Posts Tagged ‘trust’

How We Form Judgments of Other People: Female Circumcision, Lying, the Jury System and the Scientists’ “Sacred p<.05"

July 20, 2009

This afternoon I was watching a BBC news report about the new Egyptian law banning female circumcision — the traditional practice of cutting off the clitoris of young girls. A survey revealed that 70% of Egyptian women respondents say they were circumcized. Westerners judge such practices as barbaric. Interviewed by BBC, an Egyptian mother entertains an opposite judgment, namely, that uncircumcized females are unclean. “They must be cleansed. Who will marry them if they are not circumcised? It will bring shame to the family.”

Some of our judgments of people were clearly culturally-dictated. Others were the result of obscure personal decisions we made sometime in the past.

What is your answer to this question: “After how many times that you catch a person lying when you conclude that the person is a liar?”



I asked many of my friends this question. The answer ranges from once to thrice. It is rare that people wait for four or more occasions of lying before concluding that the person in question is a liar. We make a judgment on trustworthiness after we see a behavior pattern repeated only one to three times.

That is how quickly we make conclusions about a person’s untrustworthiness. We are quick to judge untrustworthiness. Trust, on the other hand, takes longer to build. This means that for most people, they do not like to bear the (material) risk or cost of trusting someone whose future action shows he is not trustworthy. To them this cost is more important than the (goodwill) cost from not trusting someone when in fact he is trustworthy. Material costs seem to be more important to most people than goodwill costs.

In the American jury system, if only one juror in twelve entertains reasonable doubt, a man cannot be condemned for a criminal offense. In Scotland, there are fifteen jurors (thanks to Michael Heaney for pointing this out). The reason is that Western legal systems consider the cost (to the individual accused) of condemning an innocent person to be more important than the cost (to the rest of society) of not punishing a guilty person. In the Western mindset, an individual’s rights are paramount.

In modern scientific practice, a conclusion is not accepted for publication if the probability that that conclusion is wrong is more than 5%. This is the “sacred p<.05" criteria among scientists. Scientists' criterion for acceptance is stricter than the jury system. To scientists, getting at the empirical truth is a more strict procedure than establishing criminal guilt in a Western jury system.

There is a big problem from this scientific practice.

If accepting vs. rejecting a scientific hypothesis entails very substantial economic and social consequences (e.g. global warming, cancer from cigarette smoking, etc.), insisting on the "sacred p<.05" criterion is foolish. The social costs of making wrong decisions on hypotheses about the sex life of fruit flies is miniscule compared to the social costs of making wrong decisions on hypotheses about the global climate or cancer from cigarette smoking.

What I am saying is that the p<.05 decision rule is incomplete. It must be weighed by the total planetary costs and benefits of making wrong decisions: the costs and benefits of accepting a hypothesis when in fact it is wrong and the costs and benefits of rejecting it when in fact it is correct.

But back to how people construct their mental models.

Our judgments and assumptions about other people, and the process by which we adopt them, are often unconscious and obscure. Here is a practical way to make them explicit for conscious re-evaluation. Only if these judgments and assumptions are made explicit can we revisit them and ask questions such as: How have they been (unconsciously) affecting my decisions on the person? Are these judgments/assumptions still valid? If not, how do I revise them?

Select a person with whom you have problematic communications or relationship. Let’s call him Reuben. Fill in the following incomplete questions:

Reuben should… (enumerate)
Reuben should not… (enumerate)

What I like about Reuben are… (enumerate)
What I don’t like about Reuben are… (enumerate)

Reuben has a bad habit of… (enumerate)
Reuben has a good habit of… (enumerate)

Just list whatever comes to your mind, without editing or censoring. The objective is to make these judgments and assumptions explicit so that the owner of these judgments and assumptions can objectify and examine them, and see whether they are still valid and scrutinize whether they are based on deeper assumptions that can be further re-examined.

Not doing the above could mean that our communication with the person will continue to be problematic. Since we cannot identify possible root-causes within ourselves, then we continue to be the victims of our own assumptions and we cannot resolve the problematic communication.

These are tools in personal knowledge management and organizational learning. Ability to manage one’s mental models is one of the five disciplines of a learning organization, according to guru Peter Senge.

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L21- On Michael Jackson, or Our Mental Models of People We Know

July 18, 2009

Through our experiences with friends and colleagues, we form a mental model of each person we know.

