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The Attention Economy2010.02.24

    There is no doubt. We live in a dramatically different economy than the one we grew up in. Many factors are accelerating this change, rapidly developing technology and increased mobility of people and ideas.


    One result of rapid change is that more and more people find it difficult to pay attention or stay focused. This is aggravated by media such as television and video games, which condition our minds to a rapidly changing visual landscape and an infinite smorgasbord of choices.

    The Attention Economy: Understanding the New Currency of Business, by Thomas H. Davenport and John C. Beck, is a book which will change the way you look at business and your career. It could contain the keys to your survival in the new economy. The authors go so far as to say that, “understanding and managing attention is now the single most important determinant of business success.”

    As there is a deficit in attention, it is harder both to get and to give attention where it is needed. This means that people who are able to pay and to attract attention have a special advantage. They get noticed, remembered, and rewarded.

    The challenge for businesses is that customers can choose what and who they pay attention to. They also have many ways to change the channel, unsubscribe, or mentally surf as soon as they lose interest. Combine this with clamorous competition for our attention in an ocean of information, and you have a first rate problem in getting noticed at all.

    Albert Einstein said that, problems cannot be solved by the same level of thinking that created them. If companies or individuals try to get attention in the same way they lost it, they may sacrifice the right to be heard. Think of how you feel when an advertisement or commercial tricks you into paying attention, or holds you captive to a commercial message? Fail to keep a promise, or to deal swiftly with a customer complaint, and you can read about it the same day on the front pages of social media.

    Every time you attract attention in business or personal branding, you are offering a promise of value in exchange for the other person’s time and energy. If you fail to offer value, if you bait and switch to force feed a hidden message, then you will be dropped from the list of people worthy of attention. Even worse if you persist, you may be blacklisted or badmouthed.

    But regardless of how distracted we have become, you still find a way to pay attention to that which interests you. Have you noticed how easy it is to pick out a familiar face in a crowd? To find a book on a shelf? You have an amazing ability to scan and select when you know what you are searching for.

    Two people were walking on a noisy crowded New York avenue. One of them was an entomologist, and kept picking out the sounds of various species of insects amidst the street noise. The other person cared little for insects, and was unable to hear any of the insects until the expert pointed them out visually. When asked, “How is it that you can hear such tiny sounds?”, the entomologist dropped a coin on the street, and all heads turned. We hear and notice that which interests us most.

    If you want to be noticed for the value you have to offer, you need to change the level of your thinking. Rather than focusing on what you want to say, focus first on the other person’s needs. Talk about things in terms that benefit or interest the other person.

    Practice speaking in shorter sentences and phrases. Group your ideas with the rule of three, clear, consistent, and captivating. This will make them easier to remember. Be helpful, specific, and action-oriented. Get a platform for your personal branding, discipline your communication, and respect the other person’s time.

    Whether you are on a sales call or in a job interview, these simple steps will help you survive and thrive in the attention economy.


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    Article Writer

    William Reed

    William Reed is a renowned author-speaker who coaches physical finesse and flexible focus for a creative career path. A certified Master Trainer in Guerrilla Marketing and 7th-dan in Aikido, he combines practical wisdom of East and West to help you learn personal branding at the Entrepreneurs Creative Edge.

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