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The Fast Company Executive Board is a private, fee-based network of influential leaders, experts, executives, and entrepreneurs who share their insights with our audience.

Why trust is the ultimate key to success

The technology and trust ecosystem is complex and often fragile, and policymakers and companies need to understand the practical, technological, and real-world impacts of policy proposals to avoid unintended consequences.

Why trust is the ultimate key to success
[Gajus / Adobe Stock]

Companies run fast to be first to market, or at least to be in the fast pack creating new markets. While you are sprinting there, build trustworthiness into your product or service now. As technology advances, never has trust been more important.

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There are three reasons for this. First, from a global geopolitical perspective, we have East-West competition over winning the future, including the future of technology, and whether the East and West will trust products and services from the other. Second, cybersecurity—and insecurity—is top of mind for governments, regulators, enterprises, and citizens. Finally, whether you build to grow or grow to sell and exit, the trustworthiness of your product or service meaningfully affects the outcome.

GEOPOLITICAL PRESSURE

On the geopolitical front, the internet, technology, and data itself are sliding to geographic balkanization. Whether due to geopolitical competition, nation-state values, the building of domestic champions, or notions of sovereignty, the trend since the 1990s of building and extending global, interoperable, open, and secure networks is under stress.

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Core to these pressures is trust. Do you trust a product, service, or company in your infrastructure or with your data? Factors that diminish the total addressable market for companies are not good things. To meet these pressures head-on, and even get ahead of them, building trustworthy products and services and supportive corporate-governance structures will be table stakes for those who want to lead the pack into the future. If a lack of trust is the issue, trust is the solution.

CYBER ISSUES

It is now cliché to say cybersecurity matters to governments, regulators, enterprises, and citizens. I accept that. It is just true. Heads of nation-states spend real time on the issue, and it is a “what-keeps-me-up-at-night” issue for CEOs and many consumers too. Businesses need to answer the mail.

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Whatever vertical you are selling into, there is probably a regulator for your customer that is increasingly asking questions about your customer’s supply chain and the cyber state of their operations, data, and protection of their intellectual property. You, as part of their supply chain, are the “third-party” risk. And it’s not just regulators. It’s increasingly contractual clauses and requirements and lawyers. In short, the ecosystem now cares about cybersecurity, and so must you.

TRUST AND YOU

Whether you’re building, partnering, or selling, it matters that you, your product, and your services are trustworthy. In mergers and acquisitions, cyber reviews are becoming common, and the sophistication of the reviews and the required representations and warranties have grown—and continue to grow substantially. The same is true when forging go-to-market or technology partnerships. In the end, whether you have driven trust into your products, services, and corporate governance matters to your ultimate success.

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Governments have a role too. As governments look to deal with the march of technology and the intersection of technology, society, and markets, they should apply a “trust screen” to any policy proposals. Governments and businesses alike need to be sure that policy proposals do not inadvertently undermine trust, security, national security, or privacy while trying to achieve some other policy end or even a trust-related end.

The technology and trust ecosystem is complex and often fragile, and policymakers and companies need to understand the practical, technological, and real-world impacts of policy proposals to avoid unintended consequences. Business leaders have a role to ensure that too—it’s our future.

So build in trust at the start. Not just because it’s the right thing to do, but because the three macro trends driving trust to the pole position are powerful and determinative. We have a long way to go on this trust journey. Whether watching the global regulatory proposals and weighing in or calling a leadership meeting next week and asking where your company is driving trust into your products, the time to build in trust is now.

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Adam Golodner is the Founder and CEO of Vortex Strategic Consulting and the Co-Chair of Trusted Future.

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