A general assumption about innovation-oriented partnerships between companies is that success grows out of good relationships based on mutual trust, while poor cooperation and lack of trust lead to disaster. But there are examples of high-trust partnerships for innovation and the turbulent those who fail successfully. Trust is overrated, in fact? Sometimes it is a real obstacle to innovation? Can we think of trust with respect to an optimal level – not too little and not too much? Because the case study … Read more »

A general assumption about innovation-oriented partnerships between companies is that success grows out of good relationships based on mutual trust, while poor cooperation and lack of trust lead to disaster. But there are examples of high-trust partnerships for innovation and the turbulent those who fail successfully. Trust is overrated, in fact? Sometimes it is a real obstacle to innovation? Can we think of trust with respect to an optimal level – not too little and not too much? Because case studies are insufficient to assess correlations between the degree of trust and innovation – it is impossible to disentangle the trust of many other factors – we put together a series of experiments with pairs of people who already knew each other and who have sufficient knowledge to have so formed different perceptions of trust. Results point to an important realization: As mutual trust increases, the partnership creativity goes up, reaches a maximum point and then begins to decline. The same applies to innovation. As mutual trust increases, also increases innovation – but only up to a certain point, after which innovation decreases, although it remains at the higher levels because of the greater involvement. We explain this seemingly odd patterns as follows: If a team enjoys a high degree of trust and mutual care, individuals might be very courteous, quickly accepting their partners’ideas and thus reducing the amount of dynamic task-oriented conflict. The team could then reduce to low creative tension and the effectiveness of the partnership. The bottom line:. In inventing together, trust is good, but avoiding too much trust is better
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from
Francis Bidault,
Alessio Castello
Source: MIT Sloan Management Review
6 pages.
Release Date: 1 July 2010. Prod #: SMR357-PDF-ENG
Why Too Much Trust is Death to Innovation HBR case solution