SynNovation Works

Trust - Pathway to Possibilities


This six hour course on trust is a spin-off from a longer course leveraged from "Collaboration for Possibilities" developed by SynNovation Works. In that body of work, collaboration is held to be a function of three foundational capabilities - shared purpose, authentic communication and pervasive trust. Over the past few years it has become apparent that of those three building blocks to collaboration, trust is the one that evokes the most learning and interest among participants. Thus we have continued to research the distinguishing characteristics of how trust works in order to develop a focused course that delivers a thinking and experiential 'deep dive' into this thing called trust. The result is this course. While it remains a work in process, we believe we have captured much of what is important about how trust underwrites our success or failure in many important human endeavors.

As a word, trust evokes powerful emotions in many people, often stemming from a mixture of experience, societal standards and our individual risk sensitivities. As a concept, trust has many colors and variations that are not well calibrated across individuals. Yet most of us feel trust is critical to positive human relationship and beneficial, if not crucial, to successful organizational endeavors. In this course, we point out that trust has both myths and truths associated with it and this complex duality provides a rich area of exploration for all during the course.

The course is conducted by two facilitator/instructors who are well versed in the theory and practical implications of trust in the workplace. Real-life stories and examples introduced into the discussions and exercises serve to illustrate the pragmatic nature of trust in creating value both personally and within organizational settings. The pedagogy is based on the concept of a ladder of learning that involves first building knowledge of the subject, followed by active use of the concepts in some experiential manner. This approach helps participants gain a "feel" of how trust operates in different situations as opposed to simply intellectualizing ideas.

The course is not "tips and tricks" oriented. It is intended to dramatically increase one's awareness of how trust actually works in the real world, particularly in an organizational setting. We provide a framework for thinking about trust, offer up examples and experiences that are thought provoking. We also focus on participation and interaction to illuminate relevant insights to the participants about their own particular environment.

This course promotes the importance of trust in many areas of organizational life but we do not maintain trust is the answer to every problem - like "if we just had more trust, the world would be a better place". What we notice and attend to is that the instincts most employees and leaders have today are too narrow and automatic around the power of trust. As such, they fail to understand its relationship to the health and capabilities of an organization. The promise of the course is that participants will leave with an increased awareness of the critical distinctions surrounding trust and begin to understand how trust provides powerful access to possibilities both now and in the future.


Each participant will be asked to ponder and respond to several questions about trust prior to attending. This information will not be shared in any easily identifiable way with others unless volunteered, but will be used at several points throughout the day to serve as the starting or calibration point for a discussion. Perhaps, even more valuable is the fact that this work can serve as a reference point for where each participant stood individually with respect to aspects of trust before the course versus after the course. If we are right, this will have changed.

Structure of the Day

The day is built around a series of sessions that ultimately lends support to ten trust tenets we have developed over time. Each session is designed to increase our collective understanding of what trust is and how it works in everyday life through;


The day begins with introductions, promises from the facilitators and requests of the participants. An interesting starting point to explore is the often automatic trust or suspicion we hold for people in front of the room and how that shapes our listening for whatever comes next. Where does it come from? How is it impacted by the first few comments? This is one of many examples of how we will explore the subtle impacts that trust has on our individual and collective behavior.

Session 1: The Source of Trust
Session 2: The Act of Trusting
Session 3: The Upside Nature of Trust
Session 4: Distinguishing Trust More Deeply
Session 5: Trusting Ourselves
Session 6: When Trust is Violated
Shortening the Time to Trust
Enabling Possibilities


This course provides a rich set of insights into how trust works in the real world that targets employees and organizational leaders working within and across organizations. Each area covered is backed up by sufficient material to keep participants engaged and thinking long after the session is completed. This means that throughout the course, we will inevitably identify areas of interest to individuals or the group as a whole that time will not allow us to pursue in greater depth. However, we make this tradeoff so participants get the highest return for the shortest amount of time spent on a deep and important topic.