Trust is one of those words like "love" or "money" that sound simple but which in reality describes a complex and multi-faceted phenomenon.

For example, most people think that trust is binary - either we trust someone or we don't trust them. In reality, trust is a gradient - there are varying degrees of trust that can be measured and quantified.

These varying degrees of trust can then be correlated to people's behaviour, and we can see how different levels of trust correspond to people's willingness to buy or recommend products or services, or stay with an organisation long term, or go the extra mile to do their job.

What we find is that the relationship is not linear. A 10% increase in trust does not lead to a 10% increase in a particular behaviour. In fact, in some cases a 10% increase in trust can lead to a doubling of desired outcomes.

The reason for this is a well known psychological phenomenon called "Confirmation Bias" - the tendency to filter for information that supports what we already believe. Confirmation Bias acts like a magnifier for trust - and also for distrust!

This is how it works:

If I trust you, then everything you do which supports my belief that you are trustworthy will be noticed and lead to even greater trust. The occasional slip up I will tend to dismiss, telling myself that it is out of character, an aberration. I am less likely to complain if I trust you, and much more likely to recommend you to others.

On the other hand, if I distrust you, I will subconsciously filter for evidence that you are untrustworthy. Every bit of poor service or communication will be taken as proof that you can't be trusted. And if I'm angry about it, then it all adds fuel to my fire. I am much more likely to complain, make a fuss, even take you to court if I see you as untrustworthy.

From this position, it is much harder to earn back trust, as positive acts get dismissed as uncharacteristic and their motives are questioned ("They're just trying to look good to manipulate me.") To find examples of this in action you just have to look at the world of politics.

Because of the trust magnifier effect of Confirmation Bias, looking at how much we are trusted - and finding ways to increase trust - becomes very important.

Most leaders understand that trust is important, and many are right in believing that they, or their organisation, is basically trusted. But to leave it at that would be a mistake. A good set of questions to ask is:

  • How much am I (or my organisation or product) trusted?
  • How much are my competitors trusted?
  • What would be the effect of raising my trust score by 10%

HuTrust® gives a methodology and the data to answer those questions. It also offers a finely tuned and leveraged way to raise levels of trust in the most efficient way possible. In most cases this translates to a very high return on investment for working to raise trust - either as individuals or as an organisation