Day 20 – T: Trust

Trust is the degree to which a person is willing to act on the basis of another’s words, behaviours or judgements. Source: D.J. McAllister, ‘Affect and cognition-based trust as foundations for interpersonal cooperation in organizations’, Academy of Management Journal, vol.38, no.1,1995, pp. 24-59

After spending over a decade in Knowledge Management, I am convinced that one of the most important enablers for promoting knowledge sharing initiatives is ‘Trust’. It is this rather innocuous word used sparingly in the Knowledge Management agenda that more often than not define the success of a programme. Recently I did some search around ‘Trust’ as a concept. I realised that trust has multiple dimensions and can be categorised in more than one way.

I wanted to share Newell & Swan’s (2000) three-dimensional framework which I was able to relate to the most based on the work conducted by me during my professional career. Please refer the table below for more details.


Companion based trust is the strongest form of trust and is developed over time. One of the key levers for this type of trust to flourish pertains to interactions that happen among people (from a KM standpoint, peers).

Competency based tasks is linked to the perception of a person’s ability to carry out a task in an effective manner while the third type is associated with contractual obligations that one enters into.

At work all three elements of trust come into play. For example, when two colleagues who have known each other for a fairly long time, come together and collaborate on a common project, the first two types of trust are in action. The fact that they are well acquainted with each other results in confidence. It also helps as the two parties possess the knowledge on how they had performed in earlier projects.

It is important to note though that trust among individuals is not enough. Trust needs to exist in groups, peers and organisations. A case in point is the successful Communities of Practice (CoP) set up within organisations. If an analysis is done to ascertain the reasons for successful CoPs, trust among its members would rank higher than any other reason.

I recently came across a great article on Trust and Knowledge Management on the website of ARUP. The article states that ‘knowledge management thrives in organisations where there are high levels of trust’ and should be read by all Knowledge professionals. You may click here to read the full article.

Reference for this post: Knowledge Management in Organizations by Donald Hislop (Publisher: Oxford University Press)


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