Welcome to the May 2008 Carnival of Trust.  For regular Blog readers, this will be a slight departure from the case analysis format you have come to expect.  But I promise you the trust-related links will still be valuable reading for IP litigators and IP litigants.  And in the spirit of the Carnival, I will now proceed to build your trust in me by following through on that promise.

The Carnival of Trust is a monthly, traveling review of ten of the last month’s best posts related to various aspects of trust in the business world.  It is much like the weekly Blawg Reviews that I post links to and have hosted, but those generally contain far more than ten links.  My job this month was to pick those ten posts for you and provide an introduction to each post that makes you want to click through and read more. 

Do you trust me?  Jeremiah Owyang at Web Strategy by Jeremiah says you do not , unless you are related to me.  But the real point of Owyang’s post and the studies he cites is that people do not trust an unspecified blogger as much as their family or other unspecified news sources.  That is not surprising and even shows good judgment.  As Anne Reed at the Deliberations blog points out, choosing blogs is about developing trust.  You find a few that you like and trust, trust developed by entering that blogger’s conversation and developing confidence in that person’s posts, and based on your trust in those blogs, you begin to find other quality blogs:

I learned the territory one or two blogs at a time, first coming to like and trust a few blogs (and bloggers) and then following their links and blogrolls to others. 

Both the upside and downside of blogs is that you cannot develop an audience, or a community, by simply building an attractive, user-friendly site with good search engine optimization (although if you are going to run a law blog, you should do all of those things.  People may come once for flash, but return visitors and respect within the blogging community is generated with strong, consistent content.

[UPDATE]:  After this entry was posted, there was some more law blog discussion of Owyang’s post and the studies he cites.  In order to preserve the ten post limit, I have posted a May Carnival of Trust Addendum.  Check it out by clicking here for more posts related to whether bloggers are trusted.

Kevin O’Keefe of LexBlog pairs up with his able VP of Client Development Kevin McKeown to advise bloggers and their employers, specifically law bloggers but the post applies more broadly, on how they can build trust with each other by devising a thoughtful corporate blogging policy and by meeting legal ethics standards — click here for the post.

In professional services circles, American Airlines’ serial MD-80 groundings was big news.  Mark Bonkiewicz at World Class Trust argues that American Airlines, and airlines generally, have destroyed much of the public trust they built over decades of excellent service.  And he contends that they have a long road ahead to regain the trust.  But as a frequent flier who spent a lot of time during and around the MD-80 groundings on American Airlines flights, I disagree.  In my experience, American largely handled cancelled flights and frustrated passengers well.  This suggests that trust is subjective, a premise that squares with my personal experience.

Alex Meierhoefer at Leadership and Talent Development for Smart People asks:  Is Trust a matter of Perspective?  He looks at the "trust equation" and contends that trust should not be subjective, or at least is not subjective if parties in business deals, and presumably in politics as well, communicate openly.  The problem with that is assuming open communication assumes trust.  Additionally, sometimes unseen factors enter in to the other party’s decision making causing them to take actions that harm trust because of a lack of information.  Perfect information and decent actors would guarantee trust, but absent perfect information trust will always be at least partially subjective.

 My engineering background does not let me walk away from an equation without some discussion.  And the Carnival of Truth’s own Charlie Green provides an excellent post at his Trust Matters blog discussing a version of the trust equation and providing a self-diagnosis tool which outputs a trust quotient (like an IQ score) on a fifteen point scale.   Here is the equation the diagnostic is based upon:



Where C is credibility, R is reliability, I is intimacy and S is Self-Orientation.  The diagnostic is interesting and the results may surprise you, they did me.  Any tool that helps you take an honest look at yourself is a powerful resource for leaders and managers.  The more honestly we can look at ourselves, the better we can care for and lead our teams.

Instead of using an equation, George Ambler at The Practice of Leadership asks What is Your Trust Rating? by looking at Robert Hurley’s ten primary trust factors.  I like the equation, but the factors get to the same result.  And as leaders, it is critical to evaluate how others perceive our trustworthiness.  So, use the equation or the factors, but take the time to do it either way.

On the subject of trust-based leadership, Victoria Pynchon at the Settle It Now, Negotiation Blog has an excellent guide for maintaining your client’s trust during a difficult negotiation:  How Can I Convince My Client to Lose More than Predicted and Still Maintain My Own Credibility?  The answer is complex and multi-faceted, but it boils down to the fact that you have to get the stakeholders and decision makers face-to-face, get their buy in on resolution as a goal (in addition to winning), explore all avenues of resolution, and you have to let them explore all aspects of the dispute, even those that do not matter.  The last point is a difficult one for lawyers.  As a lawyer you generally want to remain focused on the settlement inputs — money, confidentiality provisions, sale of existing product if something about the product is being changed, etc. — but from a trust perspective it is important that the stakeholders resolve not just those issues that go into a final agreement, but any problems or concerns they have related to the dispute or the parties to the dispute.

And on a related topic, the Patent Baristas have a great post explaining how biotech companies can get past typical stereotypes, and sometimes realities, of doing deals with university tech transfer offices by, among other things, recognizing the other side’s by treating the other side with respect, and appreciating both their needs and their constraints — in other words, developing their trust.

Ed Moed at Measuring Up looks at the importance and power of building a trusted brand for sales:  Build a trusted brand and the possibilities are endless…  He was drawn in to a new diner in his local Whole Foods simply by the power the Whole Foods brand holds for him.  As someone who grocery shops and then eats breakfast with his son at Whole Foods most Saturday mornings, I can appreciate Moed’s point.  If my local Whole Foods opened a restaurant or a diner (we currently make breakfast out of items purchased from the store and eat in a small seating area at the front of the store), I would eat there at my first opportunity.  Is your brand strong enough to draw people in that way?