1. The “Business Card” Stage

When you meet a person for the first time, you tell each other basic facts about yourselves. You exchange business cards (or calling cards or name cards). You get to know superficial information about each other:

  • Name
  • Organizational affiliation
  • Position in the organization
  • Academic “pedigrees”
  • Telephone numbers: direct landline, cellphone, fax line
  • Geographical addresses: work and residence
  • Email address
  • Website of the organization

When you accept each other as a friend or a link in a virtual social network such as Facebook or LinkedIn, the same thing happens when you access each other’s profile page, except that you get usually more information about each other through this medium. Members of social networks can also update, add/modify, decide who gets to see how much about himself and engage in a large variety of voluntary interactions with each other.

People can become “acquaintances” but this is a superficial level of relationship. Most relationships stop at this stage. A small percentage proceeds to the next stage.

2. The “Regularized Communication” Stage

When two people communicate regularly for personal, work-related, social or other reasons, they begin to see behavior patterns of each other and they form mental models of each other. This process is very often an unconscious process on both sides. Our mental model of a person we know consists of:

  • Memories of his actions particularly those that we liked or disliked
  • Personal or work-related qualities we attach to the person based on the pattern of our experiences with him
  • Labels or words we associate with the person
  • Our judgments or attitudes towards the person or how he “measures up” to our own internal standards
  • Our memories of pleasures or hurts we experienced with or due to (in our perception) the person
  • Our level of comfort or trust on the person
  • Etc.

3. The “Mutually Imprisoned” Stage

It is an unfortunate fact that in most cases, we form and revise mental models of people we know largely in an unconscious and therefore unsystematic manner.

Yet, our mental models of people we know, once established inside our heads, affect the way we behave and communicate with those people. They provide screens which color or slant our perceptions of those people. We stop seeing them as they truly are because our mental models act as if we are looking at them through colored eyeglasses or lenses. If our mental models of a person includes a strong judgment we have formed about him, for better or for worse, that person becomes the beneficiary or victim of our (internal) judgment.

We stop seeing people as they truly are because our experiences about him from the past intrude in how we experience him in the present. Our mental models then become our self-inflicted but unconscious mental box or mental prison that dictates how we relate to the person for the rest of our life. Then, we both become the unknowing victims of our unconscious mental models of each other. Unfortunately, we are often unaware that we have entered the “mutually imprisoned” stage.

A common negative result of this tyranny of our mental models of each other is divorce. It is likely that spouses who have come to dislike each other have formed mental models of each other that are no longer true representations of the other person. A well-known positive result of the tyranny of our mental models is the public adulation over Michael Jackson. It is likely that the mental model of Michael Jackson in the mind of a fan is a distant or perhaps distorted representation of the true Michael Jackson. Whether positive or negative, our unconscious mental models can act like tyrants who distort our thinking and seeing without our knowledge and permission.

To escape this stage, we need tools for consciously managing our mental models about people we work with — a pre-requisite for productive learning and working together as a group. We need Indigo Learning Practices.



Thanks to Wikimedia Commons and my acknowledgement to Alan Light for the use of the image in this blog post.

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L14- Voicing

June 22, 2009

If you grew up in North America or Europe and have lived and worked for some time in Asia, you must have experienced something similar to the following scenario in a meeting or conference among Asians:

    Many do not speak their mind in obvious deference to the boss, or for seeming fear of causing disharmony or ruining good interpersonal relationships, or because of a prevailing organizational culture against disagreements. The boss may be authoritative and he may have a habit of browbeating or putting down any idea of his subordinates. Women and juniors noticeably hesitate to speak most likely because they grew up in a culture where they are expected to just listen to men and elders. Opposing or different ideas that are suggested are expressed with painfully too much sugar-coating and diplomatic language.

If you are an Asian who has spent years in North America or Europe, you must have observed meeting or conference scenarios among Westerners similar to the following:

    Speakers are very direct and appear confrontational and even disrespectful. Ideas and counter-ideas fly in all directions and the debate is uncomfortable to Asian ears. The boss is not spared from opposing or critical views. People who are otherwise friends behave so strangely unfriendly and seemingly arrogant when they argue and debate their positions. After the meeting, everyone seems OK and so easily forget the heated and emotional meeting.

Have you personally experienced any of the above?

The manner that people voice their views in a group (including virtual e-group or discussion lists) determines whether and how far learning will happen in the group. If authentic sharing and group learning are objectives of a group, then it is useful for the group members to distinguish what are the more productive from the less productive ways of voicing.

From our experiences at CCLFI, and from the 12 Types of Learning described in another blog post, one way to be more aware of our habitual manners of voicing is through the following 12 Manners of Voicing:


The green areas tend to be more productive for group learning and mutual trust-building, especially those manners of voicing in the dark green area or described in bold letters. The brown areas tend to be less productive, especially the dark brown areas. I highlight respect — both intended and perceived — as a defining factor in how far communication and learning can or cannot proceed productively. This typology must be understood from the context of the earlier 12 Types of Learning.

