- Reading level: 15+ years
- Paperback: 272 pages
- Publisher: Harvard Business Review Press; Revised ed. edition (31 May 2002)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 1578518717
- ISBN-13: 978-1578518715
- Product Dimensions: 17.1 x 1.3 x 22.2 cm
- Average Customer Review: Be the first to review this item
- Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #1,70,151 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
Attention Economy: Understanding the New Currency of Business Paperback – 31 May 2002
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"Getting the Attention You Need," Davenport and Beck. (August/September 2000); "Putting the Enterprise Into the Enterprise System" (July/August 1998); "Saving ITs Soul" (March/April 1994)
About the Author
Thomas H. Davenport is the Director of the Accenture Institute for Strategic Change and a Distinguished Scholar in Residence at Babson College. He is the author of Mission Critical: Realizing the Promise of Enterprise Systems, Process Innovation: Reengineering Work through Information Technology, and the co-author of Working Knowledge: How Organizations Manage What They Know.
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Most helpful customer reviews on Amazon.com
The book is written in the multi-visual short burst style of a magazine, as opposed to a more in depth prose. Some reviewers have commented negatively on this, and while I would agree it renders the material a bit lighter than it could be, it also uses the context of the subject matter ironically well in presenting the information in a way it can be absorbed quickly and in disconnected settings.
The highlights for me included the section on the different types of attention; captive, voluntary, aversive, and so on, describing each type and giving examples of how to alter and adopt your message to reach through the pitfalls of each style. The sections on customer stickiness are well traveled but fitting to this subject dialog.
Also discussed were several elements of organizational structure, design, leadership and how these foster or hinder the kind of attention the business needs from its people to get the desired results. Anyone faced with the challenge of trying to gain buy in for a cross group, or cross cultural, implementation of an organizational process knows the value of the message and the ability to gain the attention and focus of the recipients is the key to the success or failure of the change.
I would have liked to see more in depth study and examples on best practices and methodologies used to overcome the information saturation present in most businesses. The ability to create and deliver clarity and purpose, and stay on message long enough to gain the change needed is a key leadership component that is often overlooked. The author's examples of Jack Welch were right on, as he is likely one of the best ever at getting messages, and most importantly attention, through a large and diverse organization.
Overall, the book is a great overview of an important subject for businesses now and in the future where this becomes even more difficult, it is always interesting and readable, and therefore worthwhile.
On page 20 the book defines attention as a "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" (original italics). From this definition it follows that The Attention Economy is a system for managing the attention asset. And why manage attention? Because attention is an economic (scarce) resource. Like Joan Robinson is believed to have put it, "Scarce resources command a positive price." In this case the price of attention is attention, or as the authors suggest: to get attention one has to give attention. In other words, scarcity compels (rational) choices, and on the margin of decisions choices have opportunity costs as well as benefits. To say that attention is a "focused mental engagement" is to say that producing attention requires lowering the opportunity cost of producing attention by specializing on the basis of a comparative advantage. Standard economics.
The book argues that the study of attention is important because business success depends on attention and attention management, just as it does other resources. While the options theory of asset pricing seems to apply to the attention asset as well, a key difference is that the attention asset is a perishable intangible. Information designed to get attention often perishes into gluts that may lead to "organizational attention deficit disorder" and on to bankruptcy, suggesting a need for attention management.
Chapters 3, 4, and 5 are nuggets of gold both analytically and in terms of descriptive content. Chapter 3 deals with the measurement of attention - pay attention to pages 40-47. Chapter 4, on "the psychobiology of attention", outlines general hierarchical schemes for understanding human needs relevant to giving, getting, growing, and keeping the attention resource. Chapter 5 is particularly about how a business can get people (its employees, customers, and competitors) to pay attention to its attention. Among many examples: It can use attention technologies such as customizing solutions; it can avoid shoving its attention onto others; and it can use its people to keep the attention it already gets.
The sixth chapter of the book gives examples of industries where one would find the attention resource in practical uses. These include: advertising, movies, TV, and publishing. A defining characteristic of attention in these industries is "stickiness", i.e., paying and keeping attention (see p. 115ff).
The next five chapters stress e-commerce, leadership, strategies, changes of organizational structure, and information and knowledge management, all in the attention economy. The last chapter looks to the future, especially to the challenges and prospects the attention economy presents.
This is a good book, and the first five chapters are especially good. Some of the last chapters sound more like the revolutions we heard so much about during the dotcom era. The revolutionaries then told us to completely forget the "old economy", and singularly embrace the "new economy". Such predictions turned out to be hoity-toity, mainly because revolutions rarely succeed; they are generally too destructive even for their own good. Many revolutions have failed because, whereas people dislike the effects of change, they hate the disruptions of revolutions. Having said all that, I would still recommend The Attention Economy as fine work and good reading.
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