A conversation is a pretty good model...

for understanding what is going on in the network economy. Some conversations are short, abrupt exchanges of minimal data; some are antagonistic, some are periodic, some are continuous, some are long-distance, some are face to face. A back-and-forth exchange starts between two people, and then spills over to several people, and as the conversation becomes multipronged and divergent, it gathers in more and more players. Eventually there are conversations between firms and objects as well as people, as more of the world's inanimate artifacts become connected. Increased animation increases the number or times of interaction, and the frequency of conversation. The more interactions, the more important learning becomes, the more essential relationships become, the more trust becomes a factor. Trust becomes what Weber calls "a business imperative."

But for all the talk of the importance of trust, it only comes at a price. It comes slow and it always comes awkwardly. "Trust can be messy, painful, difficult to achieve, and easy to violate," writes Weber. "Trust is tough because it is always linked to vulnerability, conflict, and ambiguity. For managers steeped in rationalism, hierarchies, rule-based decision making, and authority based on titles, this triad of vulnerability, conflict, and ambiguity threatens a loss of control."



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This is a blog version of a book of mine first published in 1998. I am re-issuing it (two posts per week) unaltered on its 10th anniversary. Comments welcomed. More details here.
-- KK