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The Attention Economy: Understanding the New Currency of Business [Hardcover]

Thomas H. Davenport , John C. Beck
3.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3 customer reviews)

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Book Description

1 Jun 2001
1. Identifies attention management as the new critical competency for 21st century business.
2. A landmark book for every manager who wants to learn how to earn and spend the new currency of business argues that unless companies learn to effectively capture, manage, and keep attention--both internally and out in the marketplace--they'll fall hopelessly behind in our information-flooded world.
3. Based on an exclusive global research study, with examples from a range of companies.
4. A revolutionary four-part model for managing attention in all areas of business.
5. Presents a multidisciplinary approach to the topic of "attention," incorporating economics, psychology, and technology.
6. Appeals to readers not only as representatives of an organization, but as individuals.

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Product details

  • Hardcover: 272 pages
  • Publisher: Harvard Business School Press (1 Jun 2001)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 157851441X
  • ISBN-13: 978-1578514410
  • Product Dimensions: 2.4 x 19 x 24 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 3.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 568,698 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
  • See Complete Table of Contents

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Amazon Review

Welcome to the Attention Economy. If yesterday was the age of information, today is the age of trying to attract or employ the attention necessary to use that information. Indeed, leaders and managers in the business world face this problem daily, constantly seeking to gain the attention of their customers and employees while managing an effective distribution of their own limited supply. "Understanding and managing attention is now the single most important determinant of business success," the authors declare as they examine what attention actually is, how it can be measured, how it is being technologically constructed and protected, and so on. The book contains numerous suggestions on how leaders can manage their own attention and that of their employees more effectively (and how to avoid and treat "info-stress"), but always with an eye on the ultimate goal: affecting the type and amount of attention your customers give you. Already, more money is usually spent on attracting attention to a product than is spent on the product itself. And as our information environment gets increasingly saturated, holding a person's attention becomes an ever more difficult proposition; as the authors suggest, actually paying for someone to receive your information is a realistic prospect in the not-too-distant future. Indeed, the book's final chapter is devoted to what the authors predict will affect attention in the future, and how attention can and will be acquired, monitored and distributed.

The Attention Economy is peppered with anecdotal pull-outs and "overheard" comments--and though intriguing in a random-factoid and zippy-little-quote way, this sideline information doesn't always tie in well with the authors' points and often seems distracting. The book is well written, though, and the authors, both of whom work at the Accenture Institute for Strategic Change, take an informed and well-balanced look at what is perhaps our society's most priceless, ephemeral commodity. --S Ketchum

