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More on Trust and related matters

I came across this post by Guy Kawasaki, commenting on Seth Godin’s latest book, due out sometime this nonth.

Do read it, what they speak of is very much in tune with what I was saying in my previous post, even though there are a number of things I disagree with.

Here’s what Guy quotes from the book:
For an idea to be spread, it needs to be sent and received.

No one sends an idea unless:

  1. They understand it.
  2. They want it to spread.
  3. They believe that spreading it will enhance their power (reputation, income, friendships) or their peace of mind.
  4. The effort to send the idea is less than the benefits.

No one “gets” an idea unless:

  1. The first impression demands further investigation.
  2. They already understand the foundation ideas necessary to get the new idea.
  3. They trust or respect the sender enough to invest the time.

A number of things occur to me as I read this:

(a) Seth talks about enhancing “power” or peace of mind. I could, if I wanted to, cite the Nohria and Lawrence Four Driver model and connect this to the Drives to Acquire, Learn, Bond and Defend. But I am intrigued by just how often people refuse to accept any form of altruism as a motive to do something. In fact I’m more than intrigued. The reason so many people fail to understand the opensource movement or democratised innovation is precisely this, a failure to understand or accept altruism as a motive for anything. Yes there is peer respect and peer feedback loops and learning and peace of mind. But not at the expense of altruism. If you don’t get that, you won’t get opensource.

(b) I also think people need to accept provisionality is part of the new way of doing things; as Doc says, blogs are provisional. So it may well be that the “sender” of the idea doesn’t understand everything about the idea, but ploughs on regardless. Again, this is a fundamental shift from the past. [Actually it's not that big a shift, it's more an Emperor's-New-Clothes shift. In the past people pretended they understood everything and that everything was accurate and perfect and and and. Now they know different and, at least in the blogosphere, we've started dropping the pretence :-) ]

(c) The two lists can actually be made into one list. The difference between sender and receiver is less distinct than has even been the case before. You could even take the last “receiver” point and say “If you don’t trust or respect yourself, then you will find it hard to blog your ideas.”

Let me summarise. Last time around I spoke about trust, and the Guy post/Seth book do that better than I could. However.

There are at least three concepts that, unless understood, will make it hard for people to grasp what is happening:

  • Altruism
  • Provisionality
  • Sender-receiver concept convergence

People can be altruistic, not everyone wants to find ways of “monetising” and “securitising” everything they do. People can be comfortable with being “provisional” rather than false-certain about things. In the blogosphere, the distinction between sender and recipient is blurred.

Deal with it.

Posted in Four pillars .


5 Responses

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  1. V Ramaswamy says

    Hi JP, great post! Evidently it needs emphasising that altruism can be an end in itself. The Dalai Lama teaches to be “selfish” for higher ends, i.e. to be altruistic. I was fortunate to be apprenticed in purposeful, well-planned altrusim on behalf of the labouring poor of Calcutta. (That’s not soggy sentimental poverty-perpetuating charity.) And I’ve practiced this for a long time. But it always runs foul of the environment. People and institutions cannot accept that someone can be merely altruistic, they are convinced there must be a “personal benefit”, of a tangible or intangible kind. So they also want a cut. Hence altruism by itself faces all kind of impediments. Sadly, even necessary public policy or action (like providing adequate civic services to the needy) can be forgotten about, as the one demanding action and accountability – is held to be compromised. However, if the “altruist” just hangs on and presses on, eventually various positive outcomes do also emerge. Some people do believe in and recognise genuine altruism. Their trust and partnership can be very empowering. I wrote about such an experience, its accessible at: http://shininglight.us/archives/2006/08/the_most_basic_human_right.php

    Best, chutki
    P.S.: I remember in 1979 you and Bertie De Silva (from the English dept) brought out a volume of poems called “Psalms”. I think you had written a poem about a beggar. Yesterday I managed to put up on the net a collection of my poems which I’d been intending to publish for a long time. Would like to invite you to take a look:
    http://inheritance-poesy.blogspot.com Cheers!

  2. Dennis Howlett says

    I’ve not read the book but isn’t Seth’s position this forgetting several things:
    Audiences are built over time based on a plethora of factors including entertainment value. I’m thinking Hugh MacLeod. Check out the comments to see what people value in his cartoons.
    Where does the Long Tail fit into this?
    What about originality of thought?
    Ideas exist in time and space. Much of what’s being said right now is a refinement of past ideas whose time is right. How long have tech industry people been talking collaboration for example and yet this medium seems a near perfect example of fluid collaboration in the distillation of ideas?

  3. JP says

    Chukti, I still have a copy of Psalms. The only issue we ever published…. BTW I believe Bertie does what he said he would do, teaches English.

    Dennis, I guess I can’t comment further until I read the book as well, it wouldn’t be right. I agree with you that many people (a) forget Long Tail effects and decay into Big Think (b) we’ve spoken about collaboration technologies for many years and for once we can do something about it and (c) audiences (like trust) may take time to build.

    That (c) point intrigues me. Maybe it doesn’t take time any more, or maybe it takes less time than it used to. Why? are we more trusting? Do we want to trust more? Are we sick of the trustless world? Have trust search and discovery costs come down? Don’t know, need to think about it.

  4. bladewing says

    This issue is part of how Rageboy became so popular. His rants were gut wrenching and it said a lot about not giving a s#!t about what CEO’s thought. He knew they had it all wrong at the time, and guess what? Early adopters won. Trust in the face of a political/business convergence that spoke a lot about benevolence while bombing children did certainly take a back seat to exploitation and selfishness.

    The US is an unfortunate place to have launched the tech ‘revolution’ mostly because the ideas of altruism have been so badly abused over the past 50 years or so.

    The giant Cadillac of US political might has been ridden roughshod over an increasingly sophisticated world under the guise of ‘making the world safe for democracy’. We, the people are certainly waking up in larger numbers, but it is also a depressing sign that so much of the motivation is competitive. How frustrating to discover that your competitors actually have your best interests in mind! It takes a while to sink in. We’re always waiting for the shark to swoop in.

    I really loved India for the sensation of a long history with egalitarian morals. Open Source collaborative development is making swift changes in the operational status quo that , I think, will ultimately shift the US out of the spotlight, bypassing their xenophobic and manipulative practices in favor of markets that also want to make the world a better place while taking good ideas to market.

    The globe is soon to be a meaningful icon for many many things.

  5. Johnnie Moore says

    Good post, JP. I like your defence of altruism. I wonder if there is another assumption in Seth’s model which is that of us being entirely rational beings. What about the possibility that we sometimes act on impulse? We can rationalise that impulse after the event along Seth’s lines but I’m not sure that rationalisation is the truth of what’s happening. Our play may not always be a game of chess.

    Maybe I’m saying there’s a bit more mystery to life than than is captured in the notion of us as high powered calculating machines…



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