On two occasions in the past month I heard the word “Trust” during discussions on technology innovation, enough to get me thinking about the notion of trust as it relates to the ng Connect Program.

The first of these two occasions was at our last ng Connect Ideation Workshop, during a panel about innovation. Roger Sanford of MediaTile, a long time member of ng Connect, contended that for our group to be successful in transforming the connected user experience and shifting the digital value chain, the absolute ingredient was trust among our ecosystem participants.

Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic License  by  Aidan Jones

The second occasion was during a meeting with a major player in the automotive industry as I was presenting the originality of ng Connect as a cross-industry innovation engine. Their CTO quickly grasped the value and benefits of such an ecosystem and spontaneously listed trust as both a necessary condition and a formidable accelerator of success.

Why is trust so important nowadays?

Let’s take a step back and look at what trust means. A quick search on Wikipedia tells us that… Oxytocin increases trust in humans. Unfortunately it is not that easy to administer: oh well, gone is the hope of boosting coffee and beverages during our regular member ideation sessions. So back to the trust page.

We find that trust is a social construct which enables us to place bets on the future and allows for actions and/or cooperation that would otherwise be too complex to be considered. I have always thought that the most important page in an agreement, however long it may be, was the signature page and the most important part the handshake, because it establishes the trust needed in the relationship, surrounding everything which is not described in the agreement – not unlike the kiss which follows the “for better or for worse” at a wedding.

Without trust, paralysis and inaction. With trust, optimism and action. There, we have established why it is crucial to the success of ng Connect or innovation in general as it is all about the actual implementation of new concepts.

Now, what are we doing within ng Connect to enable a climate of trust between participants at both individual and company levels?

Trust can be seen as a measure of a party’s belief in the honesty, fairness or benevolence of another party, again according to Wikipedia. It also involves a certain risk or vulnerability to the actions of the other party.

The ng Connect Program has precisely been setup with two things in minds: minimizing the risks and creating a fair ecosystem.

The program relies on a set of legal agreements to ensure non disclosure of confidential information by any participating member as well as tight control of intellectual property sharing between members engaged in a joint project. Innovative companies tend to worry particularly about these two aspects. Although the process of getting these agreements signed and/or renewed may seem tedious and lengthy, it is critical to establishing trust among all members, not just between any two members.

The program has also taken a bold approach in building the ecosystem, not so common among industrial partner programs, with open membership. ng Connect is indeed open to any type of company, provided this company shares a drive and passion for innovation. There is no other selection process, no hidden criterion, such as size, location or activity. The list of current members is the best proof of the diversity of the ng Connect ecosystem and its “equal opportunity membership” approach.

Like other members, Alcatel-Lucent takes part in this initiative to make money eventually, not from running a program nor from selling to an ecosystem but from its deliverables and results: innovative solutions and actionable business models. The great thing about free membership is that you are not selling it: this makes talking about the program to potential members or customers all the more truthful, no need to embellish nor to hide. People are therefore more open to listen to and accept the benefits and value propositions of this program.

Obviously free does not mean costless. It is up to each member to make the right investments in time and resources to make the most of the program. Honoring said investment, by the way, goes a long way towards earning the trust of all other ng Connect members.

Last, as trust involves belief, the human factor is critical. Having spent some time now with representatives of ng Connect member companies and worked with many of the people involved in supporting the program, I am delighted at how many good people I have met. Good as in competent and trustworthy. I cannot think of many other crowds I would rather be with but the ng Connect community. You have my word for it!

Vincent Weyl

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