In you we trust

A couple of years ago me and my wife were visiting the picturesque city of Nikko in Japan and came across the Rinnoji temple that was under renovation at the time. Here’s a picture of how they had covered the entire temple in a huge wooden box so that it would stay safe from the elements and the restoration team could do their job well, a pretty impressive feat if you ask me.

Rinnoji Temple under renovation in Nikko, Japan (Oct 2011)

There was a noticeboard near the entrance which mentioned that it was forbidden to click pictures inside the temple. Such signboards aren’t uncommon outside monuments, and we all know how routinely such rules are flouted. The space inside the temple was truly majestic, not to mention the Sanbutsudō or the Three Buddha Hall, containing three magnanimous gold lacquered, wooden statues. Some of the artifacts on display were quite intricate and beautiful. One couldn’t help but feel like clicking a few photographs and carry them along as souvenirs. I had my camera strapped around my neck and could’ve easily removed the lens cap and taken a few shots. Without the flash, no one would have noticed, and to be frank, there weren’t an awful lot of people inside anyway. But I did not. And many of the people I observed later, irrespective of nationality, did not too.

Clicking pictures inside the temple was never going to be a capital offense, but by putting their faith in the visitors, the management staff at the temple had passed the responsibility of upholding that trust over to those same visitors and thus, for the conscious mind at least, it had become a law worth upholding.

This act of humankind to put the control of your own fate in the hands of another person is something that has always amazed me. The stakes can be pretty high sometimes. It could be your life on the line. For example, every time you climb into an elevator, you are trusting the maintenance guys to have done their job well, people whom you rarely lay your eyes upon and a team that you definitely do not control. Neither do you control the person piloting your airplane, though you might spot him on your way into the aircraft. But then its all about the responsibility that you pass on to the pilot or the elevator maintenance guys. Its easy to follow the path of least resistance, and some people do lax in that regard. Real trust is often unspoken and I believe that the people who are remembered after an event are the ones who try to uphold that trust.

In the connected economy and the geographically-dispersed teams culture that we find ourselves today, the person on the other continent isn’t watching you closely. He does his work trusting that you will do yours well, and this will eventually lead both towards the common goal. A slip up from anyone in this chain can lead the entire team astray and it might be too late to recover from that stage. An overseas client may not be able to read your software code, but he trusts your development and testing skills to avoid any troubles for him in the future. The onus is upon you to deliver.

Even with all the available surveillance, its in you we trust. Now, more than ever.

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