Trust, security, and organization design

Security doesn’t create trust [SATN]

Humans gain trust by interacting and “getting to know” people. Transparent technologies that make it easy to see what people and companies are up to (in a sense the opposite of firewalls) are what help me trust. I like Reagan’s saying: “trust, but verify”. It implies that trust requires means for openness, not firewalls and secretiveness

More wise words from David Reed.

We spend time in the summers on Block Island off the coast of Rhode Island. There’s a little vegetable stand that runs on an honor system; you pick out the fresh vegetable you want and leave your money in a little cash box. It works in that environment.

Anonymity and large scale make those kinds of processes hard. But solutions based on protecting yourself against the risks of anonymity and scale aggravate the problem instead of alleviating it. There is risk associated with opening yourself up either metaphorically or technologically. I think a portion of the answer lies in working from the grassroots up. Inside organizations most of the real work gets done by small groups of people who’ve learned how to trust one another. But how much of their work is overhead generated by having to work around well-intentioned but ultimately fear based rules, regulations, and processes?

One reference worth checking out in this regard is Shoshanna Zuboff’s The Support Economy: Why Corporations are Failing Individuals and the Next Episode of Capitalism, which I’ve mentioned before.

There’s quite a lot going on in this realm right now. Chad Dickerson just ran this interesting column in Infoworld on “the battle for decentralization.” All of the current ferment around Social Software.

There’s an interesting book about organizations published a few years back called Seeing Organizational Patterns : A New Theory and Language of Organizational Design by Bob Keidel. In it he offers the following diagram for understanding the tradeoffs that must be managed in designing organizations. Typically we tend to think only in terms of the tradeoff between control and autonomy. His, richer, model introduces a third point of cooperation and suggests that organization design problems can be treated as looking for a spot somewhere inside the triangle instead of somewhere along one of its edges. The trend has been northward towards more recognition of cooperation and, hopefully, away from stale debates about control or autonomy.