The design of trust
With uncertainty and change, our focus and values as a society are beginning to shift. As we move from self-actualisation to the necessities of safety and security, trust becomes the crucial underwriter for society. What does this mean for products and services of the post-covid world?
Value will change in the post-covid world
We have seen value created and destroyed overnight — the US travel industry is projected to lose $500 billion in 2020, while Zoom watched their user base swell from 10 million to 200 million within 3 months. Toilet paper has become hot property just as the price of oil dipped below zero.
With uncertainty and change, our focus and values as a society are beginning to shift.
As we move from self-actualisation to the necessities of safety and security, trust becomes the crucial underwriter for society.
What does this mean for products and services of the post-covid world?
We need to start designing for trust
Value will shift towards products and services designed on a foundation of trust. In the context of this new paradigm, two themes arise:
- Power of the collective to solve issues of scale. Trust brings people together. Products built on a foundation of trust enable scalable behaviour change and collective impact. If we are to tackle issues such as the global pandemic or climate change, we need to harness the collective power of society.
- Trust will become the key to unlocking value in a post-covid world. Already we have seen the power of trust in driving collaborative consumption and the sharing economy. Products built on trust will be the ones that align with new values to drive innovation and adoption.
Navigating the global pandemic will come down to trust and power of the collective.
Trust is a fluid and fragile relationship
First, we need to understand what is ‘trust’?
- A choice to enter a relationship. When we choose to trust, we are choosing to be vulnerable and to take a risk.
- Fluid and fragile. Trust is a shared understanding influenced by all parties. It is hard to build and easy to lose. See the Public Goods Game and Prisoner’s Dilemma.
- The core of value exchange. Trust is the value realised in social and economic interactions — it sits at the core of all value exchange.
Trust starts with empathy
Trust and reciprocation are intertwined in a feedback loop — reciprocation drives trust, and vice versa — one without the other results in a breakdown of trust.
Our ability to trust and reciprocate is determined by our ability to take perspectives. Cognitive scientists call this the Theory of Mind — a closely related cousin of empathy.
Our ability to consider the thoughts and feelings of others is the key factor that enables us to forgive and coax others to continue the cycle of trust.
At its core, trust is about empathy — to build trust, we need to consider what others think and feel about us.
Trust starts with empathy
Three drivers that build trust
We need to think about how other people see our:
- Perceived ability. What do people think you can do? Can you really do what you say?
- Benevolence. What do people think your purpose is? Do you have their best interests at heart? Can they feel that?
- Integrity. What do people think you will do? Will you really do what you say?
The Three Drivers of Trust — what would convince you to take the leap?
Trust builds in stages
Zooming out to a higher resolution, we begin to see trust as a cyclical relationship with distinct stages and needs.
- Perception: first impressions matter. Transparency and reputation systems enable you to create the right perception of your product — this lays the foundations for trust building
- Temptation: a gesture prompts users to take action. What is your value proposition? Is your product desirable? Does it solve a real need for users to take the leap?
- Connection: be benevolent and show you care. Empathy will help you cut through the noise to become ‘the right choice’. How can you show you have your users’ best interests at heart?
- Validation: this is where trust begins to form into a relationship and social contract — validate your user’s decision to give your product a go. Provide users with control and deliver on your promises.
- Attachment: engage users and develop a new status quo. Leverage the principles of behavioural design and the Switching Model to help users develop new habits
- Affiliation: you’ve won people over and they become advocates for your product.
Trust needs alignment
Aligning your ask with your user’s level of trust is the final key. A hierarchy of trust exists — basic trust needs must be met before a relationship can progress to higher levels of trust.
If your product asks too much of the user, you’ll scare them off before you have a chance to build the relationship.
Gauge where your users’ current level of trust is. Don’t make demands for high levels of commitment until you have addressed the most basic trust needs.
Hierarchy of Trust Needs
Value is changing. Products and services built on a foundation of trust will be the ones that bridge trust gaps, solve issues of scale and unlock value in the post-covid world. To start designing for trust:
- Understand that trust is a fluid and fragile relationship
- Start with empathy. Do users think you have ability, benevolence and integrity?
- Look at your products through the lenses of the Trust Economy Model and Hierarchy of Trust
In my next blog, we’ll look at applying these theories of trust as a framework for designing products and services in a world of shifting values. Stay tuned!