Trust Me. No, Really. How Organizations, People, and the Social Web Are Reinventing Trust

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According to Field, once a branch of the military embraces the social web, it implements an effort just like any other initiative. From the policy doctrines developed by the Air Force to public relations efforts of the Navy, the military appears to be progressing rapidly in embracing and utilizing the social web.

"The Navy invited high-profile military bloggers, policymakers, and technologists to spend the night on an air craft carrier. The guests spent 24 hours living the life and had unfettered access to the captain and crew," said Field. "Bloggers talked about the experience, the size, scope, and what it takes to keep a floating city operational. This was brilliant from a public communications standpoint. That one event was worth six figures in campaign dollars."

Steve Radick, an associate at Washington, D.C.-based consulting firm Booz Allen Hamilton, has watched a similar evolution with the U.S. government. Three years ago, Radick began to see social media and technology having a bigger impact in government than it did previously. Intellipedia, a wiki for the intelligence community, launched, and agencies began using blogs and finding better ways to collaborate across firewalls.

As one of the leads at Booz Allen Hamilton for the company's Government 2.0 practice, Radick's objective is to use technology to transform the way government operates. He insists that the most important piece of helping U.S. government agencies become more transparent and collaborative rests in the hands of the people and in the processes they employ.

"All of this Government 2.0 is not about the technology. It is about what the technology enables us to do," says Radick. "I want to see an iterative process, so that it doesn't become a ‘check the box' process. I want it to become a new culture of government, created by continuous guidance and engagement over time."

Since the launch of President Obama's "Transparency and Open Government" directive, Radick has been party to varying discussions on what should be accessible and what should remain behind the curtain. He advocates assessing the cost of making something accessible before opening the virtual filing cabinet and letting the world in.

"The key is finding balance. We know we need to be more transparent, but when do we reach the point of diminishing returns? I've seen suggestions for making every government employee's Outlook calendars available. Who is going to work for the government if that happens?" asked Radick.

According to a June 2009 USA TODAY/Gallop poll, regaining the confidence of the American people could be a greater challenge for big business than for the government. On asking, "In your opinion, which of the following will be the biggest threat to the country in the future: big business, big labor, or big government?" the results show an increase from 24% to 32% for big business from 1999 to 2009 and a decrease for government, from 65% to 55%, in the same time period. Big labor increased slightly, from 8% to 10%.

In People We Trust
An adjunct professor at George Washington University, Brian Reich, believes trust can be achieved if organizations leverage the technology that is now accessible to all. The trust disconnect between organizations or the government and the general public is expanding because the possibility of problem solving, and an organization's decision to ignore it, is becoming common knowledge.

Reich believes all organizations miss an opportunity when they let a good disaster go to waste. From the financial crisis to the meteoric fall of big corporations, he wants organizations and communities to hit the reset button and start fresh. He is "underwhelmed" with what organizations are doing right now, considering the power of the tools available to them.

"There are so many things symptomatic of the problem, such as legacy symptoms and people. Very few can demonstrate success like what Scott Monty has done" as digital and multimedia communications manager at Ford. "The company could have decided to take government money and go in one direction. Instead, they decided to go in a different direction to re-earn the trust of the American public. Social media has been a facilitator for a lot of that," said Reich.

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