If you are married or have been married, do you agree with me that during the courtship or dating stage your communications were in the green areas such as 3? After you are married or before you divorced or separated, did you also notice that your communications shifted more towards the brown areas? Couples married for decades stayed in Green Area 3 and/or at least one partner settled in the brown habits in Area 5.

Scientific discourse often lies in Areas 1 and 4. Generative dialogue lies in Areas 1, 3 and 4.

The stereotypically Asian authority-driven habits are also in the brown habits in Area 5 as well as in Areas 6, 10 and 12. These manners of voicing belong to Stage 1 of William Isaac’s four stages of dialogue. The Brown Areas 9-10 are more likely where stereotypically Western habits of speaking would likely land on; these latter manners of voicing belong to Isaac’s Stage 2. I will explain these stages in my later blog posts (L42 and L43).

These are only my personal impressions of stereotypes coming from eight years living in New York and travelling many times to eleven other Western countries; they are not the result of any statistical or scientific study so I may be wrong or inaccurate. My intention is to help us be more aware of our personal habits and unconscious group patterns of communication, and to contribute towards a more conscious and studied way of managing our group communications towards group learning and mutual trust-building.

What do you think?

Can you suggest how we can improve the 12 Manners of Voicing?

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Indigo Learning Practices (L Series)

June 2, 2009

Group learning is superior to individual, isolated learning. Most of us went through school using the individual, competitive and concept-based learning model. There are many reasons to believe that collaborative and practice-based learning will be the next learning model for production, innovation and conflict-prevention in the 21st century:

  • Group learning lies in the indigo quadrant (see lower left cell in the diagram below that clusters KM tools) and major world problems (e.g. global financial crisis and many on-going military conflicts) stem from our lack of knowledge in this quadrant. Read more about this in the blog post “Emerging Indigo Practices.” “Indigo quadrant” is the lower-left or tacit-group quadrant in the expanded KM model described in the blog post “Q27- Combining Megatrends #1 and #2: the Next Societal Innovations” and applied in many subsequent posts.


  • For effective group learning, group members need to learn how to value and nurture mutual trust. Trust is an indigo quality that is the fundamental value driver behind all forms of relationship capital. Trust underlies the worst fears and threats to our planetary society. Read more about this in blog post “A Value Driver behind Relationship Capital.”
  • Two long-term global megatrends converge towards the indigo quadrant. This means that major societal innovations are expected to emerge from the indigo quadrant (see “Q27- Combining Megatrends #1 and #2: the Next Societal Innovations”). Such innovations must steer clearly away from value-destruction and towards value-creation (see “Q25- Robin Hood versus the Sheriff of Nottingham” and “Value-Creating and Value-Destroying Social Innovations”)
  • Because corporate production is basically a group process, then it follows that corporate learning and knowledge conversion/transfer processes must be managed from a group perspective. Many organizational learning and intra-organizational knowledge conversion/transfer tools are available for this purpose (see “Knowledge pathways in a learning organization” and “Appreciating Nonaka’s SECI model”). However, the tools for group learning in the context of a network of equals or parties with different interests are few and less developed. The latter tools are needed for conflict-prevention and similar political processes.
  • Social networks have become very popular. They serve needs for socialization, business and professional purposes, advocacy and sometimes for group learning and group innovation.

This L Series will deal with tools and practices for group learning within a network of equals. We could label this as horizontal or network learning, but I chose the label “indigo learning practices” to emphasize the long-term importance of indigo processes and to remind us that group learning stems from solid personal learning practices. In turn, better personal learning arises from a foundation of mastery of Power of the Third Kind.

Below will be our tentative list of blog topics. If you believe that a topic should be included, please contribute a comment (click the “Comment” link below). Blog topics that had been posted appear as links (colored text) below; while pressing “Ctrl” click on the link to read the blog you want in a new browser tab.

