Truth redux

Truth explainedAfter browsing through my somewhat skeptic (or, agnostic?) interpretation of the legend of Raja Harishchandra in the previous post, a pompous and pretentious whizkid whom I met yesterday observed that the kid in question is likely to change his views as he grows up. He may look at the story in a different perspective when he comes of age and draw appropriate morals.

Fair enough. We have been reared up on these morals. No means of escaping! But what about the rebel in me, who is already past that age? May be it is yet another proof of the adage that one can continue to be immature throughout one’s life! But as Mr. Alfie Doolittle would readily acquiesce, “I like to be that way!”. Oh, half my kingdom for the bliss of ignorance! πŸ˜›

And it leads me to the revisit of the topic of truth and trust through an article in the “CIO” magazine. The heading reads, “Maurice Schweitzer Addresses the Importance of Truth and Deception in Business”. What! Importance of truth in business, ok. But deception? Come on, is it a case of misplacement of prepositions, (or lack of it), a la the classic “Giant Panda eats, shoots, and leaves”!

Now, as for some meta data, Schweitzer is an associate professor of operations and information management at the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania.

The interview with him, who specializes in behavioral decision research, starts with these remarks:

Deception is an integral part of life. Unseemly as it may sound, everybody lies often – several times in one day. There are the little white lies, the sins of omission, outright deception. And none of this is necessarily a bad thing.

He goes on to vividly describe how fibbing is very much part of the warp and weft of our everyday life thus:

Deception is more nuanced that you might initially suspect. Your mom might exhort you never to lie and, in the next breath, answer the phone and tell the telemarketer she’s not home right now. We lie all the time.

“Love that sweater!”, “That dress makes you look terrific!”, “What a great haircut!”, “I can’t go out” I am washing my hair.” There is a whole class of lies that help us get along in a much more functional way. A lot of lies we tell are pro-social and help us get along with people better. Deception is extremely functional and very much a part of the fabric of our lives.

But in the same breath Maurice stresses the importance of trust through this caveat, “At the same time, trust is the glue that holds together any social relationship including those at work.”.

Trust is the social glue of the economy. It is the glue for any transaction. You can’t contract for everything. Ideally, at the base there is some trust in individuals, groups and institutions.”

His advice to those in business in general, and to CIOs in particular, is that ruptured trust, though difficult to repair, can be redeemed if you follow these simple steps which are in consonance with the basic human trait:

  • Be credible
  • Address the emotions, since they influence trust judgments
  • Words, when used appropriately and with power, can repair strained relationships
  • Apologies should be instant, straightforward and sincere, to be effective in trust recovery
  • Deliver all promises made in time

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