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Trust: The most valuable commodity in the Universe

Trust: The most valuable commodity in the Universe.

Trust: The bridge between the known and the known.

Trust: The voice that tells you it’s okay to make the leap in the dark. To take that job, buy that house, ask that person to spend the remainder of eternity with you, and you alone.

The Business of Pleasure, like most businesses, but more than most businesses, is built on trust. Every day, every hour, audiences queue up to put down their hard earned pennies in the belief that they (and their partner, their family, their friends, their colleagues, delete as appropriate) will receive an unforgettable and (hopefully) life-changing experience. Whatever that experience may ultimately look, sound, taste or feel like.

And behind very theatre show, concert, and event, every trip and visit to attractions, galleries and theme parks, there are vast unseen chains of collaboration at work, with every individual participant trusting that all the other collaborators contributing to the process will deliver what is expected of them.

For our audiences, our visitors and guests, the trust dynamic is simpler and less scary, because their exposure to uncertainty, their personal vulnerability, is limited to relatively low financial cost and a short window of risk. The easiest way for our customers, our companies' life-blood, to make the decision to purchase our experiences is if they receive a word of mouth recommendation from someone they know and whose opinions they value. This kind of ‘transferred trust’ may also come from a wider search for reassurance which may include online reviews and ratings of the event. Or the trust may be transferred as a result of effective messaging from the event’s marketers and advertisers, which, by achieving high levels of resonance, differentiation and substantiation, reduce the uncertainty and vulnerability further.


But when it comes to longer-term interactions built on trust, we need to have a look under the bonnet to get a better idea of how trust works, kick the tyres a bit, take trust for a spin.

In our dealings with our fellow humans, and the machines increasingly attempting to engage with us, there are two components to trust:

“Can Do?” Is this person (or robot) capable of delivering on the expectations I entrust to them?

“Will Do?” They may have the required competencies, but can I rely on them to engage these competencies effectively, and consistently, on my behalf in order to deliver on my expectations?

A third component also comes into play with human-to-human interactions: ‘Benevolence.’

“Does this person have my best interests at heart?” Are they a warm and caring person who is ‘aware and concerned with the needs and wellbeing of others?’ ...specifically me!

Trust and Leadership

As in most realms of life, there are some natives of The Business of Pleasure who have more influence than others. This, we feel, is the most useful definition of a ‘leader,’ as opposed to a line-manager, political bigwig, or similar functionary higher-up any given corporate ladder. Accepting any leader’s influence involves risk, and it falls to trust once again to reduce our perceptions of vulnerability and uncertainty that ‘following’ anyone naturally arouses. The three factors still apply here, “can do”, “will do” and “benevolence,” but if we drill down a bit further (pun intended) we may, as a recent research paper suggests, identify the role that a leader’s mindfulness may play in winning our trust, for example…

“Can do.” When it comes to perceived ability, greater mindfulness should, it is believed, increase a leader’s ability to view situations less judgementally, with less emotional attachment, and so improve their problem-solving and decision-making. Their greater detachment should also make them more likely to accept input from other team members, feel easier about sharing their personal thoughts and feelings, while generating greater positivity in the form of hope, efficacy, optimism, resilience.

“Will do.” The perception of integrity a leader gives out is ultimately measured in their consistency, both over time and in terms of how closely they live up to what they say they will do. A leader with a high degree of mindfulness should, in theory, be better at regulating both their emotions and behaviour, and so respond to situations on the basis of information presented, a clear picture of aims and constraints, rather than make knee-jerk reactions based on previously established patterns.

“Benevolence.” Generally speaking, a self-aware leader, who can stand back and consider the thoughts and feelings of those around them, is more likely to be thought of as a warm and benevolent person who considers the interests and welfare of others when making decisions.

Of course, so much of the dynamics of trust rely on how closely the values of those we trust are aligned to our own. And this can be a huge force for good. In recent years we have witnessed a huge rise in ‘ethical’ investment, as multi-national corporations, who previously only had eyes for the bottom line, and ruthlessly pursued it at all costs, now seek to win the trust of more environmentally aware investors and consumers. Of course it may just be that the boards of directors of these corporations have all, simultaneously, experienced a Damascene revelation which has transformed them from cut-throat profiteers, polluters and exploiters of unorganised labour to tree-loving, conservationists who believe in both the Brotherhood of Man and the sanctity of Nature… but personally I think that is taking trust, well, just a little too far.

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