What the Sharing Economy can learn from Robert Frost
the woods are lovely, dark and deep
but I have promises to keep
and miles to go before I sleep
miles to go before I sleep
Robert Frost, in a poem of simplicity itself, captures the essence of the foundations of trust: promises kept.
I was at Shared Squared NYC’s monthly learning event last night, where a whole lot of people made good on a whole lot of promises. And there was lots of chatter about trust, as the social networks have spawned so much peer to peer interaction (and the P2P has spawned its share of weird interactions).
In short, the problem that is emerging is that people, for better or worse, form judgements based upon online information, make promises and commitments, and then are disappointed with the related offline episodes. Happens all the time, across a variety of peer to peer actions. There are a gazillion examples of the difficulties of this toggle, like
- Lady GaGa tickets bought through Craigslist for cash at the last-minute
- A Wimdu rental, where the pics were great, but the pillows just plain smell.
- A RelayRide renter who changes his plans last minute and screws up the rest of your calendar
But the upside of getting trust right in the sharing economy (and in P2P lending, and in dating, etc etc.) is that more trust leads to more and faster transactions and interactions within a community. I think Stephen MR Covey (son of 7 Habits Stephen) had it right quite awhile ago when he wrote The Speed of Trust. You can add his good work to these recent pieces on the subject:
- The Trust Projects recent manifesto…
- Letters and outreach to the community by Scaffold and Legit
- Neal Gorenflo doing everything possible to forward the sharing conversation via shareable (Nice work!)
- Shared Squared finally announcing an event calendar in NYC
But, at some point, in order to truly scale, I really passionately believe the sharing economy must deliver an indicator of trust between the two parties in a transaction increases if not ensures the assets at risk. The only product in the market that is out there, doing it today and in increasing numbers with both communities and users is TrustCloud. (You can claim your TrustCloud here). And yes, I am an investor and have blogged on the topic here, here and here.
Eventually, they will be compelled to ensure trust is sufficient. And just as airbnb has done, others will need to underwrite that risk. People- and perhaps their insurers! – will want better answers to questions like:
- Will my car be returned in good order?
- Will my apartment be sacked while a couchsurfer is there?
- Will my boat he left on the rocks by this drifter that borrowed it?
- Is my daughter safe with this tutor who comes to the house?
- Will I ever see my lawn mower again?
- Will this ride share going to get me to work, or roll me out of the car in Mexico?
And all that attention has forwarded the discussion, but trust is not an absolute from the get go. We as humans observe behavior and actions before trust is earned, and we frequently reassess trust levels along the way. It can work between online and offline as long as it is observed, recorded and elegantly presented in context.
So, not unlike the man in Frost’s Poem…
The accumulation of recorded behavior, events and affinities that leads to the confidence to exchange something of value, tangible or intangible is IMHO the most accurate and applicable definition of Trust that any P2P marketplace can rely on.
And this is why, simply, behavior trumps reputation every time.
PS: I’d love to hear what you think of the new TrustCloud. Enter your comments below, or on their site. Mine is above at the top of my blog.