I spend some time volunteering at Crossroads Foundations which is housed in the old Perowne Barracks near Gold Coast in Tuen Mun, former home to the Brigade of Gurkhas. One of my recent tasks was to repaint the guard house at the entrance of the barracks. It is a round structure with the armoury in the middle. The picture shows the entrance to the armoury which opens to the office and the front gate. I wondered why the only way to get access to the weapons is facing the outside world and not the soldiers within to access it quickly in case of attack? One possible answer I could think of is . . .
trust. Were the highly trained soldiers who could effectively use the weapons trusted less than weapons-ignorant civilians? I'm sure a military expert could tell me the real reason for the layout of the building!
This idea of trust levels got me thinking. Back in the old days of black and white television, you could always tell the bad guys in the cowboy movies by the fact that they wore black hats. The hero, who was always good and noble, wore a white hat! Modern movies, however are much more nuanced, the "good" hero will often have a character flaw, and the "bad" guy will have some redeeming quality. And so it is in real life, trust in others is rarely an all or nothing affair. We can trust in some things, but not others. However, we tend to try to reduce everything to a white hat / back hat scenario, or at least I do! Understanding that not only do our personal network has nodes (contacts), but the connectione between those nodes have different "thicknesses" (i.e. trust levels) is an important PKM principle.
This also applies to the organisations or groups for which we are trying to manage knowledge. Trust is a critical factor in enabling knowledge to flow through the organisation. Knowing that there are different levels of trust can help KM practitioners in their quest for better knowledge flow. Firstly, everyone in the organisations does not have to be "bffs" with everyone else, but improving the culture within the organisation with lift the overall trust level. Secondly, there will be pockets of higher trust, such as within a department or local office, which is perfectly acceptable. Finally, knowledge flows along lines of trust, the better the trust, the higher the quality of knowledge that is shared. A social network analysis will indicate where those trust lines are and a process analysis will indicate where the knowledge needs to flow. Comparing the two will show where the lines of trust are missing and need to be developed to get the knowledge to flow more effectively.
Using a nuanced approach to trust, or any other quality for that matter, can make you a more effective KM practitioner. And next time you hear some know-it-all talk about "bad guys", or specific groups of people, remember all cowboy hats are grey.