McDonough School of Business
Office Hours: José Guerrero on Cultivating Trust in a Digital World
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Office Hours: José Guerrero on Cultivating Trust in a Digital World

As the world becomes more digitally connected, the importance of trust has never been more critical to global business efforts. In order to maintain high levels of collaboration and understanding amongst people in a working relationship, mutual trust must be sought out, maintained, and most importantly, valued.

In his recent book he co-edited, Trust, Digital Business, and Technology, José-Luis Guerrero-Cusumano, associate professor of operations at Georgetown University’s McDonough School of Business, examines the challenges facing digital trust in business and society as well as the impact trust has on social media and information technologies.

Why is it important that businesses and individuals build mutual trust when interacting in a digital environment? 

One of the most interesting things to think about is the concept of trust. An old definition of trust is the willingness to be vulnerable when you are talking to or interacting with another person, so one of the challenges that can be encountered during these interactions is how do you measure trust and how can it be further evaluated? However, when we talk about digital trust in today’s world, it’s much more complicated than that, because there are many more stakeholders at play.

One of the problems that we face is, do we need more regulations, and if so, what do those regulations look like? Given the amount of people connected to the internet and the amount of information that’s exchanged on a regular basis, digital trust becomes one of the most fundamental ideas in business. Without digital trust, the economies of the world would collapse.

As the world becomes increasingly global and connected, how does this idea of trust impact digital communications?

Imagine that trust is used as cultural currency. It is the glue that unites different societies and people around the world. Trust is extremely important because it minimizes misunderstandings that people might have. For example, amongst experienced executives, trust is used to help people work together and understand each other. What we will see in the next five to 10 years will revolutionize digital transformation. All in all, increased trust will make international business much more feasible and easier to do.

What are the main challenges related to digital trust and information technologies?

Right now, we live in a very complicated world and trust is not a very popular currency. If we look at the book I co-edited, Trust, Digital Business and Technology, there have been attempts to find solutions and approaches to the idea of digital trust. 

For example, if there is a data breach of a given entity, 47% of the country would abandon the product or organization. So, we need transparency and rules around artificial intelligence that would set the parameters. If you give your information and personal details away through technology and content sharing platforms, it is extremely important for people to know where this information is going.

Can you share an example from your book on how trust impacts cyber security concerns?

One of the interesting elements of the book explores the idea of digital trust and the Internet of Things. The Internet of Things permeates every aspect of your life. Everything is interconnected, and this type of interconnection can take many, many different shapes. One of the authors in the book says that we have to be careful with the idea of security, but at the same time, where does this information go? Is it possible that Amazon’s Alexa is listening to a conversation at home, or picking up a Smart TV in one’s living room? We live in a world that is very big, and everything that has happened or continues to happen as it pertains to technology, is moving quickly.

How does trust impact social media?

One of the problems that we see right now is this intergenerational gap in the United States. People under 30 have a lot of trust in respect to social media, but people do become less trusting as they get older. So the question is, can social media be regulated in order to maintain future trust? 

There are, however, two concepts that can be further explored: One is the idea of trust and our ability to take information at face value. The second is our ability to be influenced by artificial intelligence. However, artificial intelligence can still provide wrong information due to the lack of available information. 

What do you hope readers take away from this book?

When we put the book together, we wanted to explore how different cultures and areas of the technological arena react to the concept of trust. Cultural differences exist, so one of the important areas of the book surrounds how people around the world approach the topic of trust and digital technology. One important takeaway is to be aware of our differences and to remember that culture and trust are highly related. See what people around the world are doing in order to draw conclusions.