The Neuroscience of Trust

Paul J. Zak at Harvard Business Review: “…About a decade ago, in an effort to understand how company culture affects performance, I began measuring the brain activity of people while they worked. The neuroscience experiments I have run reveal eight ways that leaders can effectively create and manage a culture of trust. I’ll describe those strategies and explain how some organizations are using them to good effect. But first, let’s look at the science behind the framework.

What’s Happening in the Brain

Back in 2001 I derived a mathematical relationship between trust and economic performance. Though my paper on this research described the social, legal, and economic environments that cause differences in trust, I couldn’t answer the most basic question: Why do two people trust each other in the first place? Experiments around the world have shown that humans are naturally inclined to trust others—but don’t always. I hypothesized that there must be a neurologic signal that indicates when we should trust someone. So I started a long-term research program to see if that was true….

How to Manage for Trust

Through the experiments and the surveys, I identified eight management behaviors that foster trust. These behaviors are measurable and can be managed to improve performance.

Recognize excellence.

The neuroscience shows that recognition has the largest effect on trust when it occurs immediately after a goal has been met, when it comes from peers, and when it’s tangible, unexpected, personal, and public. Public recognition not only uses the power of the crowd to celebrate successes, but also inspires others to aim for excellence. And it gives top performers a forum for sharing best practices, so others can learn from them….(More)”.