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5.0 out of 5 stars Fascinating!
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...
Published on Oct. 16 2002 by Roger E. Herman

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3.0 out of 5 stars It didn't hold my attention
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...
Published on Jan. 2 2002 by Mary Ellen Gordon


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2.0 out of 5 stars Disappointingly fluffy, Jan. 5 2003
By 
Maarten (Seattle, WA USA) - See all my reviews
This review is from: Attention Economy: Understanding the New Currency of Business (Paperback)
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.
The graphic design of the book makes a point and is amusing at first, but when you're trying to stick to the flow of the main text, the sidebars and tangential blurbs become very distracting. They becgome more distracting as the amount of real information in the main text decreases in later chapters.
I read this as a bookclub book to discuss it with a few (high-tech focused) friends, and we unanimously hated the book. I recommend taking a good look at it before spending your money.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Fascinating!, Oct. 16 2002
By 
Roger E. Herman (Greensboro, NC USA) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
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!
The one negative-if it even is a negative-is the quotes and illustrative comments that appear in smaller type at the bottom of many of the pages. They distracted my attention from the flow of the text, making the book consciously a bit more difficult to read. Ah! The authors have made their point! Recommended for people in all walks of life; this is a book about us, not just an economy or business treatise.
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3.0 out of 5 stars It didn't hold my attention, Jan. 2 2002
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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
By 
Martin Schray (West Chicago, IL United States) - See all my reviews
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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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4.0 out of 5 stars Organizational ADD - what an intriguing concept..., Sept. 25 2001
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. Tom Davenport and John Beck makes the case that in the future we will need to 'attention manage' as a metric. They ask whether 'we are the first society with ADD' (attention deficit disorder), and they list symptoms of organizational ADD.
As mentioned in the editorial review the Attention Economy is littered with anecdotal pull-outs and "overheard" comments; as well as random factoids such as that the Sunday edition of the New York Times contains more written factual information than was available to reader in the 15th century. Though these factoids are intriguing they can be distracting as they are not always connected to the main body of material. But in some ways they exemplify the attention problem as you are often drawn to reading them.
The main body of the book is devoted to looking at tactics for companies to achieve and manage attention both on an internal basis and with their customers and partners. Softer issues such as personal time management are looked at in the context of the wider picture and have implications for both people and organizations. I found the book however to be missing a 'model' or framework that companies could really use. Aside from having an in-depth awareness of the issue, I am unsure what I would do/have done differently after reading it.
The book is well written and engaging, and the authors present an excellent perspective on this most-precious resource.
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5.0 out of 5 stars The Realities and Consequences of Information Overload, Aug. 3 2001
By 
Robert Morris (Dallas, Texas) - See all my reviews
(TOP 10 REVIEWER)    (HALL OF FAME)    (REAL NAME)   
This is a fascinating subject: ADD in the business world. Almost everyone continues to experience information overload. Some who have studied this phenomenon invoke metaphors such as "blizzards" of data. Meanwhile, information providers struggle to get through "blizzards" to reach those who are most important to them. How to attract their attention? Then, how to capture that attention with what has been described as "stickiness"? After conducting an extensive research project, Davenport and Beck conclude that attention is "the new currency of business." Perhaps Wolf agrees, having written a brilliant book about "the entertainment economy"; perhaps Pine and Gilmore also agree, having written a book about "the experience economy."
At the beginning of most of his plays, Shakespeare uses various devices to attract an audience's attention so that its members could then be entertained. (The play Hamlet begins with a question "Who's there?" The audience settles down, curious to learn the answer.) In today's marketplace, merchants such as Starbucks and Williams-Sonoma do everything possible (and appropriate) to attract attention by appealing to several of the senses. (The fragrant aroma of Starbucks' gourmet coffee can be experienced by many of those in the bookstore nearby.) Especially now with so many people online, there is what so many have observed as "too much information" or at least "not enough time" to absorb and digest the information available.
Davenport and Beck organize their material within 12 chapters which range from "A New Perspective on Business (Welcome to the Attention Economy)" to "From Myopia to Utopia (The Future of the Attention Economy)." They explain why understanding and managing attention is now the single most important determinant of business success. They examine with rigor and eloquence three different types of "attention technologies": attention-getting, attention-structuring, and attention-protecting. They explain why companies will no longer be proud of how extensive their knowledge portals are, but rather of how targeted an information environment they create. (Davenport and Beck fully understand that "targets" are constantly moving; also, that the prioritization of "targets" is an on-going process to accommodate change.) Throughout the book, they also insert dozens of "Principles." Here are three examples:
"Types Principle: Six basic units of currency are exchanged in an attention market, each emphasizing a specific target of focused mental engagement."
