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It's the ability to retain confidence even after breaking previous commitments. During rapid change, leaders inevitably have to abandon some plans, strategies, or promises that no longer serve the situation's needs.

However, failing to deliver on past assurances can seriously damage trust in the organization and willingness to follow new directions. With Adaptive Trust, leaders openly acknowledge broken promises, take ownership of the decision to change course, and involve others in creating better solutions. Though promises may be broken, trust and commitment to mission-driven change endure. AdaptiveTrust is an important concept and model that Enterprise Agility University and Erich R. Bühler developed.

Adaptive Trust Framework

The Adaptive Trust framework (ATF) in Enterprise Agility has 6 areas to improve or steps leaders should reinforce.

  1. Acknowledgment of Broken Promises: The first step in building adaptive trust is to acknowledge when promises have been broken. This requires honesty and transparency. It's important to clearly communicate what has happened and why.
  2. Ownership of Decisions: After acknowledging the broken promise, take ownership of the decision to change course. This shows that you're willing to accept responsibility for your actions and decisions.
  3. Involvement of Others: Involve others in creating better solutions. We know that leaders with a higher level of Intellectual Humility (IH) involve more people in their decision-making. This not only helps to build trust but also ensures that the new solutions are better and more robust because they're based on a diversity of insights and perspectives.
  4. Transparency: Be open about the reasons for the broken promise and the new direction. This helps to build understanding and trust.
  5. Mutual Benefit: Focus on mission-driven change that benefits all parties involved. This helps to ensure that the new solutions are not only better, but also fair and equitable (Mutual Benefit is a crucial component for Shared Progress).
  6. Adaptive Trust Reinforcement: Continually reinforce the idea of adaptive trust across the company. This helps to create a culture where broken promises are seen as opportunities for growth and learning, rather than as failures.

Remember, adaptive trust is not just about fixing broken promises. It's about creating a culture where broken promises are seen as opportunities for growth and learning, and where everyone is committed to mission-driven change that benefits all parties involved. It's a key component of Enterprise Agility and is essential for success in today's rapidly changing world.

Adaptive Trust and the Three Universal Outcomes

Adaptive trust is closely aligned with the Three Universal Outcomes of Enterprise Agility - Always Ready, Always Responsive, and Always Innovative. Here's how:

In essence, adaptive trust provides the foundation for organizational agility. When people trust in each other's competence, character, and commitment to shared goals, they can readily embrace change and new opportunities.

Adaptive trust secures the basic human needs for belonging, autonomy, and progress that underpin the Universal Outcomes. By nurturing adaptive trust, leaders empower people to handle complexity. Even when plans rapidly shift, people feel valued and supported to continuously realign. Adaptive trust sustains cooperation, optimism and purpose. In volatile times, this liberates the collective creativity and potential needed to innovate boldly.

For more detailed information about them, check Enterprise Agility Fundamentals, page 152.

Neuroscience of Change and Adaptive Trust

In the context of neuroscience, trust is a complex phenomenon that involves several parts of the brain. The amygdala, for instance, plays a significant role in processing trust and suspicion. It's responsible for our emotional responses, including fear and anxiety. When we trust someone, our amygdala is less active, and we feel safer and more relaxed.

On the other hand, when trust is broken, the amygdala becomes more active, triggering feelings of fear, anger, or disappointment. However, the brain is also capable of adjusting and adapting to new situations, which is where the concept of adaptive trust comes in.

Adaptive Trust in enterprise agility is about maintaining confidence even when plans or commitments need to change. It involves openly acknowledging broken promises, taking ownership of decisions, and involving others in creating better solutions. This approach can help rebuild trust, even when commitments have been broken, by demonstrating accountability, honesty, and a commitment to mutual benefit.

From a neuroscience perspective, this approach can help calm the amygdala's activity, reducing feelings of fear or anxiety associated with broken trust. It also stimulates the prefrontal cortex, the part of the brain responsible for decision-making, problem-solving, and social behavior. This stimulation can help promote a more positive emotional state, fostering a culture of adaptive trust.

By understanding the neuroscience behind trust and adaptive trust, we can better navigate the challenges of enterprise agility. We can create strategies that facilitate adaptation, build resilience, and promote flexibility within our organizations, all while maintaining trust and commitment to our mission-driven change.

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