Top critical review
on January 5, 2003
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.