Many years ago a Japanese friend of mine was dining in Tokyo with her mother in a famous five-star hotel. After they paid and lingered a bit in the elegant lobby, they began walking out the front door when the assistant manager came and stopped them asking them if they had paid for their meal, subtly implying that they had not. They were taken aback by this and shocked that they had to explain that they had of course paid. After some conversation the assistant manager accepted their word. But it was too late. The joy of the mother-daughter birthday lunch was now replaced by a very bad taste indeed. Later the hotel would try to apologies by phone (but only after the daughter wrote a formal letter of complaint), but even screwed that up by "appearing insincere," she said. Today my friend will not only never enter that hotel again (in any country) but has since influenced many of her friends with her story. "They didn't trust me and my mother," she said "so why should I give them my business ever again? I hate the very thought of that place." Trust is a big deal, and what a fragile thing it is.
What got me thinking about this, of all things, was the anti-Vista protests by Defective by Design and Bad Vista activists in New York City today. Take a look at this related short animated video presentation below by Lutz Vogel and Benjamin Stephan where they present their general point with words, graphics, and narration. The video presentation is not perfect (and there is a least one typo), but it provides at least a compelling introduction to the DRM/TPM issues. It may even give you some ideas for presenting your own story with words and graphics. (Original source of the video.)
Defective by design?
My point here is not to comment on the DRM issue specifically (that's a bit outside the scope of this website). However, the work by the Defective By Design group is a good reminder for all of us to ask ourselves how our own services, processes, designs, etc. may be fundamentally "defective by design" in ways we had not realized. Trust is one very important feature we sometimes over look. Yet it's paramount. Sometimes we have to put ourselves in the shoes of our customers (or students, etc.) to see the fragility of the relationship vis-à-vis trust. Trust is such a fundamental aspect of design and simplicity, for example, that John Maeda devoted an entire chapter to trust (Law 8: In Simplicity we Trust) in his book The Laws of Simplicity which I talked about before.
All the services you offer, all the hours spent on employee training, and all the details your business or organization sweats can all be for naught if people sense you do not trust them. Trust is not everything in a relationship, but it's the first thing. Interpersonal relationships without trust fade away pretty quickly. Can not this apply even to teachers and professors? Will not even the best lesson plan fail if a student feels that the teacher does not trust the student. If you don't trust me, how can I trust you?
Your trust (in me) is inspiring
When I was in college a local tennis shop let me take out 3-4 new rackets at a time over night for my girlfriend and me to "test drive" on the courts near our dorm on the OSU campus, an hour's drive from the shop. No deposit, just trust. I ended up being an evangelist for this pro shop almost entirely because of the way he treated me and the trust he showed in me. Of course we brought the rackets back and of course we purchased all equipment from them. This was over twenty years ago and I have never forgotten that shop or the way he put trust in his customers, all tennis enthusiasts. My default is to trust, yet this is a risky and fragile thing. As John Maeda points out in his book, "[I] trust unquestionably...but I am open to UNDO-ing that trust whenever deserved."
Update: A reader suggested I mention the name of the shop. To be honest I was not sure if they were still in business since I left Oregon so many years ago. How ironic, then, that I find that not only are they (Courtside Tennis) still in business but that they have grown and they even mention "trust" and "friendship before business" as being a big part of who they are. I swear I found that tidbit after I wrote the post. Just underscores my point: trust is big. For many customers like me, it was an emotional differentiator that said everything about that business I needed to know (and it was remarkable). I might mention that I remember them not charging for shipping and throwing things in free like socks and wrist bands, etc. This is when they were small in the '80s. Were they the cheapest? I had no idea, didn't matter even though I was a "poor student." I trusted them because they trusted me. Today they are "big" but seem to adhere to "John Moore's Law" of "acting small."