In launching the Ritter Academy, I, along with the entire team, are doing something we believe to be unique—creating visual-based knowledge assets and training tools that empower professionals to access, acquire and retain complex information about the rules with which we are to manage digital information. At other education levels, particularly K-12, extensive innovation is occurring in using visual maps to teach. There are a few examples of maps entering college classrooms, and the number is increasing. But we were not aware, as we launched the Academy, of any other initiatives like ours. You wonder each day if the work in which we have invested over five years of development is truly going to make a difference. I know, from my own experience, that the maps empower collaboration, faster analysis, improved teamwork, and strengthened communication. But these truths must be shared, they must be illustrated (truly, our maps do each speak 1,000 words), they must be seen. You wonder sometimes if we are effecting change, or tilting at windmills.
Then, yesterday happened. In a session at the Special Libraries Association annual conference, in a room of a couple hundred people, one of the panelists was asked a question about strategies for how to manage information, and how to meet the need of professionals for continual learning. The panelist, Constance Arb, stated she had an answer she was prepared to give, until she spent time on the phone with Jeffrey Ritter, founder of the Ritter Academy. She then elaborated on how our conversation had exceeded the allotted time, and discussed how that conversation changed her answer, emphasizing several key points we had discussed. She even encouraged the law librarians in the audience to learn more about the Ritter Academy.
Now, that is pretty cool. Afterwards, people were coming up to ask again about me and the Academy. And Constance even expressed her enthusiasm for exploring the Academy when she got home and learning more about our visual-based training assets. So, perhaps we aren’t tilting at windmills. Perhaps with each conversation, we are planting the seeds of change. So, Constance, thank you for the shout-out.
By the way, how was I aware of all of the preceding, particularly since I was not in attendance? Well, it turns out that one of the audience members was my wife!
Every business model of the 20th century is built around managing risk. But no one ever decides to do business because they decide there is no risk– they make a buying decision, or select a business partner, because they affirmatively decide to trust someone. Trust is the essential driver of all purchase decisions. However, it is very rare that you hear a business build its management model around driving and expanding trust. Instead, investment in new technology and new business processes are justified based on the need to reduce or control risk. The time has come to abandon this model – in a global competitive market, where the Internet enables any customer to “route around failure" and select an alternative product or service provider, management must commit to a different model – a model that drives trust as the essential end-product for every decision.
Trust has many dimensions that I will explore through this blog. But, in a wired world, where every customer has access to significant amounts of information about the marketplace, the providers, and their products, trust begins with the most essential atomic element – information itself.
By focusing on the smallest object around which trust is developed, we can illustrate why risk-based management is no longer a functional model. Take, for example, you are browsing of the advertisements for various products on different sites. As a practical, human process, we do not begin to evaluate and compare the information by conducting a risk – based assessment. Our questions are first about understanding the identity of the webpage, the reputation of the operator, the reviews of the products that are available. We are gathering information that allows us to make a decision to affirmatively trust the further details about a product or service which will eventually inform our decision on purchasing the option we prefer.
In evaluating the information we gather, there is another process that occurs, often intuitively. Once the information is gathered, we challenge the information to demonstrate that it meets our criteria for being trusted. Is the information spelled correctly? Are there grammatical errors in the material? Is the presentation consistent with what I expect to see? These are the kinds of questions which are driven by our desire to make an affirmative trust decision, not to evaluate risk.
So, for some time, I have been troubled by the disconnect between risk–based management models and the simple fact that every buying decision is driven by trust evaluations. Does it not make sense that we should evaluate new investments in information technology or improvements in business processes by asking, "How will this new investment improve the trust that is placed by the buyer in our products and our services? How will we measure the results of the investment in improving the trustworthiness of the digital information on which we, and our customers, rely?"
Building digital trust begins by building trust in the smallest atomic element – each word, each phrase and each data object that make up the totality of information on which any business decision, or customer decision, will depend. But the first step is to recognize that continuing to emphasize risks and make investment decisions based on reducing risk, rather than accelerating trust, is a broken model.
I invite your thoughts and/or questions on this subject. Please comment below.