Over the past several years, many people have lost faith and trust in large organizations and the people who lead them. False promises abound. Financial, social, political and religious scandals plague our society. Internet security breaches and outright lies have tainted our faith and desire to reveal true selves. Our current political climate manifests as an intentionally divisive strategy.
The result is a systemic lack of trust among people within large organizations. This plays duet with a demise of empathy and has become a threat to innovation, something we desperately need now to solve giant problems with fresh thinking.
Imagine for a moment there’s a path forward to the creative land of milk and honey where we find solace in the storm.
Fortunately, we have Dr. Paul Zak to guide us through this storm, arriving on the scene with a new book called TRUST FACTOR. Dr. Zak is the founding Director of the Center for Neuroeconomics Studies and Professor of Economics, Psychology and Management at Claremont Graduate University.
In his super-power world, Paul Zak is the godfather of trust and the lead singer in the universal choir of empathy. He knows where empathy resides in our brains. He knows how to create the conditions that will generate empathy. He understands the deceptively simple formula for generating trust among diverse people in large organizations.
He is also an expert in the neuroscience behind the interaction of behavior and hormones such as oxytocin, which dance tango with our biochemistry and affects our behavior and relationships.
Empathy and trust emerge from positive human interactions, ideal physical environments, physical contact. These elements generate oxytocin in the hypothalamus, a short burst of biochemical yumminess that one can feel as a result of giving and receiving pure love - and lead creativity and innovation. These conditions make us feel safe to express and evolve ideas.
“Regarding the release of oxytocin, our research found that any kind of positive shared experience will do it. Singing, dancing, laughing—all of these things bond people and create a mini-culture that invites experimentation. Spontaneous connection happens. People feel comfortable playing, something most organizations undervalue.”
Paul refers to oxytocin as the “Moral Molecule” because it generates empathy. Plus, its fun effects can be synthesized! At the 2011 TED Global conference in Scotland, he opened his talk by spritzing oxytocin into the audience. Oxytocin has a short lifespan, about 30 seconds, so, it’s not really viable as a mood-enhancing drug. Paul is famous for saying, “Hugs, not drugs,” because a hug will just as easily stimulate the production of oxytocin. But the very act of spraying the chemical created an instant halo of trust and curiosity.
Paul’s new book Trust Factor opens a window onto how brain chemicals affect behavior, why trust gets squashed, and ways to consciously stimulate it by celebrating effort, sharing information, promoting ownership, and more.
He even uses “OXYTOCIN” as a mnemonic device to signify the eight classes of management that lead to better-functioning, more trusting organizations. The eight classes are: ovation, expectations, yield, transfer, openness, caring, invest and natural. A research-based narrative exists for each set of behaviors that is logical, effective and uncomplicated to perform. This is a great book for leaders who wish to evolve in a contemporary and mindful way. But, that is not always an easy path.
“There’s a lot of insecurity among leaders. There’s so much focus on you. Keith Richards talks about his ongoing friction with Mick Jagger, and he said that Mick suffers from “lead singer syndrome”. Everyone is looking at you all the time, and you believe you are a god.
Leaders of big organizations have the same problem. “If not for me, this place would be out of business. And, obviously I am brilliant.” I think there’s a basic insecurity there. I think a lot of other leaders who are much more secure can create the space, create the culture for others to flourish. When you give them that space, they can break old habits.”
Once we build organizations based on trust and develop the rich wells of empathy that lead to creative idea generation, innovation requires the temperament to be able to try new ideas. Trust and comfort breed courage, and courage leads to “brave new world” ideas and improvements.
According to Paul, there are two sources of courage:
“One version is, “Holy crap, we have no other options now.” Like a soldier in battle. You can be really courageous when you have no other options. Move forward, or you’re dead anyway. If we don’t innovate hard now, then the existing business will cease to function.
The second version is more interesting. It comes from having culture and leadership that says: “go try things, go make some mistakes, go play.” All those things have only occurred in an environment where you trust the people around you to support you and not take shots at you if things don’t work out.”
Its time to imagine a new path forward built on trust and experimentation, unveiling inherent courage in people and fostering innovation. Dr. Zak’s will show you the way. Keep that fountain of oxytocin flowing. Imagine Trust.