Spark #
7

The Vulnerability Loop

Trust comes down to context. And what drives it is the sense that you’re vulnerable, that you need others and can’t do it on your own.

Spark #
7
The Vulnerability Loop
What We're Talking About

The principle we're discussing

In this Spark, you'll understand why and how vulnerability leads to greater trust and better outcomes. We form groups to combine strengths, using our respective skill sets in complementary ways to achieve goals. But no group can become cohesive without sharing signals of vulnerability with one another. 

Here’s a real-world example (with balloons!): Scientists from the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) dreamed up a challenge that experts called impossible: Locate 10 red balloons across an area of 3.1 million square miles. The first team to find the balloons would win $40K. 

Hackers, social scientists, and entrepreneurs signed up, most sharing plans to take a logical approach. The MIT Media Lab took a different approach: They crowd-sourced participation, giving each participant a unique URL to share with friends. 

Every person who found a balloon or invited others to help would receive a portion of the cash. Each invitation created another vulnerability loop—a shared exchange of openness—and drove cooperation. 

Against all odds, it took the MIT team of volunteers just over eight hours to find all the balloons.

Why it Matters

Why this principle is important and matters to you

To compete well, groups need to have a stake in the outcome. This often occurs when people create relationships of mutual risk and shared vulnerability. 

Showing vulnerability “gets the static out of the way” and alleviates worry and hesitation. Once you can admit your own insecurities and shortcomings, share your vulnerabilities with others, and receive the same openness in return, you’re able to get to work—and achieve better outcomes.

How You Can Use It

This provides practical ways to apply learnings from this Spark

The MIT team was successful because they leveraged vulnerability loops. They admitted they needed help, which created a sense of trust and helped foster cooperation. 

 People could easily respond to the team’s request, invite others, and be recognized for their contributions. This kind of collaboration—with vulnerability at the center—helps movements grow exponentially. 

 Try creating vulnerability loops in your own life by:

  • Openly sharing your own challenges and opportunities. 
  • Making it easy for people to get involved.
  • Cascading visibility and benefits when people participate.
  • Celebrating the group effort.
Reflection

An opportunity to reflect on yourself and/or your team and how you can apply these insights

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