Trust Trust Baby: Vanilla Ice, Chris Brogan and the Trust Summit

Posted on October 26, 2009. Filed under: Social Media | Tags: , , , , , , , |

Who would have thought that the words of the immortal Vanilla Ice could represent one of the breakout concepts at an intellectual gathering at the august Harvard Club? Well, bestselling author, blogger and social media guru Chris Brogan managed to pay homage to the “Ice Ice Baby” rapper when he reminded the packed house that “Stop. Collaborate. And Listen” represent fundamental concepts in the trust philosophy at the heart of the discussion at the Trust Summit breakfast.

In addition to the cameo by Vanilla Ice, this excellent panel and Q&A on October 23 featured Julien Smith, Brogan’s co-author of the bestseller Trust Agents, and Charles Green and David Maister, co-authors of The Trusted Advisor. Robin Fray Carey of Social Media Today did a fine job moderating the panel. Here are my takeaways from this extremely compelling and informative morning.

Stop. Collaborate. And listen. - Vanilla Ice

What’s Old is New
Don’t forget that business has always been based on relationships. And more importantly, the concept of trust is not new. Trust has always and will always exist and be a key component of any successful business and customer relationship. What’s changed is HOW trust is developed and the ways in which trust can be leveraged to deliver results. Social media represents the newest tool available to deliver those results. As Brogan said, “Social media is a new tool to move the needle.” And when you move the needle (i.e., increase revenues) through trust, you’ve just proven that it works. It’s not necessarily new – it’s just a modern take on an age-old concept.

Trust Agent Cover

Trust Agents

It’s Not Always About the Benjamins
Charlie Green is known for his controversial position that what Harvard Business School is teaching is “dead wrong”. He wants the business world to shift “from competition to commerce.” The single-minded corporate focus on competition and revenues needs to change. In his opinion, the true purpose of a company isn’t to make money, but to make a difference. And if you put out good products that make things better, profits will come.  Where does trust fit into this new paradigm for business?  According to Green, it’s at the very core of this philosophy: “People trust people – they don’t trust companies.”

Don’t Be Afraid to Try…and Fail
It’s another modern take on age-old adage: if at first you don’t succeed, try try again. Julien Smith exhorted the audience to make mistakes and try things out. Despite what we’ve been told, it is actually ok to screw up. Mistakes involve risk-taking. And risk-taking leads to profit. You will develop bonds along the way, thus engendering the trust at the core of the relationship. David Maister echoed this philosophy, reminding us that we’ve become risk mitigation happy, which needs to change because businesses build trust through risk. Simply put, “There is no trust without risk.”

Ask Yourself: What Kind of a Person Are You?
Are you trusted? Are you trusting? Maister reminded the audience that trust only works if you’re the kind of person who can be trusted and trusting. If you can be both, good things will happen. But remember that you need to be interested in other people (news flash!). After all, business is about personal relationships, and if you don’t like people, trust won’t work. It takes a lot of effort, but it will be worth it in the end. You want to be valuable to those you want to attract. And that applies regardless of the media, however or wherever you connect with people.  Julien Smith also focused on the human element. If everything is broken down by technology, then human relationships become the differentiator. And people are people again. Which, in case you’re wondering, is a good thing.

trusted advisor

They wrote the book

I Was Told There’d Be No Math
What role do metrics and measurements play in all of this trust talk? Each panelist agreed that we are “overquantified” and too much focus is placed on quantifiable measurement. Many of the concepts at the heart of this discussion are by their very nature unquantifiable. How do you quantify trust? How do you quantify customer intimacy? You don’t. Well, you don’t unless the trust at the core of the relationship moves the needle.

And we’ve now come full circle. And isn’t that the point?

Want more? Here are some other write-ups of the Trust Summit from Fred Abramson, Andrew Marshall,, Articu-Blog. There’s even a summary from Charles Green himself (and my post is linked!).  And if you’re on Twitter, search #trustsummit to pick up other insights from the event.


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