If you like to keep on top of what's going on in the world but find it difficult to get through more than a section or two of the Sunday New York Times, take heart. Were you to actually plow through the whole thing, even just once, you'd be taking in more factual information than was gathered in all the written material available to a reader in the 15th century. And that's just a Sunday paper; what about all the e-mail, voice mail, meetings, Web pages (2 billion or so of them), and publications (more than 60,000 new books and 18,000 magazines published annually in the U.S. alone) vying for your attention? According to Thomas H. Davenport and John C. Beck, we live in an age of information overload, where attention has become the most valuable business currency. Welcome to The Attention Economy.
If yesterday was the age of information, today is the age of trying to attract or employ people's attention. Indeed, leaders and managers in the business world face this two-fold problem daily, constantly seeking the attention of their customers and employees while managing their own limited supply. Declaring that "understanding and managing attention is now the single most important determinant of business success," the authors examine what attention is, how it can be measured, how it's being technologically constructed and protected, and where and how attention is being most effectively exploited.
Predictably, nowhere are these economics more important than in the realm of e-commerce. In the chapter entitled "Eyeballs and Cyber Malls," the authors discuss the strategies needed to gain and maintain attention "stickiness." 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 often spent on attracting attention to a product than spent on the product itself (we're reminded of The Blair Witch Project, which cost a mere $350,000 to make and $11 million to market). 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; though intriguing in as random factoids and zippy, little quotes, this sideline information doesn't always tie in 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
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.
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