Competing For Attention

Attention is both the scarcest and most sought after resource. Whether a university bulletin board, television ad or board room the competition for attention is fierce. All of this competition for attention generates an enormous amount of noise and the natural tendency is to yell louder (causing more noise).

Being aware the environment is a noisy competition for attention mean that you have to understand the linkage noise and action. To succeed we need to create an environment where awareness can be channeled so those we are targeting will have a chance at being aware that our message exists. Tom Davenport suggests a model that begins with awareness, which is then filtered by attention to generate specifics from which action can be taken in his book The Attention Economy. This simple model helps us understand that getting someone to take action has prerequisites.

Attention is needed to provide input into the change equation and then to synthesize that input into information. Normal interaction between everyone affected by the change will create some tension because of the difference in day-to-day goals which are needed to generate a specific focus or attention. Tension and clashing, however, are two very different scenarios. Developing an understanding and tolerance for each of the voices matters because each role speaks for a different audience; each role may have separate organizational goals and because unless you recognize these differences you will create conflict. The increase in the environmental noise caused when goals conflict will slow action by clouding awareness and potentially distracting attention from what is important – delivering value.

It is nearly impossible to avoid noise but not impossible to direct awareness and then help focus attention on your message. Remember that you can’t shortcut the equation awareness, attention and action just by yelling louder.