A monumental wave of distrust in key institutions – government, media, business, charities – is sweeping the world. While this social transformation should bode ill for humanity and business, Rachel Botsman, author of the highly anticipated book “Who Can You Trust? How Technology Brought Us Together and Why It Might Drive Us Apart” (Hachette, November 2017), says that’s not necessarily the case. Her groundbreaking book explains how we are at the start of the one of the biggest trust shifts in history – and reveals how business leaders should manage it.

Trust, according to Botsman, is like energy; it hasn’t disappeared but it is changing form. It has pivoted away from institutional trust, which flows upwards through organizations, experts and authorities, to distributed trust that lies more with individuals, flowing through networks, platforms and systems. Bitcoin, Airbnb, and Facebook are all examples of this trust shift.

“This crisis is taking place in a landscape of rapidly shifting and evolving technologies, from artificial intelligence to automation to the Internet of Things,” writes Botsman. “We are already trusting algorithms over humans in our daily lives, whether it’s trusting Amazon’s recommendations on what to read or Netflix’s suggestions on what to watch. But this is just the beginning. We will soon be driving around in self-driving cars, trusting our very lives to the unseen hands of technology.”

As a solution, advises Botsman, institutions that are losing people’s trust need to learn to interact with stakeholders through individual people, rather than as faceless entities. Optimism about the reinvention of trust should be taken with a warning to understand the nature of what’s going on. “Without trust, and without an understanding of how it is built, managed, lost and repaired, a society cannot survive, and it certainly cannot thrive,” argues Botsman. “We need to understand the new rules to preserve society’s most precious and fragile asset, trust.”

In an age where people trust strangers more than established brands, how can leaders solidify their trustworthiness? Pre-order “Who Can You Trust?” today to understand how to navigate the new rules of trust in the digital age.

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