To Trust or not To Trust

What drives us to trust companies? I just saw a study from Edelman called the Trust Barometer. It talks about the lack of trust people have in business and governments and how it’s changed over time.  For some perspective, the dictionary.com definition of trust is:

Noun
1. Reliance on the integrity, strength, ability, surety, etc., of a person or thing; confidence.
2. Confident expectation of something; hope.

Verb
1.     To have trust or confidence in; rely or depend on.
2.     To believe.
3.     To expect confidently;

Given these definitions, its no surprise that 77% of people in the study trust companies less than they did a year ago. But, there were two things that did intrigue me. The first is that when overlaid together, trust in U.S. business closely follows the S&P 500…almost exactly.  Both go up and down together.  The second thing was that global trust fell for every industry except technology.

With respect to trust and the stock market, the study surmised that trust is key to restoring investor confidence.  And it makes sense that technology is not in the bull’s-eye of blame for the current recession like it was in 2001.  But I think there is more there than these assertions.

I wonder if it isn’t the other way around? Stock performance is key to restoring trust. We all know the saying “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it”.  As people grow confident in the certainty of a payment like a return from our investments, most of us don’t question anything and trust that it will continue. Look at Madoff. Some very intelligent people invested with him. Despite the fact that he continuously beat all other investment performance by a mile, nobody questioned it. Instead we believed and trusted that it would continue.

Could the same be true in technology? Could it be that much like the stock market, as long as tech companies like Apple continue to produce products we love, we trust them?

Maybe we should trust ourselves to question what seems too good? And that trust should be based on knowledge and information? You can see the Trust Barometer at (www.edelman.com/trust) and it would be interesting to hear what those of you who work for tech companies think.  

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