Trust me – a two way stream

Black mirror: distributed trust exchange …

2008 a backbone of our modern society seemed to crash – the financial system was collapsing and we all know about the turmoil following.
Today a presumably even more important backbone of society is in danger.


Rachel Botsman – a leading thinker and critically-acclaimed writer on trust in the digital age – describes the deep importance of trust in our society, for business and our social life:

„Without trust, and without an understanding of how it is built, managed, lost and repaired, a society cannot survive, and it certainly cannot thrive. Trust is fundamental to almost every action, relationship and transaction. The emerging trust shift isn’t simply the story of a dizzying upsurge in technology or the rise of new business models. It’s a social and cultural revolution. It’s about us. And it matters.“

It matters a lot – for example to Jackson, who experienced the impact of missing trust the hard way: 

Out of nowhere Jackson got that very hard-nosed email telling him that she quits, right now! She will not answer any further communication – not now and never again in the future.

They had spent years in a trusting, happy relationship. He got to know her when she was quite young. He loved her way to question the world, her fresh unorthodox way to deal with authorities. „Fuck the system“ was one of her favorite sayings. They had so many unique and wonderful experiences traveling the world together.

When he received that farewell letter from her, he immediately questioned himself. He must have done something very wrong for her to quit such a long-term relationship so easily. She never acted that way before, on the contrary, freedom and belonging were core values they shared. It felt like it wasn’t her talking to him. Finally he tried to call her to clear out this grave misunderstanding. But no matter how hard he tried, there was no response. It was separation forever without any warning signal. What made it even worse, was from that moment on, all her friends were unreachable as well. His whole international community of friends shut their doors: loud and clear.

It kept him busy. How could this trustful, deep relationship end in such a way? After some time and investigation, he figured out what happened. He once – just once – spoke about one of her friends with people outside her group of friends. She never clearly said she wouldn’t like that, nor did she explain why she wouldn’t.

Her name is Airbnb – one of the digital giants we grant so much trust and control over our lives – as of now. I exchanged Airbnb with “she” – a human-to-company relationship with a human-to-human relationship, to highlight the mutual relationship and trust aspects in it. 

According to the latest SYZYGY Digital Insight Report „The Digital Consumer in 2019” – a summary of top predictions from major industry trend reports – trust will have an extreme influence for business in 2019. Paul Marsden, Chief Psychologist Officer at SYZYGY AG explains: „In a post-truth world of fake news, propaganda bots and data breaches, expect a trust deficit to grow between consumers and brands. Forrester dubs 2019 the year of ‘Zero Trust’.“ 

Trust is an accompanying currency next to money.
Companies need to handle trust with the same care.

Consumers’ trust in companies, and companies trust in consumers. Both aspects need to be handled much more carefully. Consumers are smartening up and leading digital consultancies like JWT, Accenture, Gartner and R/GA expect consumer-first empowering privacy policies and digital ethics to appeal in 2019. Companies need to professionally design, measure, manage and repair trust on an individual consumer to company level. Trust can be a major competitive advantage or a reason to lose most of the company value within weeks.

Jackson trusted Airbnb for years and recommended it to many of his friends until he got that farewell letter. And Airbnb? How much did they trust Jackson after those years of relationship? Was it a thought through decision to reduce the trust in Jackson to zero after one instance of giving feedback on an Airbnb host outside the Airbnb platform? It was against their policy, ok. 
Their reaction did not increase trust in their policies.

Jackson’s story can be read on Medium:

Digital Exile: How I Got Banned for Life from AirBnB

As of now more than 230.000 medium readers gave the post an applause …

The mission of is to enable the creation, measurement, management and repair of trust in relationships. Trust is the soil for our society, business and social life. It matters!

We need more flowers and less fish

Every time I join the International Management Summit of the SYZYGY AG at one of our locations, there is one very special and surprising moment which tells a lot about SYZYGY. When I check into my hotel room there is always a little present and a personal note waiting for me, written by my CEO, Lars Lehne. So far so good. The amazing thing about it is the kind of present.

Presents tell us a lot about the person giving the present and about the relationship he seeks. There are neutral presents such as the good old Chocolate, Soap, Wine, award winning book on Digital Transformation or my favorite: the empty but company branded notebook. And there are very personal presents. Books with an attitude, books which dare to polarize, books like the last two books Lars Lehne gave us as presents. Both of them reflect his belief system and both of them are dealing with what I call ‘trust patterns’ in collaboration.

The first book is „Give and Take“ from Adam Grant. 

Adam Grant is Wharton’s top-rated professor for seven years straight. He is a leading expert on how we can find motivation and meaning, and live more generous and creative lives. „Give and Take“ is a condensed summary on 20 years of studies on the long-term impact of a giving versus a taking attitude in relationships. Adam Grant and his team at Wharton University studied how those two attitudes influence long-term success in a variety of fields such as sports, law, medicine or business consultancy.

