There are many different kinds of currency, but they all do the same thing – they can be exchanged for something else. Money is the item we most commonly think of as currency, but there are others. Frequent flyer points or rewards programs are a kind of currency, allowing you to exchange points for travel or goods.
The education sector has its own kind of currency. In Australia, students in their final year of high school sit for exams and receive a ranking. The higher a student is ranked the more choices they have in university courses. Their ranking is a kind of currency they can use to ‘buy’ their way into particular courses.
The change process, too, has its own currency; and that currency is change readiness. People with readiness in abundance have the ability to take up all sorts of opportunities and adapt to circumstances in their environment much easier than those who really struggle with change. Their readiness is a kind of currency that allows them to capitalise on opportunities and to adapt and innovate.
However, change readiness is a very special kind of currency, because the more a person ‘spends’ of it, the more he has left. Wouldn’t it be good if money was like that – the more you spend the more you have? Change readiness is also an appreciating asset – it becomes more valuable the more you have of it.
The reason you get more readiness when you ‘spend’ it is because change readiness consists of particular capacities and stories that are enhanced the more they are practised. Even failure can enhance them.
The value of change readiness increases because it’s a scare resource. It’s not scarce in the same way gold is scarce – there was only ever a certain amount made and you can’t make any more. There is theoretically no limit to how much change readiness people can develop, but in practice, some people handle change well and others really struggle. Some organizations handle change well and others find it almost impossible.
Being ready for change is like being ready to do anything. If you’re ready to do something, it’s easier for you to do it than if you’re not ready. And if you’re ready, you’re more likely to persist until you succeed. For example, you’re more likely to complete a marathon if you train and practise than if you’re unfit and unwell. Your training and practice is like a currency you can exchange for successfully completing the marathon. You’re not absolutely guaranteed of success, but your chances of success are much better if you train and practice than if you don’t.
Organizations that develop the change readiness of their staff and support readiness in their environment are like students who rank highly in their exams – they have many more choices in what they can change and when they can do it. They are more able to take advantage of opportunities when they arise; they cope better with unexpected and unwelcome turbulence; and find it easier to be creative and innovative. They can succeed and outperform their unready competitors, who have few resources in their change bank accounts.
If you want your organization to be adaptable, creative, and innovative, you can’t afford to overlook change readiness. If you don’t believe me, ask any marathon runner about the value of training.