Can I have your attention? Can I have your attention?

Can I have your attention?
22 Mar 2018

 Can I have your attention? By Curt Steinhorst, with Jonathan McKee

Some books are less standalone reference works and more an overt or covert advert for the author’s course material, or an attempt to get you to put your hand in your pocket to purchase additional information – and so it is (with qualifiers) with ‘Can I have your attention?’

The reason for mentioning this state of affairs early on is simply to get the issue out of the way because the book is – for the most part – an engaging, thought-provoking, and well-balanced one on time management, if you are looking for an overall theme. The opening chapters explore the impact on workers of contemporary internet technologies – mainly social media and email – and how they have played havoc in terms of getting important work done.

Building on Nobel Prize winner Herbert Simon’s observation  that too much information leads to a “poverty of attention”, the author turns the issue around to consider how attention can be regained by reducing the number of distractions.

It is compelling stuff - and should there is a follow up, it would be just as interesting to highlight the ways in which companies such as Facebook, YouTube and LinkedIn play with people’s emotions to divert them from more productive activities too. If people were more aware of this situation, they might actually be better equipped to respond to ‘nudges’, ‘clickbait’ and the instant physiological “rewards” they generate in the form of oxytocin and dopamine (page nine).

Improving attention spans

Another area the book explores in a bid to improve people’s attention spans is that of office space. This well-written section presents good arguments for the pros and cons of a range of alternative approaches, offering a lot for those with an interest in facilities management to get their teeth into.

The author also considers different communication techniques and offers some practical ideas for managing emails and meetings. They include suggestions for useful software, which he intimates should not necessarily be the usual default customer relationship management or Microsoft Office applications but what works best for each individual. The idea is that workers will benefit most from learning to use tools rather than the tools using them.

So with all of this in mind, it is a shame that the final quarter of the book let it down. Here discussion of the impact of culture was lightweight, with rich seams of research simply being overlooked. The same was true of the relationship between structure and culture, and the interaction between the two.

But all in all, the work is a good one: balanced, reflective and very relevant when looking at the challenges that organisations and the people within them face in staying focused and attentive when all around is designed to distract them.

 Mark Northway

Reviewed by Mark Northway,director and courses co-ordinator at Deltic Training, which provides strategic administration and business management courses and accredited qualifications. He is a former director and trustee of the Institute of Administrative Management (IAM), a chief IAM examiner and a Princes Trust Award winner for his role in business mentoring in the UK.

 

 

 

 

 Can I have your attention? By Curt Steinhorst, with Jonathan McKee

Some books are less standalone reference works and more an overt or covert advert for the author’s course material, or an attempt to get you to put your hand in your pocket to purchase additional information – and so it is (with qualifiers) with ‘Can I have your attention?’

The reason for mentioning this state of affairs early on is simply to get the issue out of the way because the book is – for the most part – an engaging, thought-provoking, and well-balanced one on time management, if you are looking for an overall theme. The opening chapters explore the impact on workers of contemporary internet technologies – mainly social media and email – and how they have played havoc in terms of getting important work done.

Building on Nobel Prize winner Herbert Simon’s observation  that too much information leads to a “poverty of attention”, the author turns the issue around to consider how attention can be regained by reducing the number of distractions.

It is compelling stuff - and should there is a follow up, it would be just as interesting to highlight the ways in which companies such as Facebook, YouTube and LinkedIn play with people’s emotions to divert them from more productive activities too. If people were more aware of this situation, they might actually be better equipped to respond to ‘nudges’, ‘clickbait’ and the instant physiological “rewards” they generate in the form of oxytocin and dopamine (page nine).

Improving attention spans

Another area the book explores in a bid to improve people’s attention spans is that of office space. This well-written section presents good arguments for the pros and cons of a range of alternative approaches, offering a lot for those with an interest in facilities management to get their teeth into.

The author also considers different communication techniques and offers some practical ideas for managing emails and meetings. They include suggestions for useful software, which he intimates should not necessarily be the usual default customer relationship management or Microsoft Office applications but what works best for each individual. The idea is that workers will benefit most from learning to use tools rather than the tools using them.

So with all of this in mind, it is a shame that the final quarter of the book let it down. Here discussion of the impact of culture was lightweight, with rich seams of research simply being overlooked. The same was true of the relationship between structure and culture, and the interaction between the two.

But all in all, the work is a good one: balanced, reflective and very relevant when looking at the challenges that organisations and the people within them face in staying focused and attentive when all around is designed to distract them.

 Mark Northway

Reviewed by Mark Northway,director and courses co-ordinator at Deltic Training, which provides strategic administration and business management courses and accredited qualifications. He is a former director and trustee of the Institute of Administrative Management (IAM), a chief IAM examiner and a Princes Trust Award winner for his role in business mentoring in the UK.