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Attention Economy: Understanding the New Currency of Business [Paperback]

Thomas H. Davenport , John C. Beck
4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (21 customer reviews)
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Book Description

July 23 2002
In today's information-flooded world, the scarcest resource is not ideas or even talent: it's attention. In this groundbreaking book, Thomas Davenport and John Beck argue that unless companies learn to effectively capture, manage, and keep it--both internally and out in the marketplace--they'll fall hopelessly behind.

In The Attention Economy, the authors also outline four perspectives on managing attention in all areas of business:
1) measuring attention
2) understanding the psychobiology of attention
3) using attention technologies to structure and protect attention
4) adapting lessons from traditional attention industries like advertising

Drawing from exclusive global research, the authors show how a few pioneering organizations are turning attention management into a potent competitive advantage and recommend what attention-deprived companies should do to avoid losing employees, customers, and market share. A landmark work on the twenty-first century's new critical competency, this book is for every manager who wants to learn how to earn and spend the new currency of business.

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From Amazon

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 the Hardcover edition.

From Publishers Weekly

The most significant problem in today's business world is not competition, lack of skilled employees or an uncertain economy, but an attention deficit, declare two consultants affiliated with the Accenture Institute for Strategic Change. Put simply, with all the noise from meetings, faxes, voice mail and e-mail, it's hard to get consumers', employees', stockholders' or executives' undivided attention anymore. The companies that will succeed in the future, the authors state, will focus their efforts on this problem, instead of on conventional approaches to time management. Using research from such fields as television programming, Davenport (a distinguished scholar in residence at Babson College and author of Mission Critical) and Beck (a professor at UCLA's Anderson School of Management) explain how to attack "organizational ADD" on both an individual and corporate level. In one example, the authors point to an executive who postponed certain technological initiatives, noting that there were already too many demands on the company's attention. Though some of the writing is pedantic, the authors accurately describe corporate life and deliver a worthy message, along with short, practical sidebars. (June)Forecast: The authors' fresh message and an attention-getting jacket along with a $100,000 advertising campaign (including ads in the Wall Street Journal, the New York Times, Business Week and PW), 20-city radio satellite tour and author speaking engagements will help this book capture the business world's attention.

Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information, Inc.

