Tuesday, December 13, 2020

Atten ... shun!

In "The Attention Economy: Understanding the New Currency of Business," Thomas H. Davenport and John C. Beck explain how depleted attention has become, for individuals and organizations.
"In this new economy, capital, labor, information and knowledge are all in plentiful supply...What's in short supply is human attention...At one point, software magnates had the ambition to put 'information at your fingertips.' Now we've got it, and in vast quantities. But no one will be informed by it, learn from it, or act on it, unless they've got some free attention to devote to the information."

What are the symptoms of this kind of corporate Attention Deficit Disorder? According to Davenport and Beck, they are:
  1. An increasing likelihood of missing key information when making decisions.

  2. Diminished time for reflection on anything but simple information transactions such as e-mail and voice mail.

  3. Difficulty holding others' attention (for instance, having to increase the glitziness of presentations and the number of messages to get and keep attention).

  4. Decreased ability to focus when necessary.

Does all this sound familiar? It should, since these are the symptoms of massive workplace stress, leading to burn-out. People haven't enough attention because they're overworked, stressed and trying to do too much in too little time.

All Slow Leaders understand they only ever have a fixed amount of attention. It's a finite commodity. That's why idiotic ideas such as multi-tasking are so dangerous. People get the notion they can somehow increase their attention by doing several jos at the same time or in quick succession. But all they do is fragment what attention they have. And that leads to distraction, muddle and still more tiredness and stress.

There's only one cure for attention deficit in business: focus on what truly matters and ignore everything else. Above all, ignore those insidious thieves of attention called e-mails, cellphones and Instant Messaging. They can steal so much attention; they can become so addictive; they can divert so much time and energy, you won't have enough left for your real work. You only ever have 100 percent of your attention. Split it a hundred ways and nothing gets more than one percent.

Harassed executives worry they don't devote enough attention to strategic thinking or long-term staff development. Incipient workaholics fret they can't give their families the attention they crave. People die on the roads, because their attention was grabbed by a phone call, or diverted by problems at work. Attention deficit kills. It's a plague, verging on a pandemic.

And it's self-inflicted. Nobody has to live like this. Organizations do not have to drive their staff to the edge of insanity in the name of the Twin Gods, Profit and Competition. We choose to live this way. And we can choose to stop doing so.

Stress, hurry, harassment and overwork all destroy attention, just when it's needed most. Slow down. Give yourself time to pay attention properly. Why destroy even more of a resource that's already perilously stretched?

NOTE: Please note that I will be taking a break between December 19th and January 9th, so postings will be fewer and less regular. I have a book to finish and an important conference to attend. Sorry.

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Rabbit said...

No need to apologize for taking a break, Carmine.

Given your almost daily postings, I'd say you deserve a break.

Take it slow, right? ;)

(What's the book called/about?)

12:29 PM  
Carmine Coyote said...

Thanks, Rabbit. Book title not finalized yet, but it's about how to live your life as if you really mean it.

8:11 AM  
Russell Crosswy said...

Sounds like an awesome book. I've actually been doing a lot of analyzing in my life (not re-analyzing as I haven't really figured out everything for myself before!). I just graduated college and got a job and I'm not so sure I'm where I want to be and I'm not sure I'm headed where I want to go.

Loving your work! Don't burn yourself out on it. Take a break and enjoy yourself!

11:16 AM  
Carmine Coyote said...

Thanks, Ironman. I'll be back after the holidays.

5:03 PM  

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