Review

"Getting the Attention You Need," Davenport and Beck. (August/September 2000); "Putting the Enterprise Into the Enterprise System" (July/August 1998); "Saving ITs Soul" (March/April 1994) --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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3.0 out of 5 stars
3.0 out of 5 stars
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
By Donald Mitchell HALL OF FAME TOP 500 REVIEWER VINE VOICE
Format:Hardcover
Professor Thomas H. Davenport is well known for his superb summaries of best practices in knowledge management. In The Attention Economy, he and co-author, Professor John C. Beck, outline the work that others are doing in measuring how attention is gained, and provide a prototype measurement device for attention. The book modestly advances our knowledge of this subject. The book's weakness is that it misdefines the key issue, which should be "What Should We Be Paying Attention to in Business?"
The authors feel that the most pressing problem today is "not enough attention to meet the information demands of business and society." They argue that everything except human attention is plentiful and cheap. They think of attention as "human bandwidth." As a result, they suggest that like all scarce resources, attention is a "currency." In support of these observations, the authors note that 71 percent of white collar workers feel "info stress." They also argue that companies have "organizational ADD."
The most interesting part of the book is the proposed measurement model. There are three continuums involved: one is from aversive to attractive, a second is from captive to voluntary, and a third is from front-of-mind to back-of-mind. The authors provide some examples of how to use this as a measurement tool, and prescribe some potential solutions for what they find in the examples. I thought that the weakness of this approach is that without experimental experience and testing, one will probably be wrong in prescribing from a new measurement tool. In that sense, the writing here exceeds the scope of the research the authors have done. However, I am glad they are sharing their prototype.
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2.0 out of 5 stars A great title but no substance 29 April 2013
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
This book is not an academic book but so many academics cite it in their works. After writing a thesis on the attention economy, I can tell you why. It had 'first movers advantage' on an emerging idea. However, it is written in the style of someone giving a corporate training session which I personally found a bit dull. I would have liked more of a critical interrogation of the workings of management strategy rather than tips on how you can manipulate your workforce to give more.
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2 of 4 people found the following review helpful
By A Customer
Format:Hardcover
The authours have a long and wide experience of working with attention in all its aspects. They explore all aspect of this topic which they claim to be the future detirmination of success for a company; the physiological aspects of attention, personal and social types. Also, the difficulties and the challenges conserning this topic it cover, but most important is the section about how all these challenges can be met. The book is easy and interesting to read due to the many exaples from real business-situations.
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Amazon.com: 4.3 out of 5 stars  29 reviews
20 of 20 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Organizational ADD - what an intriguing concept... 26 Sep 2001
By Naomi Moneypenny - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover
The war for eyeballs and attention can only grow fiercer over the next few years. In the Information Economy we all suffer from overload and the need to multitask through the day. Tom Davenport and John Beck makes the case that in the future we will need to `attention manage' as a metric. They ask whether `we are the first society with ADD' (attention deficit disorder), and they list symptoms of organizational ADD.
As mentioned in the editorial review the Attention Economy is littered with anecdotal pull-outs and "overheard" comments; as well as random factoids such as that the Sunday edition of the New York Times contains more written factual information than was available to reader in the 15th century. Though these factoids are intriguing they can be distracting as they are not always connected to the main body of material. But in some ways they exemplify the attention problem as you are often drawn to reading them.
The main body of the book is devoted to looking at tactics for companies to achieve and manage attention both on an internal basis and with their customers and partners. Softer issues such as personal time management are looked at in the context of the wider picture and have implications for both people and organizations. I found the book however to be missing a `model' or framework that companies could really use. Aside from having an in-depth awareness of the issue, I am unsure what I would do/have done differently after reading it.
The book is well written and engaging, and the authors present an excellent perspective on this most-precious resource.
41 of 47 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Good Summary of Latest Research and Measurement Model 23 May 2001
By Donald Mitchell - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover
Professor Thomas H. Davenport is well known for his superb summaries of best practices in knowledge management. In The Attention Economy, he and co-author, Professor John C. Beck, outline the work that others are doing in measuring how attention is gained, and provide a prototype measurement device for attention. The book modestly advances our knowledge of this subject. The book's weakness is that it misdefines the key issue, which should be "What Should We Be Paying Attention to in Business?"
The authors feel that the most pressing problem today is "not enough attention to meet the information demands of business and society." They argue that everything except human attention is plentiful and cheap. They think of attention as "human bandwidth." As a result, they suggest that like all scarce resources, attention is a "currency." In support of these observations, the authors note that 71 percent of white collar workers feel "info stress." They also argue that companies have "organizational ADD."
