Currency Exchange

I’ve been using a digital tool called Mentimeter in many of my facilitated workshops lately. One question format it offers is for participants to allocate 100 points across various possible priorities. Inevitably, people ask what currency those points represent. Are they money?

When we hear the word “currency” our first thought is money, right?

Yet there are plenty of other currencies that matter to us. They not only reveal our priorities and values, but also surface privilege and power:  who has access to the currencies being exchanged? We can make better decisions when we understand which currencies are at play amongst the people we’re collaborating with.

We’ve heard “time is money.” But what happens when “money is time”? If time is actually a more valuable currency to us, we can use our funds to buy back some discretionary hours. It’s why meal delivery companies are growing so quickly right now.

At this stage of pandemic life, I’m noticing two other currencies emerging as front runners, perhaps even above time and money: energy and choice.

With so many of us feeling depleted by what the last 18 months have required of us, our energy is precious. We are bombarded by information and mis/disinformation, we live in a state of continuous partial attention, and our focus can easily be fragmented. Too many of our decisions have shifted out of autopilot and into our conscious brains, and we’re experiencing perpetual decision fatigue. Many of us would be willing to trade money to feel more rested and energized right now.

At the same time, as many workplaces figure out their return-to-office approaches, heightened by navigating fraught vaccination policies, flexibility is emerging as another highly valuable currency. Whose choice is it where and when I work? Choice is a currency that draws new and fuzzy lines of privilege between the haves and have nots.

As many of our habits and parameters get renegotiated and rearranged, we will be more effective communicators, collaborators and leaders if we understand which currencies matter most. Otherwise, we risk trying to pay with a currency that simply has no value in this context.

Photo by John McArthur on Unsplash

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