--This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

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Customer Reviews

Most helpful customer reviews
2.0 out of 5 stars Disappointingly fluffy Jan. 5 2003
By Maarten
The book sets out in a bad direction, and never really recovers. There's some interesting survey material for those who are completely unfamiliar with the issues, but also many random unsubstantiated claims, much that's illogical or contradictory, and a ream of chapters later in the book with what seems to me to be vague management advice.
The initial bad direction comes in the form of a broken definition of attention: the authors claim attention is a narrowing of perception (sensory input), followed by an action decision. The latter part of this is completely bogus from a psychological perspective, and only there to support the marketing/advertising-oriented slant of the book. Yes, attention does involve a focus on a subset of sensory input, but no decision making needs to be attached. Think of watching a movie: it has your full attention; you're blocking out surrounding stimuli to some extent. But when the movie is effective, you're along for the ride, not making decisions. Furthermore, the authors *claim* that attention-management is different from time-management, but are very sloppy in distinguishing between attention, time, mind share, effort, persuasion, and a variety of other measures. It's maddening.
An example of the contradictory nature of the authors' advice is that they both advise managers to be creative in seeking their employees' attention (including multimedia messages, clowning in meetings, and other nonsense) AND advise that companies deploy "attention guards" to keep employees focused. Well, which is it? Distractions or focus? The sheer enthusiasm with which the authors endorse the arms race for attention (more and more baroque packaging of messages (ads) to get your attention) is disturbing.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Fascinating! Oct. 16 2002
This book is a delightfully interesting combination of academic and general audience writing that makes it quite readable and holds your attention page after page. The content is nicely woven into twelve chapters that explain more aspects of attention, gaining attention, and holding attention than you could imagine. You'll learn a lot from these pages. An abundance of footnotes will give you more resources to pursue to expand your learning even further.
I turned down more pages than usual in this volume. I marked all sorts of things to share with others and to go back to. I even wrote notes on some of the pages, which I don't usually do when reading a book like this. The authors explain that "attention is the real currency of business and individuals...In post-industrial societies, attention has become a more valuable currency than the kind you store in bank accounts."
The official definition: "Attention is focused mental engagement on a particular item of information. Items come into our awareness, we attend to a particular item, and then we decide whether to act." There's more, but I don't want to spoil this delicious read for you. You'll gain valuable insight into the role of attention in all aspects of our lives, how the ability to manage our attention is all-powerful . . . and how we struggle with our own personal challenge of managing the tremendous volume of information and other stimulants that bombard our senses. Part of the attention process is filtering and sorting, which is difficult for some people and can be overwhelming. There is so much in this book that I have no hesitation in giving it very high marks. Have your highlighter ready!
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3.0 out of 5 stars It didn't hold my attention Jan. 2 2002
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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4.0 out of 5 stars Attention, attention, attention... Nov. 1 2001
This was an intriguing read and I would highly recommend it. This will be of interest to business managers as well as knowledge works and web site designer. From a business managers perspective it highlights a growing trend that the attention of employees in under attack. It raises the challenge for crisp clear and meaningful communication. It also challenges managers to not overload the communication channels with unrelated, unfocused and disconnected communication. Once again Jack Welch is used as an example of a simple message (i.e.,number one or number two) delivered over multiple channels with enough repetition to get on the workers attention channel.
The authors provide an extremely useful tool named AttentionScape that measures where attention is being directed. It could be used to find were management, employee, customer and supplier attention is being focused. The book provides several examples of companies using (or ignoring to their determent) the AttentionScape information. The ideas the AttentionScape tool bring to fore make it worth the price of the book!
As a knowledge worker the book highlights the importance of realizing attention is a key resource in completing any task and as such it should be protected and leveraged to get important task complete. As with management it also indicates the need for clear communication. The book Getting Things Done: The Art of Stress-Free Productivity might be a good way to explore practical techniques for focusing and managing attention.
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Most recent customer reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars Seminal - A Paradigm Changing Book
A book which is not only well paced and well written, but most importantly, has something to say which does not echo the 'me too' mantra of most recent management books. Read more
Published on Oct. 27 2002 by Amazon Customer
4.0 out of 5 stars Organizational ADD - what an intriguing concept...
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. Read more
Published on Sept. 25 2001 by Naomi Moneypenny
3.0 out of 5 stars Could be a Repport - too long...
They could have written a repport with the material. It is good, has good insights, but far extensive than necessary.
Published on Sept. 12 2001 by "augustorosauro"
5.0 out of 5 stars The Realities and Consequences of Information Overload
This is a fascinating subject: ADD in the business world. Almost everyone continues to experience information overload. Read more
Published on Aug. 3 2001 by Amazon Customer
5.0 out of 5 stars One of Top 25 Books on Information Fundamentals
I rank this book as easily one of the top 25 books on information fundamentals, and quite possibly in the top 10. Read more
Published on July 25 2001 by Robert David STEELE Vivas
2.0 out of 5 stars Not enough
This book contained a lot of preliminary material describing attention and providing one measurement technique developed at the author's workplace, Accenture. Read more
Published on June 20 2001 by "electricbob"
5.0 out of 5 stars Helpful advice for a Marketing Executive
As a marketing executive, Davenport's and Beck's findings on how to get the attention of your customers is practical advice I now make use of in my marketing programs:... Read more
Published on June 12 2001
3.0 out of 5 stars Great ideas but some diificulty to grab attention
The idea of the book is great : let's look at information overload (to much supply) from the human side as "attention deficit" (not enough time and focus on every... Read more
Published on June 2 2001
5.0 out of 5 stars Take the AttentionScape
Great presentation of a key concept anyone in business needs to understand. The clincher is the tool they've developed to measure your attention profile, the AttentionScape. Read more
Published on May 31 2001 by Alan T. Sterling II
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