Where do confidence and trust come from? How do we develop faith in ourselves and others? And what role does complexity play in all of this?
These are questions a client recently asked me to develop a workshop around as they have found it increasingly difficult to cultivate trust and instill confidence in this complex world where we constantly face new and unfamiliar challenges.
So let’s think together: When do you feel most confident? When I reflected on this question, I realised that confidence is often based on knowledge, experience, and competence. We feel confident if we have done something many times before or have deep knowledge of a particular topic. However, in novel or uncertain situations where we cannot rely on our past experiences or knowledge, we need to find new sources of confidence.
One way to build confidence in such situations is to trust our ability to learn and adapt. We need to be confident in our ability to take risks, make (and recover from) mistakes, while knowing that failure is inevitable in the learning process. This is also where our communities and networks are critical as another source of confidence is our relationships and connections. When we find ourselves in deep complexity, a diverse network can provide different perspectives and skills to draw from, not to mention support!
Now, let’s consider trust. We typically associate trust with notions like reliability and consistency. However, in complex environments, reliably delivering on promises or meeting expectations is almost impossible. How, then, do we foster trust? One way is to acknowledge when we don’t know, and then engage in collective wayfinding. A sure way to destroy trust is providing false certainty. Another way is to co-create or engage in collective wayfinging — involving others in decision-making. Or, at the very least, communicating the “why” behind decisions and changes with vulnerability and transparency. When we do this, we take others along and help them understand our reasoning.
So, to enable us to face increasingly complex challenges collectively, we must find new sources of confidence and trust. By embracing our ability to learn and adapt, building solid relationships, co-creating, and being vulnerable and transparent, we can foster the creative communal energy we need to move forward.