The magic of trust


On Friday I went to see Cranked Up, this year’s marvellous performance of Circus Oz under the Big Top in Darling Harbour. I went to see Circus Oz two years ago and, for me, what this amazingly gifted group of individuals do is to, quite simply, redefine Circus. They present a seamless, dynamic and entertaining performance, glued together by something very simple, but at the same time quite complex and all too often unacknowledged, trust.

I often think about “trust”, particularly in terms of the many and various relationships with so many people that I interact with on a daily basis, and so many of whom help me in all of the various aspects of my life. My day on Friday exemplified that.

First up I finalised a conference paper submission with Thanassis Tiropanis and Wendy Hall on “Government in a Social Machine Ecosystem” for the 2nd International Workshop on the Theory and Practice of Social Machines in Korea (the paper can be found here). This paper is my first with the Sociam team, and it is wonderful to be working with Wendy and Thanassis to further expand our ANZSOG research and link it in with the fabulous work being done at the University of Southampton. It is also the result of ANZSOG placing their trust in me to explore the “social machine” concept as it relates to government, and of Wendy placing her trust in me to organise a speaking tour when she came out to visit Australia last year. Next steps are to work with her and the Web Science Trust on a broader scale.

Following my few hours in international academia I walked down to Church Point and caught a ferry to visit my architect Richard Leplastrier in his amazing house in Lovett Bay.

Richard (seen below working at his desk) designed my house in 1963 when he was a young 22 year old University student, and, since then, he has gone on to become one of Australia’s most recognised and respected designers. I met him via a series of circumstances which can only be put down to “the universe” conspiring, and I feel very privileged to have him working with me to renovate my own residence. But most of all, I totally trust him in the work we are doing, and, through him, I am meeting others who are forming part of our team.


The final component of my day was the wonder (and this is absolutely the best word to describe it!) of Circus Oz, which my friend Nicholas Yates, who sits on the board, invited me to.

As I sat watching these fabulous performers I chatted to Circus Oz Chair Wendy McCarthy and asked her about the Company. She told me that young aspiring circus performers can work with organisations such as the Fruit Fly, and then how Circus Oz itself evolves and stays fresh by continually renewing performers who are dedicated to the core values of “collective ownership and creation, gender equity, a uniquely Australian signature and team-work.”

The glue that holds all of this together is trust.  And trust requires that you won’t be judged, no matter what you come up with. It is based on an element of safety and respect, and, above all, on wanting what is best for others rather than ourselves. 

There have been numerous articles which I have read lately about how organisations need to be more innovative, and more creative … blah blah blah. Lots of words that are all too often commoditised and then someone seeks to package and sell them as solutions, which normally over-promise and under-deliver. And the more they do this, the more they erode the trust in the words which are used.

I agree with John Seely Brown who, in a recent interview said quite simply

“I think we’re way too focused on creativity. It’s misguided. We should be focused on imagination.”

The world we live in is being changed by those who have imagined how it could, and should be. This is what has guided so much of science and culture over the millennia, and it is what continues to inspire. And in building this world we have learned to trust our imagination as a source of innovation and creativity, and this is what we are going to need as the demands we place on our environment, both socially and ecologically, increase.

As Wendy McCarthy says in a recent BRW article on Circus Oz when it comes to what business (and, I believe, government) could learn from the circus the answer is

“Lighten up and have some fun.”