Wednesday 14 March 2012

When people trust crowds

crowd surferAccepting and reusing knowledge requires trust, and trust is generally something that develops between individuals.

However many of the structures involved in knowledge management are so large, that individual relationships cannot be developed.

Communities of practice within organisations, for example, may contain thousands of members. It becomes a crowd, not a group. And yet people will often ask the community for help, expose their ignorance in front of the community, and happily trust and re-use the knowledge they receive.

How can this happen? How can people trust crowds?

Part of the issue here is that communities are tribal. They have a common language, a common jargon, they are "people like me". There can be a social aspect to communities that helps inculcate trust, but the primary trusting comes from a sense of identity.

This sense of identity needs to be backed up by trustworthy response and trustworthy behaviour, and together the community forms a "trustworthy crowd", or "my tribe", even if the membership is massive.

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