The design of Trust

Now the question to all designers, including me, are we comfortable assuming this role and responsibility, are we doing our job bringing the user to the forefront of the conversations and decision making, are we demonstrating the necessary managerial courage so we can do our most important job, the one of design of trust?

I don’t know about you, but for me in life and in business it’s always been about the design of trust as a guarantor for so many others things, a fragile thing to maintain, powerful when it exists, hard to regain when broken. And many times, it’s not the big voluntary decisions that break that trust, but rather small things that can and should be designed, crafted because of their impact.

I have no special interest nor pet hate for Google, and I was one of the early adopters of Nest and didn’t run away when it was bought by Google. In the past few days, and according to the news, Google folks acknowledged that there was a microphone in their security systems. I don’t know about you, but I am not really surprised that a security camera has a microphone, I’d be surprised if it didn’t have when you think of what it is supposed to be doing, there are other things popping up with microphones at home that I am more surprised with. We as a society also need to adapt to a definition of listening that includes sensing and inferring, in the future the connection of data points through sensors and AI will have a bigger impact in our lives, we all know the difference between what humans say and what we actually do, there will be a time when we will be surprised that others know more about ourselves than we do, and it’s not because we told them.

I’m an optimist and a humanist, I choose to believe in corporations as groups of people that are not necessarily evil, just focused on business survival and performance, while justifying through so called ‘business decisions’, what they do/ don’t do. Those people in fact have ethics, and morals, but they are in a situation where they weigh their options and sometimes make small micro decisions that in the end make a big difference. Imagine, just for a minute, a meeting where several hardware, software and product people are discussing a list of attributes, functions and components of a certain equipment, this is always done with a cost/ price target and I choose to believe this is a serious exercise where all needs are justified by real user needs, opportunities to improve people’s lives, build trust, while making money along the way. So, this microphone is there, as an option, and someone says this should be included because in the future they will want to activate it, and someone else says that is an extra cost so why not include it in a future release, but is overruled because it’s so cheap to include it now, and someone else asks should we tell consumers, and the room goes silent. Maybe it was the designer, maybe not. More importantly, what was the business decision that led to not do this? And then, who made the decision to release a software version that would activate the microphone and therefore reveal the fact it was there in the first place? Did anyone debate what this does to people’s trust in a brand? Does it even matter in today’s world

The other day I was talking to someone that works at a bank that has gone through some issues with breaking the law and trust with their consumers, unfortunately there is more than one and this way I protect the identity of my friend. We were discussing the presence of designers in decision making places, design leadership in large corporations. We were comparing notes, data from experience and research, speculating why aren’t there more designers in high level decision making places, and the reason why that would be a good thing, discussing what would designers bring to the table that other perhaps wouldn’t. She remembers thinking that maybe, just maybe, a design presence and perspective in the C-Suite would have opened up questions, reveal tensions between sales and service, contrast the typical analytical approach to business management with a human experience holistic mindset, mapping out unintended consequences in a way that maybe, just maybe, the situation would have not reached the extremes it did. I am not saying designers are the only ones capable of bringing this to the table, the mindset, the questions, but if you look at this from a diversity and inclusion perspective, maybe we do need more designers, and others thinking and acting like designers in these places.

Now the question to all designers, including me, are we comfortable assuming this role and responsibility, are we doing our job bringing the user to the forefront of the conversations and decision making, are we demonstrating the necessary managerial courage so we can do our most important job, the one of design of trust.

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