NOTE: These "basic units" are Captive and Voluntary, Aversive and Attractive, and finally, Front-of-Mind and Back-of-Mind. They are discussed in detail in Chapter 2, one of the book's most thought-provoking chapters.
"Tap or Bottle Principle: The most important function of attention isn't taking information in, but screening it out."
"Action! Principle: Hollywood studio executives understand their audience before they make a play for their attention, and they manipulate setting, segmentation, and culture to hold onto it."
The authors suggest that the trend of more information competing for less attention cannot go on forever. "Ultimately, people will begin to withdraw from the stress of an attention-devouring world, and information providers will begin to focus on quality, not quantity." Each delivery day, I immediately toss (unopened) all unwanted items in the U.S. mail; I systematically delete (unread) all unwanted e-mail messages, and politely but quickly end all telephone solicitations. Everyone I know responds the same way in these situations. Davenport and Beck conclude their brilliant book noting "In the end, the greatest prize for being able to capture attention will be the freedom to avoid it." Many (most?) information providers will continue to waste truly valuable "currency" unless and until they become insolvent or until they finally understand the basic principles of "the attention economy." Davenport and Beck wrote the book for them but also for other information providers who can increase even more the ROI on the same "new currency."
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5.0 out of 5 stars One of Top 25 Books on Information Fundamentals, July 25 2001
By 
Robert David STEELE Vivas (Oakton, VA United States) - See all my reviews
I rank this book as easily one of the top 25 books on information fundamentals, and quite possibly in the top 10. While there are other books on attention qua economic good, this one focuses on us, the attention providers, and not on the media or entertainment or other attention thieves.
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.
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3.0 out of 5 stars Great ideas but some diificulty to grab attention, June 2 2001
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 "relevant" bite of information): we as humans and organizations have less and less the ability to "focus" on the information we receive. Let's work on how to repair this !
It should be obvious for any executive that this situation occurs everywhere today even though the diagnostic and recommendations are differents : delegation, Key performances indicators (let's focus on these and forget the rest), time management, etc, ...
The point is that before the books goes in the implications of attention management (from ch. 8), you read more than half of the book. In the meantime, you learn great thinks about the bioligical reactions of apes, basic stuff about e-commerce techniques, and various other subjects.
The book use an original packaging inside (eyes catching tricks) but more attention on the sequence of the book would have provided a roadmap that distinguishes academic readers and attention deficit victims (as myself).
I read most of Tom Davenport books and found them excellent but this one deserve an "improved edition" to allow the reader to grab the key issues before he is bored !
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3.0 out of 5 stars Good Summary of Latest Research and Measurement Model, May 23 2001
By 
Donald Mitchell "Jesus Loves You!" (Thanks for Providing My Reviews over 124,000 Helpful Votes Globally) - See all my reviews
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Professor Thomas H. Davenport is well known for his superb summaries of best practices in knowledge management. In The Attention Economy, he and co-author, Professor John C. Beck, outline the work that others are doing in measuring how attention is gained, and provide a prototype measurement device for attention. The book modestly advances our knowledge of this subject. The book's weakness is that it misdefines the key issue, which should be "What Should We Be Paying Attention to in Business?"
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!
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5.0 out of 5 stars Achtung, Baby!, May 22 2001
Can the secret of success be boiled down to giving and getting attention? Think Hollywood - or look at the advertising industry or the "stars" of the business world - the most successful are the ones that get all the attention. The flip side of this attention coin as presented in "The Attention Economy" is the success that comes from managing your own attention effectively - something very few people recognize, let alone know how to control. The book takes on the problems that hinder productivity (both personal and business) by viewing them through a new lens: "Understanding and managing attention," the authors claim, "is now the single most important determinant of business success." A heady claim, but one that Davenport and Beck support with compelling insights - starting with an explanation of how our minds instinctively create their own attention hierarchies (yes, sex is near the top, but so is catastrophe, self-esteem, and jockeying for power among colleagues.), and then focusing the "attention lens" on topics like leadership, strategy, and organizational structure. Despite its serious business bent (both Davenport and Beck are seasoned professionals, and, the book is published by Harvard Business School Press, after all) the book has a hip, refreshing tone and manages to straddle the line between enlightening the business professional and entertaining the human within. That's what I liked about the book the most - instead of approaching professionals as slightly sentient processors of information, the authors are concerned with the limited natural resource that powers individuals and organizations - their attention - and help us maximize its potential.
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Attention Economy: Understanding the New Currency of Business
Attention Economy: Understanding the New Currency of Business by John C. Beck (Paperback - July 23 2002)
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