Attention Economy Recap and commentary from John Hagel

Last week we published excerpts of Michael Goldhabers book on the Attention Economy.

Here’s the overview page for common access to the different pages, followed by an assessment of Goldhaber’s work by John Hagel at Edge Perspectives.

Introduction page and first excerpt at

Second excerpt at

Third excerpt at

Fourth excerpt at

John Hagel on what makes Goldhaber’s approach so promising:

* Unlike many people who have written about the relative scarcity of attention relative to information overload, Goldhaber never loses sight of the fact that attention is ultimately about the connection between people, as illustrated in the following quote

In paying attention to the words, then, we are actually paying attention – as best we can – to the person who seems to have uttered them . . . This suggests that the prime purpose of words is to make possible this kind of connection between people.

* Goldhaber appears genuinely intent on mapping out a systematic set of economic principles that will shape where and how value gets created and captured in the attention economy

* Goldhaber also avoids the trap of viewing attention as a commodity – “Commodities are usually standardized, more or less generic things or substances that can be bought and sold in measurable amounts. None of this holds for attention.”

In fact, Goldhaber is close to viewing attention as a flow, rather than a stock – something that must continually be refreshed, if it is to be maintained. One can only continue to attract full attention if one offers something new along the way.

Goldhaber’s rich view of attention as an “aligning of minds” helps to make it clear that the multi-tasking and continual partial attention that many digerati believe will reduce attention scarcity is at best a weak remedy. His perspective helps to explain why, as Linda Stone has suggested, full attention will become the new aphrodisiac.

In reflecting on what I have seen of Goldhaber’s work, there are some areas that I hope he will develop in much more detail:

* Right now, Goldhaber’s writing seems focused on the consumer sphere and, as a result, the connection between attention and talent development is much less explicit than it could be – the bottom line is that attention becomes critical for production/creation and not just consumption, as I have briefly suggested here and here. It also helps to explain why the demand for attention will rapidly increase while the supply remains limited.

* Goldhaber’s perspective on attention provides an interesting lens to view the distinction between transactions and relationships and I hope he will explore this distinction in greater depth. One important way to amplify the value of attention for all parties is to build relationships.

* Goldhaber makes an interesting observation that “the norm in attempts at getting attention, the sine qua non of this new economy, are more in the line of self-revealing than either self-concealing or merging into some mass.” I hope he develops this theme more – it will help to draw together a broad range of phenomena including the demand for more corporate transparency and the success of social network sites in creating more visibility for its participants. Transparency may paradoxically become an increasing requirement for visibility.

Now, for most executives, this can seem like a pretty abstract discussion without any clear relevance for near-term actions. That impression would be a mistake. The attention economy is surfacing around us today – it is not some distant future. As with most economic trends, those who spot them and act on them early are most likely to create significant value. Here are some early action items:

* Explore the implications of attention scarcity for firm structure – I view attention scarcity as a key catalyst driving the unbundling and rebundling of firms that is occurring on a global scale

* Master the management techniques required to increase return on attention, not only for customers but for employees and business partners as well

* Create mechanisms to help customers and employees attract the attention they need to become more successful in their endeavors, especially in terms of their talent development.”

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