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The Attention Economy : Understanding the New Currency of Business Hardcover – June 1, 2001

4.3 out of 5 stars 29 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

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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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 272 pages
  • Publisher: Harvard Business Review Press (June 1, 2001)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 157851441X
  • ISBN-13: 978-1578514410
  • Product Dimensions: 9.6 x 7.6 x 0.9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 2 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (29 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #142,056 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover
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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Format: Hardcover
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.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
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.
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