COMMENT ON THIS ARTICLE BY ANGELA DONNELLY, LEGITIMATE LEADERSHIP CANADA: Fascination with game theory, specifically as it relates to co-operative versus self-interested behaviour and outcomes led me to this article. I enjoyed the parallels to the Legitimate Leadership Framework and specifically the important role trust plays when leaders empower their people. Legitimate Leadership argues that TRUST must precede TRUSTWORTHINESS. Leaders take risks when empowering their people because they are required to suspend their need to control the outcomes. The results are no longer predictable. Trusting team members however results in something called positive asymmetry – a lot of upside and little downside. A low-trust approach reduces positive asymmetry. In an effort to avoid being taken advantage of by the untrustworthy few, managers put unnecessary controls in place, and in doing so forgo the asymmetric upside. Low trust eliminates the upside and results in a mindset of distrust and worry. As the article says, a low trust approach might put a floor on how often you get taken advantage of, but it puts a ceiling on what’s possible!
THE ARTICLE: Linear games are won by working harder than others. And the harder other people work, the higher the bar. You need to work harder and harder, just to stay in the same relative position.
Asymmetry is different. Even people who understand asymmetry consistently underestimate its power.
Positive asymmetry happens when you have a lot of upside and little downside. Negative asymmetry is when you have little upside and high downside. Finding hidden or overlooked asymmetry is the key to an unstoppable advantage. And there is a lot of it hiding in plain sight.
Consider trust. A lot of people are slow to trust. Their default level of trust is about 40% and you earn more.
Very few people understand that a low trust approach reduces positive asymmetry.
Most of the time people deserve to be trusted by default. Perhaps 3% of the time they take advantage of you and make you look foolish. In an effort to avoid what happens 3% of the time, people forgo asymmetric upside.
Not only does a low-trust approach eliminate the upside, but you spend your time looking over your shoulder worrying about how someone might take advantage of you. That’s no way to live.
High trust people want to be around other high trust people.
I’m pretty trusting by default. And while some people have taken advantage of me, I still prefer my approach because there is no ceiling on what’s possible. The three largest business deals of my life have all been high-trust deals.
A low-trust approach might put a floor on how often you get taken advantage of, but it puts a ceiling on what’s possible.
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