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					A Personal Reflection on the Discussions of Trust

Executive Certificate in Knowledge Management University of Technology, Sydney.

By

Rob Wilkins
For Kim Sbarcea
Lecturer

Introduction This paper will discuss my reflections on participating in the discussion board topics as part of our learning for the Executive Certificate in Knowledge Management. It will reflect my thoughts and feelings on the level of emotion in the discussion, the perceived need for authenticity and validation of information sources from my fellow participants, my intent to be somewhat controversial, the need for context and reciprocity and the role that historical contribution plays in increasing levels of trust. I have tried to capture my thoughts based on those aspects of the discussion that resonated with me, the strongest. An Illustrative Connection Of Trust And How It Is Impacted My reflection led me to try and “make sense” of what role I thought trust played in the context of knowledge management but more importantly (for me), how the states of trust referred to by Maija-Leena Huotari and Mirja Ivonen in their book “Trust in Knowledge Management Systems in Organizations”, are impacted by the influences my fellow participants raised in the discussion. Figure 1 articulates this for me and I will use this as the centrepiece of my reflection. Figure 1 Impacts on the states of Trust.

States of Trust

Impacts

Mental Attitude

Decision of Reliance

Behaviour or Act

Emotion

X X X

X X X

X

Validation

Context

X X

Reciprocity

History

X

X

X

Huotari and Ivonen adhere to the scientific research and natural language that exists: Trust means different things to people but systematically contains 3 things:


A mere mental attitude (prediction and evaluation) towards another agent, a simple disposition; A decision to rely upon the other, i.e., an intention to delegate and trust, which makes the trustor "vulnerable" (Mayer et al., 1995s); A behaviour, i.e., the intentional act of trusting, and the consequent relation between the trustor and the trustee."

I found myself questioning these three states and testing them against my current and held beliefs on trust. I formed the opinion that I fluctuated between each of these states depending on the condition or impact at the time. If the situation was one where there was a lot of emotion involved then I could relate the volatility of the moment and the types of situations where different emotions would impact my trust of an individual. If I feel elation for instance I would have a positive mental attitude, would more than likely favour a person to with a decision to trust and the act or behaviour that would ensue would re-enforce the relationship with that person. Conversely, if I feel anger then all three would tend to be negative and the subsequent trust would be almost nonexistent. Similarly, there was an extensive amount of conversation about the validation of information from experts in order for them to be cited as a trusted source. Whilst it was argued that most of the participants needed to have some validation that the information/knowledge was from a trusted source, there was also some, myself included, that argued that knowledge from a critical mass could be trusted just by sheer weight of agreement. The need for validation however, was observed as an impact on my “states of trust” and in particular on my mental attitude or disposition towards the source as well as my decision to rely on that source. One very strong observation I made is that context has a massive impact on each of the states of trust and influence debate and discussion consistently. As examples or “context” were given, discussion and debate would change and modify based on that context and this would help people form opinion on trust. An example was the debate between self-publishing verses publishing through a recognised authority. Whilst it incorporated the natural debate of validation it also rai8sed questions as to what context the publishing was taking place in. If it was in a reputable Blog for instance then it might be considered a trusted source. If published in a WIKI then maybe not? I concluded that context will impact the states of trust consistently. Reciprocity was an impact that seemed to hold a strong place of consideration amongst the participants. The view was generally held that in order for trust to take place reciprocity was a needed behaviour. I generally think that the impact of reciprocity is required in relationships and impacts the behavioural state of trust. But conversely, if the trust you seek is purely whether to trust a certain piece of information, then reciprocity is not required as an individual takes it upon themselves to “make sense” of whether they can trust the information or not. I therefore concluded that reciprocity was an impact only on the behavioural state of trust. The impact of history is something else I thought needed to be taken into account when considering the impacts on the states of trust. It would appear that the more history a relationship or piece of knowledge has, the more each state of trust is impacted. My observations centred around the research I did for the topic and what in particular I found to be trusted conversations and resources. In addition if you look at what other participants cited in their research it would seem that the longer a connection or piece of knowledge had been in place the more it appeared to be reliable and worth trusting. Observations And Conclusions Drawn For Further Exploration It was beneficial at times to sit back and read/listen to what everyone had to say on our discussion board. It allowed me to think about trust in many ways and its impact on all aspects of my life. I find myself documenting the following observations: I believe trust is idealist in nature and that it needs to be supported with adaptability and acceptance to be a firm behaviour in ones life. My communication style is one in which I seek and the input of others in an effort to build consensus and cooperation when implementing a particular practice or strategy, or when addressing a problem or determining a solution. It would appear that active listening is an essential skill required when desiring trust. While I consider myself to be an effective communicator, I am at the very least my own worst critic with regard to my belief that it is an area I can and should constantly improve upon. Communicating effectively is an extremely difficult task that seems to become more

complicated when one considers the volume and variation of constituents who make up an organisation with the complexities of a large, comprehensive business community. Finally, whilst this conversation brought into focus for me the large diverse dimensions of the subject of trust, my inherently “cultural” views on trust (particularly in my relationships) still hold true and were re-enforced by the discussion. They are:
    



Trust is essential when building relationships. Whether it is with your line managers, colleagues, or family, trust cannot be taken for granted. Trust has to be earned — Unlike many things in life, trust depends on the perception of others and is something that we can't always control. Mistrust of someone often arises because of a behavioural inconsistency. Accept other people's behaviour — Accepting people for who they are, is another way to engender trust. Assess working relationships — You should try to assess the nature of all working relationships. If there is a need for you to work with someone who you do not know whether you can trust then you need to assess on all dimensions. No quick fixes for broken trust — damaged trust can only be retained by building trust the same way it was attained in the first place only the second time around the reciprocity will be harder to engender.

As stated in the discussion, I formed an opinion that Trust is an implicit ingredient of a sensitive Knowledge Management framework within an organisation and unless the organisation takes steps to measure trust as part of an organisation wide cultural diagnostic, then it will struggle to implement a true knowledge-sharing paradigm. The nature of trust and the need for identification of a “person” or “source” was a good topic of discussion and I formed a need to explore this need in more detail in the future. I believe this is generational but have no data with which to prove or dis-prove this theory. However, I do think that we need to understand better how observation of this in a community of practice could help. I think that one of the best ways to foster trust is through Communities of practice (CoP). Based on our discussion and people’s views, I do not think organisations have matured enough, such that, the dependence on face to face contact can be discounted as a significant factor. Conclusion The discussion provided a good learning experience. I have a preference for the asynchronous nature of this discussion as it allows time for thinking and for responses that contain considered thought. Trust is a topic that needs to be continually researched as it’s role in establishing a working KM practice is undeniable, yet it’s fragility when impacted can impact the success or subsequent lack of success depending on what takes place.

Bibliography Trust in knowledge management and systems in organizations [electronic resource] / MaijaLeena Huota Hershey, PA : Idea Group Pub., c2004


				
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Description: Reflections on trust after discussing the topic on-line with graduate students.
Robert Wilkins Robert Wilkins
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