Back in 1971, Herbert Simon was anticipating the emergence of that precious human resource – attention. He said, “In an information-rich world, the wealth of information means a dearth of something else: a scarcity of whatever it is that information consumes. What information consumes is rather obvious: it consumes the attention of its recipients. Hence, a wealth of information creates a poverty of attention and a need to allocate that attention efficiently among the overabundance of information sources that might consume it.”
On an average, in a day, how much of your attention do you think you own? And what is hacking your attention? Attention hacking is now a commonly used term to describe the business model of social media. Reportedly, Facebook’s market capitalisation has reached $555 billion dollars and Google’s has reached more than $880 billion dollars. The search for information has become one of our most valuable commodities, up there with staples like food and clothing, and in terms of capitalisation, many times more valuable than petroleum.
If time management has traditionally been seen as the skill to have, today’s lifestyle has given pride of place to attention management.
Marketing teams know this well – they have taken marketing to a whole new level with all sorts of attention-hacking practices. Everyone is vying for a piece of the pie. So it is worthwhile to ask: What sustainable attention education is available? What are worthwhile sustainable attention practices? And what sustainable attention policies exist that are conducive to our individual and collective well-being?
Let’s explore the findings of some scientific research on this topic. Matthew Killingsworth has been conducting an ongoing experiment at Harvard University using a mobile application to measure the quality of attention of people. The app contacts participants at random moments during their waking hours, asking them to report in real-time the status of their thoughts, feelings and actions during their daily activities. The database currently contains nearly a quarter of a million samples from about 5,000 people from 83 different countries, who range in age from 18 to 88, and who collectively represent every one of the 86 major occupational categories.
Killingsworth found that mind wandering occurred on average 47% of the time, and that people were less happy when their minds were wandering than when they were not. It is not only that unhappiness makes us unfocused, but also that a lack of focus leads to unhappiness. What does this mean for each one of us?
(To be continued)
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