The Genie and Three Trust Wishes

I have a friend. My friend is a middle manager for a large, diversified multinational corporation, running a group of about 80. He swears to me the following happened.

I was on a flight to Singapore from New York. During the dark part of the flight, after meals, most people were sleeping. I was in a quiet meditative state. 

Suddenly, from out of the coffee pot on the flight attendant cart in front of me, came a bright puff of smoke. Then from the smoke, a genie emerged. He came over and sat next to me in the empty seat (I was in business class).

I said, ‘What’s this, a three-wishes kind of deal? What are my choices?’

The genie said to me, ‘Yes, that’s the general practice in my business. Now, you’re a manager. You know how important trust is—within your team, with your customers (both internal and external), with other units. Right?’

‘Of course,’ I said.

‘And you know that you can’t manage what you can’t measure, right?’


‘And, I believe your company is extremely results-driven, am I right?’

‘You don’t know the half of it, genie. Yes, it most certainly is.’

‘Good,’ said the genie. ‘So here’s the deal.

‘Behind the first door—metaphorically speaking, of course—you can choose to have double the trust levels of any other business unit in your company. More trusted by customers, higher levels of intra-team trust, and so forth.’

‘Wow,’ I said, ‘that’d be great. Why wouldn’t I want that?’

‘Hear me out,’ said the genie. ‘The kicker is—you won’t be able to measure it. You won’t be able to build processes, or metrics; you won’t be able to prove to anyone that you are trust-rich, nor will you be able to identify specific actions or ‘tools’ to manage it. You’ll know it’s high, and others will anecdotally acknowledge it, but that’s it.’

‘Hmm,’ I said, ‘that’s not so great after all. Is there a door number two?’

‘Of course,’ said the genie. ‘Door number two is the opposite; you’ll only have half the level of trust that your firm has on average. But you’ll be able to measure it precisely; prove the dynamics to anyone; track it, analyze it, manage it, tweak it. You’ll just never get very good results over the long haul.’

‘Great,’ I said. ‘Is door number three going to give any relief?’

‘Maybe so,’ said the genie. And he showed me the following table:






Trust level





Management level





‘You can mix and match,’ he said. Options A and D I already told you about. Options B and C are in between. You can get a little more management of trust at the price of less trust. You can get a little more trust at the price of less ability to measure it.

‘So really,’ the genie smiled at me, ‘you got four choices today. Must be that Arabica coffee that makes me feel so generous.’

Then my friend told me which option he chose.

But what I want to know is: which option do you choose? Tell us below in comments what your choice is, and briefly why. Let’s get our own market research going here.