matters in our personal and professional lives. Society, culture and relationships rely on mutual trust. Currencies, institutions and the financial system are built on a consensus of shared trust. Whether we hire a candidate, buy lunch or acquire a competitor, it is our trust in expected gain that drives economic activity.

“In the absence of trust, value creation is impossible. It’s the heart of our society and economy, and rarely if ever has trust mattered more than today.”

The “Mental Monopoly” of Trust

Companies, products and services that we trust most realise the most value, because trust creates and sustains demand, both for a company’s stock and for the goods or services it sells.

“Leading businesses and people take trust far beyond hygiene. They build such high levels of trust that their proposition becomes peerless…”

I refer to this as mental monopolies, and they are gold mines. It’s the best way for any organization to future-proof their business. The more it institutionalises trust, the harder it is to outcompete. That is why all companies need to design and manage for trust.

Once trust shifts away from your business to an alternative proposition, it is hard to regain. Whenever trust leaves a system, value leaves with it.

The Commoditisation of Digital Trust

Indeed, technology and digitisation are migrating our trust to digital, data-driven interfaces. By digitally scaling trust, the Trust Economy allows humanity to do business with each other in new and better ways.

Less than a decade ago, many of us would have hesitated before riding in a stranger’s vehicle or using an online dating app. Today, digital trust intermediaries have enabled institutionalised trust so effectively that they convince us to adopt entirely new behaviours. Sleek digital interfaces have set so much of a precedent that we barely think twice before inputting our sensitive data.

“The trust shift towards digital has commoditised trust in a sense, because it allows new players in an industry to ‘trust-hack’ customers away from incumbents.”

Unfortunately for incumbents, having the best people or the most substance is no longer enough if the interface is suboptimal. This is bad news for organisations that rely on legacy trust in their company or brand as a source of revenue. In an increasingly distracted, overstimulated world, great digital interfaces are the preferred place to build trust in the digital age.

A “Trust First” Approach for Workplaces

Whilst the digital economy enables trust with ease and tends to operate on a mode of default trust, our industrialised society is diseased with ‘necessary’ distrust. Most modern organisations operate on these principles (KPIs, performance reviews, line manager approvals, etc). In a world of immense complexity and an ever-increasing pace of change, this disadvantages them greatly.

“Young companies prefer flat, high-autonomy, high-alignment structures that trust people to get the job done.”

They use technology the right way – as a far more flexible, scalable, safe and cost-effective administrator than people, paper and signatures or stamps. New structures enabled by technology are championing a trust-first approach to the future of work, the default modus operandi in the digital economy.

“Whether you see the Trust Economy as a threat or opportunity is ultimately up to you.”

I advocate companies put in place a Trust Strategy – transform their workplaces and value propositions for trust and use digital and data effectively and responsibly in the process. My team and I put great effort into building the blueprint for companies to do this. And make the most of the digital economy by designing and managing for trust.