1. Setting a Personal Learning Mode

    L11 Will to self-improve
    L12 Listening
    – Can we manage knowledge? (a practice in listening)
    – Listening (and building cross-cultural relationship capital)
    L13 Learning how to learn
    – The reflective knowledge worker
    – Personal learning history
    L14 Voicing
    – Ask high-value questions
    – The art of interviewing
    L15 Double-loop learning
    – A tool for learning to unlearn: internal “5 why’s”
    L16 Concepts can block learning
    – Your judgment can block your learning
    – Memories (or past experiences) can block (or unblock) learning
    – External attention can block your learning

2. Communicating

    L21- On Michael Jackson, or our mental models of people we know
    – How we form judgments of other people: female circumcision, lying, the jury system and the scientists’ “sacred p<.05"
    – When judgment closes the door to productive communication
    L22 200% listening
    – Internal listening and anger management
    – Listening where mental models of people conflict
    – Listening to life
    L23 What is your communication intent?
    – Tools for conscious shifting of communication ends and means
    – Personal intangible assets and intentions
    – Communication intents behind Indigo Practices
    L24 Announce your communication boundaries
    – Another communication boundary: how far can you self-disclose?
    – When your communication boundaries are breached
    L25 12 types of learning, part 2
    L26 Bohm’s dream: a revolution in how we communicate
    – John Lennon’s dream: a world free of mental boxes and mental fences
    – The dream of Pierre Teilhard de Chardin: humankind’s discovery of the “second fire”

3. Setting a Common Space of Mutual Trust

    L31 Transparency in intentions
    L32 A free and open space for sensing each other’s meanings
    L33 Sensing one another’s internal drivers
    L34 Respect
    L35 Building energy from appreciative sensing
    L36 Sharing your most fulfilling moments
    L37 Process partnering

4. Together We See the Whole

    L41 Story listening: seeing how she sees
    L42 Seeing how we see
    L43 Seeing the forest, not just the trees
    L44 Connecting the cosmic dots: three “Big Bangs”
    L45 Problem-finding then problem-solving
    L46 Sensing the emergent
    L47 Indigo governance: consensual discernment

5. Co-Creating Shared Realities

    L51 “Big Bang #4”?: conscious co-evolution
    L52 From win-win to build-build
    L53 Senge’s “presencing”
    L54 Isaac’s “generative dialogue”
    L55 Co-ownership
    L56 Co-creation
    L57 Bridging leadership

Below is a tentative (and still evolving) mind map of how the above topics are organized.

Building together

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Emerging Indigo Practices

May 28, 2009

From previous blogs, I tried to show that major world problems stem from our lack of knowledge in the indigo quadrant (lower left quadrant in the diagram below):


When two long-term societal megatrends are combined, we discover (see “Q27- Combining Megatrends #1 and #2: the next societal innovations”) that the next significant societal innovations are expected in the indigo quadrant. In my contribution to the book “The Future of Innovation” (to be published by Gower in the autumn of 2009), entitled “The Future of Innovation Must Be Sought in Non-Technological Spheres” I wrote, in part:

    “Mankind has demonstrated that its ability to technologically innovate is far greater than its ability to anticipate, learn and solve the negative social consequences of those innovations…

    Innovation in the future will be driven by common threats confronting mankind. Ironically, most of those threats are man-made. Innovation will proceed in the general direction of preventing and resolving conflicts, governance at all levels, advancing human rights and human security, cross-border agreements in preventing and fighting crime and terrorism, eliminating social exclusions and other social ills that lead to poverty, generating consensus on environmental problems and solutions, and value creation.”

In the specific area of KM, this means that tools, technologies and practices for effectively managing relationship capital would be important. Below is a list of such KM tools (reproduced from a previous blog post: “Practical Hint #17: Tools for Managing Relationship Capital”):

  • Social Network Analysis (SNA), sociogram or stakeholder analysis: Maps and analyzes frequencies of communication, teammate preferences, perceived closeness of interpersonal relationships, degree of agreement/disagreement, etc. between people in a group, organization or network
  • Team building and team learning exercises
  • Setting up a cross-functional KM Team
  • Customer relations management, business development, account management, or business partnership management: Management of relationships with customers, suppliers, partners, etc.
  • Customer clubs and e-communities: strengthens a company’s communication and relationship with customers, allows customers to participate in product improvement or R&D, makes some customers feel special by receiving advanced news or product prototypes, etc.
  • “Customer ba”: Part of the task of some Japanese customer relations managers is to create an affirmative, trusting and creative “relationship space” between himself and the customer.
  • MBTI, Belvin types and other psychological profiling tests: Assessing potential for complementarity and good mix of thinking and working styles among prospective team members
  • Various tools in brand management and marketing which enhance reputation and credibility of the company
  • Various HR/OD tools to enhance employee loyalty and morale: recognitions, honors and awards; policies that allow appropriate decision-making to employees; CEOs that listen e.g. allow direct emails from employees; facilities that show the company cares e.g. day-care facilities within company premises for young children of mother-employees, etc.
  • Group exercise in mind mapping: Allows members to see and better understand the assumptions of other fellow members
  • Professional and personal profiles of staff, Expertise Directory, company White Pages: Facilitates staff in getting to know each other and each other’s skills, expertise and talents
  • Face-to-face meetings and SN functionalities among e-community or e-CoP members: Mutual trust in a virtual CoP or e-community is best nurtured through face-to-face meetings, and through appropriate social network functionalities in the website of the CoP
  • Visioning exercise: Co-creating and contributing to an organization’s vision tend to enhance buy-in and engagement of members in programs, projects and activities aimed at the vision of the organization.
  • Negotiation: collaborative/integrative negotiation training, skills development (thanks to Peter Spence), and related tools in conflict management
  • Leadership (thanks to Peter Spence): one that knows and appreciates many of the above.

