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Consortium for Service Innovation


Engage, empower, motivate. 

Trust is so powerful. It is a prerequisite for engaged and inspired knowledge work.  When trust is present, people do better work and more of it. When it is absent, it is a source of great dysfunction.

Trust is the degree to which we believe that people are capable of making good decisions and judgments.  It's the belief that, given the right information and an understanding of the organization's purpose and brand promise, people will do the right thing based on the situation. 

Trust shows up in many ways: 

  • Do we trust our leadership?
  • Do we trust our employees?
  • Do we trust our peers?
  • Do we trust the knowledge process?
  • Do we trust we are being measured fairly and that we will be recognized for our contribution?

The answers must be yes for a healthy knowledge-centered environment. 

Sadly, Gallup reports that 70% of the United States workforce is not engaged in their work. Gallup defines engaged employees as "those who are involved in, enthusiastic about, and committed to their work."  Similarly, the 2014 Edelman Trust Barometer* reports the widest gap ever in the trust factor for both business and government. Only 1 in 5 people believe corporate executives will tell the truth or make ethical and moral decisions!  

Trust is reciprocal, that is, trust begets trust. If I show trust in you, you are more likely to trust me. Most organizational processes are designed to accommodate the weakest performer on the team. They are designed from a basis of mistrust. And while that may minimize the damage the weakest employees do, it also diminishes the engagement of those who are capable. It minimizes the ability of the strongest to contribute in creative ways. The KCS licensing model empowers those who show the ability to consistently make good judgments and who understand the content standard and workflow model to contribute with a high degree of autonomy. It reflects trust in their capability to do the right things.    

Trust also relates to believing in the process. Belief that the appropriate mechanisms are in place to capitalize on our collective experience and will provide people with access to the best information available, at the right time.  Knowledge workers must trust that they will be recognized for their contribution to the knowledge base. Additionally, sustaining knowledge worker engagement requires that the organization provide them with constant visibility to the impact of their contribution. 

Trust is one of those things that takes weeks and months to build and seconds to destroy.  Trust starts at the top of the organization. It is the executives' responsibility to create an environment or culture based on trust.  As executives define and articulate the purpose, vision, values, and brand promise of the organization, the message must be consistent over time. More importantly, executives must consistently demonstrate the purpose, vision, values, and brand promise in their behavior and decision making.  The research shows that leadership integrity is low.  The deck is stacked against leaders based on employee past experience.  This raises the difficulty of an already challenging task: creating a compelling purpose, vision, and brand promise that engages all knowledge workers.

Trust, as a cultural attribute, is critical for a successful adoption of KCS and the ability of the organization to maximize and sustain the benefits of KCS.  Apathetic or unengaged employees are death to any knowledge management initiative. 

Design to enable the most capable.

*Current Edelman Trust Barometer here


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