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Attention Economy: Understanding the New Currency of Business Paperback – 23 Jul 2002
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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 --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
"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)See all Product description
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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!
Most helpful customer reviews on Amazon.com
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.
The book is written in the multi-visual short burst style of a magazine, as opposed to a more in depth prose. Some reviewers have commented negatively on this, and while I would agree it renders the material a bit lighter than it could be, it also uses the context of the subject matter ironically well in presenting the information in a way it can be absorbed quickly and in disconnected settings.
The highlights for me included the section on the different types of attention; captive, voluntary, aversive, and so on, describing each type and giving examples of how to alter and adopt your message to reach through the pitfalls of each style. The sections on customer stickiness are well traveled but fitting to this subject dialog.
Also discussed were several elements of organizational structure, design, leadership and how these foster or hinder the kind of attention the business needs from its people to get the desired results. Anyone faced with the challenge of trying to gain buy in for a cross group, or cross cultural, implementation of an organizational process knows the value of the message and the ability to gain the attention and focus of the recipients is the key to the success or failure of the change.
I would have liked to see more in depth study and examples on best practices and methodologies used to overcome the information saturation present in most businesses. The ability to create and deliver clarity and purpose, and stay on message long enough to gain the change needed is a key leadership component that is often overlooked. The author's examples of Jack Welch were right on, as he is likely one of the best ever at getting messages, and most importantly attention, through a large and diverse organization.
Overall, the book is a great overview of an important subject for businesses now and in the future where this becomes even more difficult, it is always interesting and readable, and therefore worthwhile.