Trust, Cash & Ideas

Redefined within the context of an innovation culture, TRUST takes on a more nontraditional meaning (see January post). Trust propels entrepreneurs to think big, to investigate the unknown and take new ground. However, there’s been a disturbing trend in the US towards an increasing lack of trust among Americans. See chart below.

The percent of people in this country who believe “most people can be trusted” has declined over the last 30 years.

The less trust there is, the less likely people will feel the freedom and safety to think dangerously inventive thoughts that lead to amazing outcomes.

This is not just an American problem. I recently traveled to Greece to share the innovation mindset and process with entrepreneurs there. The idea that trust is a key principle to an innovation mindset and should be a foundational belief within a culture of innovation, was met with rolling eyes and crossing arms. I eventually uncovered that ideas in Greece are like cash in third world countries. 

Cash & Bricks

Common in communities of poverty, handmade bricks form shelters.  On occasion, all four sides will have been started, but more frequently only two or three walls are formed. Sometimes it looks like a second story was started, but not finished. These structures look like someone was building something, ran out of bricks and never returned to the work. Why the partial construction, unfinished walls and shells of a second story? 

Two reasons. One, because cash is scarce in impoverished communities, it is a popular target for thieves. What little cash one might earn, must be protected. But how? There are no doors or windows in makeshift huts and boxes. Two, typically the value of currency is unpredictable and unreliable. On any day, their hard-earned cash might be worth nothing. How can these people retain more of the value of their cash?  

Answer: Bricks! 

Bricks are instruments of stored value. In impoverished communities, where a safe place to lay one’s head at night and to shelter one’s family is the highest life goal, bricks represent value. Bricks are also difficult to steal. As long as they are mortared together, stiff and immovable, the bricks are safe; the value is safe.

The obvious problem: the cash that could have been invested in something better than bricks is gone.  The value is safe and secure, but the brick will never be more than just a brick.

Ideas have great value and unfortunately, in an organization of mistrust, they have to heavily guarded. Where there is no trust, theft could come, according to my Greek friends, by the hands of a stranger, a business partner or even friend. To protect themselves, they hide their ideas away in a safe place, like cinder blocks in a partially constructed wall.

Where there is no trust, people will treat their ideas like third world bricks.

Like cash in a poor village, an idea that is treated like a brick will never be more than just a brick.

IN THE END, nothing strangles innovation like mistrust. But within an organization led by an innovation mindset, where trust is modeled by its leadership, ideas can flourish & grow wild.  Innovation: it’s a culture thing.

Photo by Bernard Hermant on Unsplash

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