Swift trust and incentives to block it

Stowe Boyd reflects on swift trust a way that groups of freelances can work together bypassing the more elaborate bonding processes often invented by organisations. Here’s how he defines it:

..where deep trust activities are deferred or completely put aside — and the team members operate in a social demilitarized zone putting aside long-term obligations and politically-negotiated power arrangements. Instead we join such teams and rapidly assume the role that fits us, people interact based on the nature of the roles that all members play. We suspend our disbelief and agree to trust within the confines of the groups narrowly defined goals.

Reading all of Stowe’s post, which includes some great material by Neil Perkin, I kept thinking of what happens in a few of my favourite improv games.

I wrote the other day about the game one-to-twenty. It shows how a group can co-operate very effectively to achieve a goal without agreeing, still less following an explicit strategy. Rather as Stowe suggests, people get things they want without having to persuade anyone else about it. As I say in that post,

We humans love to post-hoc rationalise and see strategies were there were none – or at least none as simple as we think. And we often get to our goals without ever explicitly agreeing on what our strategy is. That’s an idea though should terrify those who like to talk about “alignment” in organisations

Strip out the strategising and you may create the conditions for swift trust.

Of course in big organisations, talking strategy can be a high status activity – those who are seen to be good at it get the big bucks. That presents a pretty serious impediment to more agile processes happening inside the hierarchy. But it’s not going to stop them happening outside.

Hat tip: Harold Jarche

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