The most interesting part of the book is the proposed measurement model. There are three continuums involved: one is from aversive to attractive, a second is from captive to voluntary, and a third is from front-of-mind to back-of-mind. The authors provide some examples of how to use this as a measurement tool, and prescribe some potential solutions for what they find in the examples. I thought that the weakness of this approach is that without experimental experience and testing, one will probably be wrong in prescribing from a new measurement tool. In that sense, the writing here exceeds the scope of the research the authors have done. However, I am glad they are sharing their prototype.
Of existing research, you will get a quick look at psychobiology, the impact of technology on solving or making the problem worse, lessons from advertising, Web issues (especially e-mail, which they mention incessantly), leadership effects, strategy effects, and organizational structure as it affects attention.
Basically, their argument is that less is more in most situations. Their goal is to create a world where technology enhances attention, you have control over sending and receiving information, you can escape information, and institutions (like companies and schools) make information more relevant for you. In so doing, they would like to see information providers focus on quality, not quantity.
"In the end, the greatest prize for being able to capture attention will be the freedom to avoid it."
Being familiar with the literature in this area, I found only the measurement model to be new. If you have read widely, you can focus on just that part of the book.
My own sense is that measuring attention is less important than measuring what people use information for. Are they working on the right things, with the right people and tools, and in the best possible way? I also suspect that attention does need to be somewhat open. You do not know what you do not know, nor do I. Openness is clearly valuable to creativity and innovation. Hopefully, it will remain so.
I was also struck that not enough attention was paid to giving people more tools for handling information that would already work. But this is a theoretical book, rather than a practical one. If you want to know more about how to turn information into influence, I suggest you read Robert Cialdini's classic, Influence.
Basically, this subject is only of interest because voice mail and e-mail are being overused. That source of stress is fairly unimportant though, because little of importance comes from either source. They just happen to waste time. Good manners and more consideration would solve most of those problems. For most companies, a little attention to suggesting what should be done in both areas would solve much of the stress described here.
I think we do need to do more work on helping people to appreciate their perceptual weaknesses. Like many management books, this one focuses more on "doing things to people" rather than helping people do things for themselves better. I hope that future work in this area will be more practical for the individual.
My experience has been is that if people have good information, almost everyone decides and acts in the same way. The poorest sources of such information are regular financial reports in companies. As a result, Professor Kaplan's work with the Balanced Scorecard, as described lately in The Strategy-Focused Organization, is a area to focus on if you are concerned about organizational ADD.
The relatively new book, Simplicity, by Bill Jensen is also a good source of ideas for how to overcome many of these issues.
After you think about this issue, I suggest that you focus your organization on what are the three things you need to do better than anyone else. Then be sure that everyone understands what information needs to be addressed. Give them lots of freedom to wallow in the information anyway they like. A regimented approach will help with execution, but limit your choices.
Expand your mind's control over what you focus on, to avoid the bad habits that stall progress!
21 of 23 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars One of Top 25 Books on Information Fundamentals 25 July 2001
By Robert David STEELE Vivas - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
I rank this book as easily one of the top 25 books on information fundamentals, and quite possibly in the top 10. While there are other books on attention qua economic good, this one focuses on us, the attention providers, and not on the media or entertainment or other attention thieves.
The book is well-presented and what some might see as showmanship I consider to be good editing and publishing. The book starts strong, focusing on "attention deficit" in both individuals and organizations, and the consequences of failing to pay attention to the right things at the right time--corporate CEOs and their business intelligence professionals, as well as government leaders and their national intelligence professionals, can learn a great deal from this book.
Especially useful to me, and a major reason why I rank this book so highly, was its distinction between:
1) Global Coverage for AWARENESS
2) Surge local focus for ATTENTION
3) Domestic political focus for ACTION
At a national level, I found myself thinking that this book could be the first step in an evaluation of how we spend our time--and how we compensate ourselves for spending our time. Of course others have observed that we spend too much time in front of the television or eating fast food or whatever, but I found this book extremely helpful in thinking about the economics of personal and organizational information management. Applying this book's lessons, for example, might cause any manager to forbid Internet access because of the very high negative return on investment--searches should be done by specialists who can be relied to avoid personal browsing on company time. The author's specifically note that the Western culture is less well equipped to manage "attention" than other cultures.
Also helpful to me were the book's focus on the fact that client attention and teamwork *compete* with innovation, and that some form of time management guidance is needed that permits employees to focus on just one of these as a primary duty.
The author's identification of relevance, community, engagement, and convenience as the four key factors in attracting and holding attention from individuals--and the lengthy discussion in the book on each of these--is very worthwhile. So also is their specification of four "attention tracks" that each individual must manage: focusing one's own attention; attracting the right kind of attention to oneself; directing the attention of those under one's oversight; and maintaining the attention of one's customers and clients (and one could add, one's family).
