Friday, July 22, 2005

Simplicity and Relevance Create Trust; Manipulation Destroys Trust

MIT Media Lab Professor John Maeda: “We tend to trust things that are simple. I googled “how to gain trust” and was surprised to find so many relevant links. If it’s so easy to gain trust, then why is trust so rare in our modern world?”

He goes on to describe how we more quickly trust things that are simple, and how trust denigrates as complexity enters the scene.

Professor Maeda continues: “If manipulating people to gain trust is codifiable process, then our reason for trusting people that try to gain our trust is naturally suspect. Are they sincere? Or am I being manipulated?

I paraphrase his conclusion: Trust at first sight might be relatively easy and a first step toward the more elusive “lasting trust” that requires a great deal more of thought in the design process for simplicity.

Well, by now if you are a regular reader of this blog, you know where Professor Maeda’s post took my simple mind. Yep, right back at message context. Simple ideas that are simply relevant to my needs are the ones I trust. You might catch me eventually with a more complex message, but you better show your relevance cards fast or I am gone. And so are the rest of the people to whom you are trying to communicate. In the end, communication is about gaining someone’s trust. It must be sincere cause I will figure you out fairly fast if you are manipulating me.

Crafting simple messages is an artform worth perfecting. Mark Twain once began a letter to a friend: “I would have written you a shorter letter, but I didn’t have time.”

Simple. Relevant. Trusting. That’s the end goal, but I did not promise you it would be simple to get there.


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