By Rob Reiche October 22, 2018
Facing change is always a challenge. However when change shifts the whole context of our common experience, we are dealing with a revolution.
Klaus Schwab, the executive chairman of the World Economic Forum, observed that the Fourth Industrial Revolution (4IR) as one of these moments in history. He asserts that the breadth and depth of these changes (e.g. Artificial Intelligence, robotics, etc) herald the transformation of entire systems of production, management, and governance.
In a recent article, Peter Vale, Professor of Humanities at the University of Johannesburg, points out that the 4IR “has focused almost exclusively on the new products, machinery, and industrial processes – and very little on what it will all mean for people. That must change”.
Another huge red flag … of treating people as an afterthought!
The emergence of 4IR comes at a time when there seems to be a general breakdown in public trust. Commentators have suggested that the emergence of new right-wing movements in Europe are the result of rejection by the general population of the old order. Even Brexit has been attributed to the British people feeling that their interests have been disregarded in the EU.
In South Africa, the revelations from the various investigations into State Capture has generated a high degree of cynicism, which, according to some political analysts, is raising concerns even of the once untouchable African National Congress. One wonders whether they have lost the trust of their devoted followers.
The response from governments the world-over appears to be to “keep a lid on it” while opposition leaders smell blood (and power) and further stir up these feelings of discontent and fear. It is this climate of heightened emotions and passions that forms a backdrop to a major technological and social upheaval.
All the forces culminate in a monumental challenge confronting the leaders of the 4IR era – how to transition to a new world without trust! (I tackled the issue of trust in articles posted in August and November 2016).
Some technology advocates pointing to the power of AI to control the excesses of people in the system in order to rebuild trust seem to miss the irony of this position – surely the power of human ingenuity that has created the technology can also be used to circumvent it. Examples of creativity within white collar crime abound ….
While it is understandable that people are seduced by large-scale interventions – South Africa’s President Ramaphosa’s “New Dawn” initiative – to reverse the climate of distrust, I believe that we will miss a key opportunity if we as individuals and leaders in our own domains neglect the many touch-points we each have in our daily lives that can contribute to trust.
At its most basic is the daily interaction that we have others – the face-to-face interaction in the office or at home. A breakdown here not only damages relationships but deprives us all to achieve a creative outcome.
However, we know that building trust is a process and not an event!
Of the many techniques and tools exist that can be used to foster and grow a relationship of trust, I have found Creative Interchange to be a process that succeeds in any setting – developed by Charles Palmgren based on the works of Henry Nelson Wieman. It ticks some of the key boxes of building trust:
- Enhances the ability to truly listen
- Ensures that another’s point of view is appreciatively understood
- Integrates sometimes contradictory opinions and wants
However, it’s most remarkable for its capacity to shift thinking to a more holistic and inclusive mindset. In my opinion, it is this state of mind that becomes the foundation for growing trust.
The Fourth Industrial Revolution promises an era of unprecedented opportunity to increase happiness and wellbeing. However, the prospect of great personal advancement will always be inhibited by distrust and fear.
So if building trust is the primary challenge facing all leaders embarking on the 4IR journey, the wider question is whether you and I can muster enough people each engaging in personal touch-points of trust to ensure that it works for all.
How do you intend build trust?