This book is a vital contribution to correcting our long-standing overemphasis on collecting information (or ignoring information) without regard to what we do with it in human terms. For me, the key sentence in this entire book, one that government and corporate managers would do well to "pay attention to" was, on page 216: "Increasingly, managerial success will rely on the ability to ignore or at least filter the vast stream of information that hits the desk, ears, and eyeballs. The ability to prioritize information, to focus and reflect on it, and to exclude extraneous data will be at least as important as acquiring it." Their book is *not* a variation on the many confused knowledge management treatises (making the most of what you already know). It goes well beyond the current state of the art and outlines new ideas that could and should have a fundamental impact on how we spend our time, what information services we buy, and how we use information technology.
10 of 10 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The Realities and Consequences of Information Overload 3 Aug 2001
By Robert Morris - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover
This is a fascinating subject: ADD in the business world. Almost everyone continues to experience information overload. Some who have studied this phenomenon invoke metaphors such as "blizzards" of data. Meanwhile, information providers struggle to get through "blizzards" to reach those who are most important to them. How to attract their attention? Then, how to capture that attention with what has been described as "stickiness"? After conducting an extensive research project, Davenport and Beck conclude that attention is "the new currency of business." Perhaps Wolf agrees, having written a brilliant book about "the entertainment economy"; perhaps Pine and Gilmore also agree, having written a book about "the experience economy."
At the beginning of most of his plays, Shakespeare uses various devices to attract an audience's attention so that its members could then be entertained. (The play Hamlet begins with a question "Who's there?" The audience settles down, curious to learn the answer.) In today's marketplace, merchants such as Starbucks and Williams-Sonoma do everything possible (and appropriate) to attract attention by appealing to several of the senses. (The fragrant aroma of Starbucks' gourmet coffee can be experienced by many of those in the bookstore nearby.) Especially now with so many people online, there is what so many have observed as "too much information" or at least "not enough time" to absorb and digest the information available.
Davenport and Beck organize their material within 12 chapters which range from "A New Perspective on Business (Welcome to the Attention Economy)" to "From Myopia to Utopia (The Future of the Attention Economy)." They explain why understanding and managing attention is now the single most important determinant of business success. They examine with rigor and eloquence three different types of "attention technologies": attention-getting, attention-structuring, and attention-protecting. They explain why companies will no longer be proud of how extensive their knowledge portals are, but rather of how targeted an information environment they create. (Davenport and Beck fully understand that "targets" are constantly moving; also, that the prioritization of "targets" is an on-going process to accommodate change.) Throughout the book, they also insert dozens of "Principles." Here are three examples:
"Types Principle: Six basic units of currency are exchanged in an attention market, each emphasizing a specific target of focused mental engagement."
NOTE: These "basic units" are Captive and Voluntary, Aversive and Attractive, and finally, Front-of-Mind and Back-of-Mind. They are discussed in detail in Chapter 2, one of the book's most thought-provoking chapters.
"Tap or Bottle Principle: The most important function of attention isn't taking information in, but screening it out."
"Action! Principle: Hollywood studio executives understand their audience before they make a play for their attention, and they manipulate setting, segmentation, and culture to hold onto it."
The authors suggest that the trend of more information competing for less attention cannot go on forever. "Ultimately, people will begin to withdraw from the stress of an attention-devouring world, and information providers will begin to focus on quality, not quantity." Each delivery day, I immediately toss (unopened) all unwanted items in the U.S. mail; I systematically delete (unread) all unwanted e-mail messages, and politely but quickly end all telephone solicitations. Everyone I know responds the same way in these situations. Davenport and Beck conclude their brilliant book noting "In the end, the greatest prize for being able to capture attention will be the freedom to avoid it." Many (most?) information providers will continue to waste truly valuable "currency" unless and until they become insolvent or until they finally understand the basic principles of "the attention economy." Davenport and Beck wrote the book for them but also for other information providers who can increase even more the ROI on the same "new currency."
11 of 12 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars It didn't hold my attention 2 Jan 2002
By Mary Ellen Gordon - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover
I found this book disappointing. Attention (and lack thereof) is on a lot of peoples' minds these days. The book highlights the distinction between time and attention. It also does a reasonable job of describing the increasing prevalence of attention deficit among individuals and organizations.
I suspect however that anyone reading the book is already well aware of the problem and is looking for solutions. The book offers few that are particularly new or useful. The book itself looks new. It has a 'weby' feel in that chunks of text and 'factoids' are scattered around the pages. No doubt this was intended to be attention-getting but in book format I found it distracting.
Given the ever-increasing demand for our attention, it seems more important than ever to get to the point quickly and avoid tangents. This book violates that principle by squandering the readers' attention on ideas that are old (e.g.: Maslow's Hierarchy), of questionable relevance to this topic (e.g.: mergers and acquisitions) or dealt with more comprehensively elsewhere (e.g.: how to structure documents to maximize attention)
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