100%Open had its annual awayday last week and feedback was positive – we let our hair down, went fishing, co-created our new strategy – that sort of thing. I did learn one unexpectedly profound thing – all about trust. Our Non Exec Chair Kevin Duncan mentioned a book I might want to read – The 5 Dysfunctions of a Team by Patrick Lencioni – in preparation for a session on leadership at 100%Open. I didn’t get very far. Mainly because I was intrigued by one of the first points he makes – the notion of the absence of trust in teams. My first thought was ‘No shit, Sherlock’. Could it be that obvious?
Digging a little deeper it became clearer what the author intended. I found a profound lesson on how trust in teams can be engendered and maintained. It turns out that being trusted mainly hinges on one’s willingness to appear vulnerable within a group. This is quite uncomfortable in business cultures that pride themselves in, well, pride and professionalism. Why would leaders admit weakness, failure or ignorance? Wouldn’t they lose face, influence, respect? Apparently quite the opposite.
So zoom out from there. Think about how to avoid the levels of mistrust that is epidemic concerning business corporations. 100%Open thinks about this constantly because without trust between large and small businesses there can be no open innovation. No new relationships. No new value generation. No new open and vibrant supply chain.
This all put me in mind of a very common reaction from new 100%Open clients when they realise that they are going to have to admit, in public, that they have problems that need solving. And that they don’t have the answers to everything and could use a little help from outside. Part of our job is to reassure people that the process of opening up process is worthwhile, if a little uncomfortable at first. But some corporations find this a big hurdle. They feel too vulnerable and decide that the risk of opening up is too great. But those that do, soon start to realise the advantages of engaging in this way with the outside world. The eventual benefit that they enjoy is to become a trusted partner, with the consequence that exciting innovators are willing to engage with them and come to them first. For their part, entrepreneurs become less reluctant to enter a dialogue with a big faceless organisation. They are able balance worries about intellectual property with benefits of future business collaboration.
So perhaps Lencioni has a wider lesson to businesses beyond that of team dynamics. Perhaps the catastrophic failure in trust in global businesses (and other institutions) can be reversed. Simply by showing a little vulnerability.