Friday, May 12, 2006

Discerning Trends: Attention Must Be Paid

To continue from the last post on the remarkable innovators present at GEL this year, here are my notes on Linda Stone's presentation. Much of this post comprises Stone's own words, even when not in quotes. I just can't write fast enough to keep up.

Attention Must Be Paid

Linda Stone follows trends. She looks at cycles of the human spirit, how we develop, and how these and other factors relate to our attention. Stone calls the point at which desire meets a new product the "sweet spot" because the gap between where we are and where we want to be defines what we become.

Stone's interest is the point at which human desire meets technology and how we use our attention there. She says we're at the end of a trend she calls "continuous partial attention" and are in the process of creating another trend in reaction against it.

Continuous Partial Attention: Different from Multi-Tasking

Multi-tasking, a tendency Stone dates as a trend from 1965-1985, became a trend whose goal was productivity. On the other hand, continuous partial attention, which began around 1985, is motivated by an obsession with being part of the network. The goal of multi-tasking is productivity; the heart of continuous partial attention is the desire not to miss anything.

Our Attention to Experience and the Resulting Quality

Stone says we've spent 20 years attempting to stretch human bandwidth to match that of technology. We've kept one item at the top-of-mind while scanning everything else we can reach. The constant communication and continuous partial attention has resulted in a sense of constant crisis. She says, "We're so accessible that we're inaccessible. We have so much power through technology that we feel powerless."

Stone said that the life of innovation, just like the life of anything else, requires different seasons to be sustainable and successful. Innovation relies on attention -- on consideration -- and Stone classifies it as an activity for the winter of a cycle. It's necessary to be inactive and to ruminate.

A New Trend: It's Here, Get Used to It

Stone says that after twenty years of welcoming and producing a bombardment of information and indiscriminate connections, we now want protecting and meaningful relationship. She says that our habits of attention are going from scanning to discernment, from thinking "what have we got to gain" to "what have we got to lose." We now want a filter and messages of meaning, belonging, and trust.

Stone gave an to illustrate the point: embracing every opportunity produces an Enron, while discerning among opportunities produces Apple's iPod.

And So . . .
What should you look for when choosing experiences for your customers, employees, and yourself? There will be an increasing call to enhance quality of life and ways of using our attention that are useful and comfortable.

Stone calls this the shift from knowledge workers to wisdom providers, and it's already begun.

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