Accordingly, I have decided that the next blog series will be on “Indigo Learning Practices.” We will call it the L Series.


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Q22- $8.3 Trillion: Cost to Americans of Disinvestment in Trust?

April 1, 2009

My last two blog posts were about the importance of trust. Let me use financial data to further illustrate this.

Below is a graphical way of disaggregating the market value of a corporation.


The average market-to-book ratio has hovered around 5 since 2000 (I use Yahoo Finance data across more than 200 industry groups). This means that book value contributes only about 20% of market value. Or, intangibles (the pink area in the diagram) — which are mostly the scope of knowledge management — account for about 80% of market value. In other words, intangibles (what accountants almost always do not measure) contribute more than tangibles (what accountants measure) to value creation! This fact is one of the powerful arguments for KM. I have stressed this in my previous blogs (for example, check out “F2- Intangibles: More Essential for Value Creation”)

As of yesterday, March 30, 2009, according to Yahoo Finance, the average market-to-book ratio went down to about 2. Contribution of intangibles to market values went down from 80% to about 50%.

What was lost during the last few months of the global financial crisis? Book value or the tangible assets were basically the same. The skills of employees were basically the same. The processes and structures, the vision and strategy, and the leadership in the corporation hardly change in a few months.

What changed was the trust of the public, and specifically of the buyers and sellers of stocks. Their expections of a corporation’s future income had decreased. What was lost was how stockholders and stock buyers perceive a corporation: its reputation, brand, trust (the text in red in the diagram). They have ceased to trust the corporation. In KM language, the corporation lost stakeholder capital.

According to some estimates, Americans and others who own stocks lost $8.3 trillion as a result of the Wall Street meltdown. Its repercussions around the world resulted to total global losses of at least $50 trillion, according to the Asian Development Bank.

And all because people withdrew their trust!

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A Value Driver behind Relationship Capital

March 30, 2009

My last blog post was about bridging leaders.

A town mayor who is a bridging leader is better able to bring various conflicted social groups in his town to talk and decide together. Why?

Some communities of practice (CoP) prosper and grow, but others do not. Why?

Early this year, Facebook backed off when millions of its users opposed its proposed new Terms of Service. Why?

The purchase order has not yet been received, but an urgent phone call from the president of a company to another fellow Rotarian president of the supplier company is enough for the latter to give instructions to his people to ship the goods immediately. Why?

A customer buys from and discloses her credit card number to the company. Why?

The technical qualifications of two competing consultants were practically equal, so the client chose the consultant they had worked with before. Why?

An ugly rumor sent the stock price of a company down 15% in one day, yet its tangible assets today are basically the same as yesterday’s. Why?

The answer is TRUST. Trust is a fundamental value driver behind all forms of relationship capital. Relationship capital and trust are both intangible yet they produce tangible benefits and outcomes.

Trust underlies the worst fears and threats to our planetary society. Trust underlies the efficient operation — or the threat of collapse — of the global knowledge economy. Trust is so important that we NEED to develop a new science and technology to understand and manage it. Our daunting global problems belie humankind’s ignorance of how to effectively work with this important factor.

The Philippines is a nation threatened by many societal divides: ethnic/upland-vs.-mainstream/lowland, Christian-vs.-Muslim, rich-vs.-poor, communist-vs.-free market, insurgents-vs.-government, Manila-vs.-provinces, etc. At the same time personal relationships are important to the common Filipino. These are some reasons why bridging societal divides and bridging leadership are active and growing development discourses in the Philippines. That is also why scientific research on relationships and social capital is also well-developed here.

The late Filipino psychologist Dr. Virgilio Enriquez developed an ordinal scale of Filipino social interaction, which of course is based on increasing (or deeper) levels of trust:


We really do need to develop a new science and technology of TRUST. What is your opinion on this?

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