This paper shares experiences from action research carried out by the author in an SME business setting where collaboration is becoming a strategic necessity. Many industry participants are interested in entering a collaboration, but are concerned about issues of trust, particularly where a new collaboration must be rapidly established to pursue a market opportunity and there is little time for the partners to learn about each other. The paper draws on a number of contributions from the literature that trust building can be described as a process; that there are a number of dimensions to inter‐organizational trust; and that there are levels of trust that may be assigned. On the basis that “trust is a risky business” it is suggested that a particular view of risk assessment and risk management can be used as an initiating alternative to a focus on trust. It is observed that there is an interaction between trust and management actions that is related to the level of perceived risk, and a real world example is given. It is suggested that the risk management approach presented can be useful in the joint design of a collaboration by the participants, and that following such a process can, of itself build trust.
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