Wednesday, March 24, 2004

The finger of uncertainty

After a couple of weeks working on the nature of uncertainty, I reckon I’m close to being able to put my finger on the problem I’ve been having. I’m not saying I'm certain though - no student of uncertainty ever is – it’s more a case of same effect, more precisely defined cause. This is it:

The study of trust has become ‘professionalized’ to the extent that the professionalizers have created a ring-fenced conformism around the topic, of which they are the gatekeepers.

This is what irked me enormously in earlier blogs and, in my railing against it, came out (inarticulately) as ‘ownership of knowledge’. Lots of other topics – risk management, counter terrorism, HR management, ‘best practice’ of all kinds, ‘business’ itself really, the list is endless – have all undergone a similar process. When I put my mind to it I feel just as strongly about those as I do about trust.

The idea that uncertainty can be managed is at the heart of it. The idea that a menu of rules can be defined, a selection from which will enable ‘situations’ to be dealt with. By this means, it is hoped, ‘trust’ is made handleable, manageable, factored into conventional wisdom and in the process reduced to being as ‘dead’ as accountancy.

Outside the ring-fence, in the land of uncertainty, the reality is that trust is very much alive. That is, its effect is felt in as many ways, and as imaginatively, as there are situations for it to respond to. In this sense it is beyond professionalization, and knowledge of it beyond ownership.