09/27/2012 09:02 am ET Updated Nov 27, 2012

The Enigmatic Five Letter Word


The first session I attended at the Annual Meeting of the New Champions was a private one on the state of healthcare in 2040. My group addressed the following question, "Can we move the needle on healthcare through the use of technology?" Healthcare sessions are usually unfulfilling since the problems are large, solutions often too cute and entirely impractical. I'd admit that the ideas that came from my group were not revolutionary. But what emerged as a theme struck me as fundamental.

We can design technology, incentives, data systems and evidence-based treatments, but we will move the needle on healthcare only when we can build trust with patients that our solutions work. Today I read a paper in a peer-reviewed journal and trust that the authors have grasp over the subject matter. I may contact one of them for advice on a health topic related to their field. I trust my friend Dr. Trey's choice of good doctors; when I need to see someone in Boston, I go with whom he suggests.

Linus Trovolds can't stand some of the people he trusts. After his panel on the future of computing, a couple of us had the chance to talk to him. To create Linux, Linus has worked with a number of people he doesn't like. It doesn't matter since he trusts them. He trusts their ability to be effective contributors to his project. The beauty of open source is that it allows him to go deep to see the quality and trustworthiness of contributors and their contributions. It forces transparency, a powerful feature for sustainable design.

Gary Kovacs, the CEO of Mozilla, shared how eager consumers are for a little more transparency in their online worlds. A TED talk he gave on how our online data is being tracked has become one of their most watched talks. Do you know who all have benefited from online data generated by you, owned by you? Will you continue to trust companies when you learn how they monetize your data?

Trust can be pretty expensive if it's abused, and a non-starter if it's ignored.