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Wherever you fall on the convergence continuum–struggling to learn new products, experimenting with new partnerships, or making career decisions to become full-service or stay product-niched–convergence is pushing you towards interdependence.

What new tools or skills do you need to thrive in a convergent, interdependent world? In addition to products, systems, and state-of-the-art providers, you also need what we call “social currency” and a “learning lens.”

“Social currency” is the intangible value earned from the exchange of positive human interactions. It is not charisma or the power of your personality. It is, rather, earned influence.

In your everyday work, social currency is an imperceptible, yet powerful tool, akin to business accounting for goodwill, and more dynamic than your relationship bank account. It moves you beyond a transactional “quid pro quo” relationship.

Better yet, it is a skill you can learn. (See Chart 1)

A recent Time magazine cover story about Enron, noted that “we now know that we cant trust stock analysts and financial planners.” That brief statement sums up why social currency can be so important.

In recent months, consumer trust has been badly shaken. This has happened at the very time convergence has begun impacting the financial services arena, requiring producers to sell, cross-sell, up-sell, and otherwise deal with increasingly complex products and sales scenarios.

To be effective in such an environment, producers need social currency as well as all the business tools to which they have been accustomed. This skill helps establish trust in relationships–a trust that helps move others to take action, try new things, and explore possibilities.

In short, building social currency propels you beyond surviving and into thriving in a complex convergent world.

This skill entails working interdependently with others, some of whom may be from different market sectors and cultures. Consider: If you work convergently, you need to cooperate (to get and keep clients) and compete (for resources, and for prospects) simultaneously. Some competitors may even be within your own company.

That may be a much different environment than that to which you may have been accustomed. After all, many of us, in our earlier years, found the way to survival was only to compete (for resources, customers, budgets, and rewards). It was about winning.

In today’s complex business environment that old “I win, you lose” attitude will backfire. Today, no one individual can be successful without productive relationships throughout the system, too.

Thats why social currency is your power tool to work the system and get your job done.

Now, about the “learning lens” we mentioned earlier.

Learning is the best vehicle we know of to help practitioners survive and thrive during times of significant transition, such as the convergence wave now hitting the financial services shores.

When asked to change or learn something new, all of us go through some predictable stages. (See Chart 2.)

All of us have been “clueless” at some point in our work life. Thats when we don’t know what we don’t know. But, through some change–usually big enough to catch our attention (like convergence)–were jolted into awareness of our lack of knowledge or skill to navigate the change.

That’s when we move into the “anxious” stage, when we know that we don’t know. Its uncomfortable there. Were forced to decide to learn how to change or to resist change.

If we choose to learn to deal with the change, we can move forward to becoming “confident.” Thats where we can perform, but its not second nature yet.

The final phase–”competency”–occurs when we can perform without thinking; we just do it. This happens once we have practiced, absorbed, and usually taught others about the change.

In dealing with convergence, where are you on the learning curve? Where is your team? Your company?

No doubt, many financial services professionals currently fall somewhere in the anxious category. That may be a good thing, because this is the point where we are most open to learning.

However, if we fail to do something about the anxiety–to learn what we need to learn–we may set ourselves up for failure, focusing on resistance rather than moving forward.

Letting go of the past–how things used to be–can be hard. But all of us need to do it, in order to prepare ourselves, our careers, and our businesses for the convergent, interdependent world.

Nancy Dailey, Ph.D, (left) and Kelly OBrien are pincipals of Dailey & OBrien, Inc., a Washington, D.C. financial services consulting firm. Dailey is author of the book, When Baby Boom Women Retire. Their e-mail address is info@daileyandobrien.com.


Reproduced from National Underwriter Life & Health/Financial Services Edition, May 27 2002. Copyright 2002 by The National Underwriter Company in the serial publication. All rights reserved.Copyright in this article as an independent work may be held by the author.