Guess who is on average more successful?
The one who always helps out, always has an open ear, helps you prepare for exams without expecting a direct benefit in return (the basis for trust patterns!)?
Or the one who takes advantage of those givers where ever they can?

 Yes – unfortunately no surprise there – the taker is generally more successful. 

BUT, Adam Grant found something very surprising in the details. Although Takers are on top of the success leader, followed by matchmakers and then givers at the bottom, the most excellent 2% on the very top of the whole scale, above all Takers, are also Givers. The book has a strong message: a giving attitude in relationships is the better long-term strategy for competitive advantage and excellence, but you need to apply it carefully not to burn out and be exploited – which makes you end up at the very bottom of the success scale.

The second book is „The art of possibility“ 

„The art of possibility“ is co-written by Rosamund Stone Zander, a family therapist applying her knowledge on corporate organizations, and her spouse, Benjamin Zander, the famous conductor of the Boston Philharmonic Orchestra. „The art of possibility“ describes how leadership can boost creativity and motivation in organizations. Just like in a famous orchestra.

In one chapter they share an insight they call „Giving an A“. „Giving an A“ describes how people who experience an unconditional retainer of trust in the beginning of a relationship (similar to trust patterns!) are on average much more productive, creative and motivated. It sounds so obvious but yet, how often do we experience just the opposite when we get to know somebody new – that feeling of being tested, that hesitation to grant trust which sometimes nearly feels like suspicion and distrust. It is reflected onto how we see ourselves. We start to distrust our own capabilities and creativity.  

I can highly recommended these two books – and with that said – working at SYZYGY with Lars as our CEO. There is this saying „a fish rots from the head down“, meaning, that the way upper hierarchy levels act and think have an enormous impact on how things are done in an organization. They overwrite any initiative of lower hierarchy levels.
In this case I would like to creatively change the saying into „a flower smells from the head down“ 😉 

We need more flowers and less fish.

Trustpattern #001 “Put it on my tab”

Have you ever experienced that sudden frustration of queuing in a long line in the super-market and noticing that you had forgotten your money? Upset at your own forgetfulness, you think of the hassle you will have to go through such as returning all the items in your basket to their shelf (or hiding them somewhere…?), walking back home and up the stairs in a hurry, fetching your purse (or smartphone or cards) then returning to the supermarket after having to phone your friends to tell them you will be late You would then have to collect the items and queue all over again.

Now imagine that instead the cashier would say “Oh It’s okay. Just pay us next time you come in”. With a feeling of gratefulness and appreciation at this generosity, you would leave the supermarket with a relieved smile.

The concept of “Put it on my tab” is not a new one

The concept of “Put it on my tab” is not a new one and has been with us for some time. Many years ago, the “tab” consisted of a physical tablet or notebook where all these open payments were written down. When I went shopping with my Mum as small boy, this was generally based on the “Put it on my tab” pattern. The pharmacy, the fruit and vegetable shop, the butcher all simply made a note and billed the “family account” at the end of the month. There was no written contract and my Mum was so used to this system that she seldom took money with her – and she always returned to the same shops.

Doesn’t the same happen to us nowadays with many relationship-based business partnerships? We use the mobile phone and get billed later. We use electricity and pay at the end of the month. We use car2go and are billed after usage. Not to forget the invention of the credit card which is based on the same principle. The difference of these examples and the „put it on my tab“ pattern is, that they make you sign a contract to ensure you will pay the bill and your credibility is checked before you are allowed to have that business relationship. „We don’t trust you“ is their initial message.

In the “Put it on my tab” pattern, future payment is ASSUMED and the risk for the lender of not getting paid is accepted. This is an impressive sign of trust and one which encourages us to return as loyal partners. It also imparts a feeling of owing more than just the money you did not pay immediately. You owe loyalty and trust. The pharmacist probably experienced some incidents of fraud, but overall this policy paid off.

In e-commerce there is of course no one-on-one relationship to handle the risk involved in the “Put it on my tab” pattern and there is no pharmacist who knows you personally, but there is real-time data which makes it at least as easy to predict fraud and control the overall sum of losses involved in applying the pattern (more on this in future posts).

Have you ever applied the “Put it on my tab” with friends?

Presumably you have!

Have you ever considered applying the “Put it on my tab” pattern in your customer relationship?

Recently there was an amount of minus 3 Euros in my PayPal account and I was not permitted to use the PayPal payment service until I transferred these 3 Euro from my bank into my PayPal account. As I have been using PayPal for about 15 years, one can imagine how this affected my feeling of loyalty towards them. I was so upset, that I opened a Paydirect account instead – knowing that it would not be as great a product.

Imagine buying at for years and one day at the online checkout your credit card seems to be invalid. How would it feel, if would say, “No problem! We are sending the item. Please transfer the money until end of the month”