Leadership Attention Span, A Necessary Intangible Asset

I am an advocate for individual’s to lengthen their attention span…which hopefully readers of this blog notice is a premium, by virtue of the frequent ‘long form’ blog posts I publish and, which has become somewhat of a moniker for much of my work.

Advocating longer attention span is not intended to convey…arrogance or condescension to anyone.

Instead, it is intended to underscore my perspective that…there are numerous new – different, and worthy business operation concepts,  models, and/or theories, etc…

  • that leadership are variously (fiduciarily) obliged to acquire sufficient operational familiarity,
  • to make informed judgments about how or whether it is – could be relevant to their business,
  • ala the products – services it produces – delivers, and the types of transactions it may, or routinely engage.

One example, is the globally universal (irreversible, irrefutable) economic fact that today, and for the foreseeable future…

  • 80+% of most companies value, sources of revenue, competitive advantage, reputation, and sustainability today lie in – emerge directly from intangible (non-physical) assets, i.e., various forms – types of intellectual, structural, and relationship capital. 

The contributory role and value of intangible assets to businesses, conceptually and practically...warrant levels of thought, reflection, and action that extend beyond the brevity of talking points associated with the proverbial ‘power point’ slide deck.

The rationale for business leadership to do so…lies with the reality that increasingly larger percentages of businesses today, tomorrow, and next week are ‘intangible asset intensive and dependent’.

Its not difficult to conclude then, business leadership who remain… inattentive or dismissive of the business economics, i.e., value, revenue generation, competitiveness, and reputation, all linked directly to the development and exploitation of intangible assets does so at their peril and that of their company.

As articulated in an ‘April 2017 TED Talk’ by computational neuroscientist Mehdi Ordikhani-Seyedlar...‘attention is not just about what we focus on, it’s also about what our brains filter out’, so…

  • would it not be useful to understand which – what information in our respective brains gets ‘filtered out’ and why, and presumably absent our conscious effort to do so?

Admittedly my interest in the functioning of our brain’s ‘information filtering’ feature…is somewhat self-serving.  For example, I believe the subject matter, i.e., all things intangible

  • which I have endeavored to draw attention to since May 2006 through 650+ published posts at my ‘Business Intangible Asset Blog’ and books,
  • indeed has immediate and strategic  relevancy to business leadership irrespective of sector.

I am hard pressed to understand the espousal of any rationale…that seeks to explain away why each-and-every university (declared) business major who presumably aspires to be competitive and successful, should not take a strong strategic interest in all things intangible.

Certainly, Google Analytics provides important analysis…particularly regarding the what, when, and for how long, i.e., ‘number of clicks and/or visitors’ to online publishing…

  • these ‘analytics’ do not, however, shed direct sun light on, or otherwise distinguish ‘the why’s’, which, for any author – B2B website owner holds special importance relative to how they frame, demonstrate, and convey their products, services, and/or counsel.

Is there something I am missing, that’s certainly a possibility…but, the economic fact that 80+% of most company’s value and sources of revenue, etc., lie in – emerge directly from intangible assets is settled.

Unfortunately, I have found this extraordinary – game changing economic fact…may be acknowledged and translated by a business, even one’s which are obviously ‘intangible asset intensive and dependent’ in accordance with an attention span.

Think about this way…intangible assets are routinely embedded in business operations, that’s fact, however…

  • if those assets’ contributory role and value are not recognized, developed, exploited, or safeguarded effectively,
  • that business’s probability to ever be consistently positioned to achieve their projected outcomes, returns, efficiencies, competitive advantages, revenues, etc., relative to their investment in intellectual, structural, and relationship capital, can, and likely will, rapidly fade.

Returning to the TEDTalk given by Dr. Mehdi Ordikhani-Seyedlar, whose expertise lies in investigating, tracking, and monitoring various patterns occurring – present in our brain…

  • aspires to apply his research to develop computer models which can be used to treat human functionality challenges such as ADHD and to those who have variously lost their ability to communicate.

As business leaders, we should be obliged to focus on a specific topic and/or subject beyond the vagaries of abbreviated attention spans.

Unfortunately, human attention span has been minimized…often characterized as the preference, as a presumed prelude to…

  • having important, far-reaching subject matter – concepts condensed,
  • and delivered with as much brevity as possible, i.e., the proverbial elevator pitch.
  • too, attention span is also being expressed through one’s dramatized surges of simplified ‘key words’…
    • purposefully designed to seize-capture a user’s fleeting – multi-tasking span of attention which many have come to assume is a perfectly acceptable business norm.

Of all the product -service developers, providers, and marketing practitioners I have come to be acquainted over the years…I am reasonably hard pressed to identify (recall) any who does not hold-advocate this perspective in terms of branding and/or capturing the attention of an audience in seconds, not minutes!

Often associated with such perspectives is the perceived requisite…that a targeted audience’ attention can only be accessed by sewing fear, uncertainty, and/or doubt, i.e., the FUD factors, as I refer to them.

Through my lens, however, the relevance and practicality of important (lucrative, competitive) concepts…should not, and perhaps cannot, be fully appreciated, distinguished, or rationally-objectively assessed if-when it’s based largely on the brevity of a presentation, explanation, or by infusion of fear, uncertainty, or doubt!

Dr. Ordikhani-Seyedlar’s research ratherclearly suggests that influencing humans to pay closer attention to a subject-topic…may not be all that simple.

The reason he points out, lies variously in our attention being pulled in many different directions simultaneously…that should come as no particular surprise…

  • but, rather amazingly he notes, it is actually-impressive if – when an adult can remain focused on a specific subject for an extended period-of-time.
  • presumably then, the length of a person’s attention (span) correlates to one’s personal-professional interest in a particular, subject or topic.
  • Dr. Ordikhani-Seyedlar adds also, that one’s attention span is affected by what and which information our brains are trying to filter out, which I translate as important – relevant, but as-yet, unexplained element.

Dr. Ordikhani-Seyedlar says there are two general ways one direct their attention…

  • first, there is overt attention, that is, people ‘move their eyes’
    toward something in-order-to pay attention to it, and
  • second, there is covert attention, which he describes as people
    paying attention to something, without moving their eyes, presumably
    our eyes are variously fixed in a particular-direction.

To explain more about the ways individuals direct their attention, Dr. Ordikhani-Seyedlar applies an analogy, which I have adapted here…to people operating – driving an automobile….

  • while driving, a driver’s overt attention, i.e., the direction of their eyes, are (generally) forward looking, that makes sense, but a 
  • driver’s covert attention, on the other hand, is, or should be, scanning the periphery, presumably looking for and assessing potential risks, but not necessarily the specifics.

To be sure, there are numerous other inferences which can be drawn from Dr. Ordikhani-Seyedlar’s research. One which I have special interest is analogized from the 1960’s television show ‘Dragnet’ and the memorable and oft repeated statement uttered by Sgt. Joe Friday (principle actor) when questioning victims and/or witnesses to a crime, i.e., ‘just the facts mam’

In my judgment, ‘just the facts’, e.g., brief sound bites, visuals, or abbreviated key word synopsis…seldom translate to…

  • meaningful, effective recognition, understanding, or a comprehensive portrait, and the
  • all-important relevance to and influence on outcomes.

So, Sgt. Friday’s ‘just the facts, mam’ approach, may…overlook relevant – important underliers as to motives and alibies, etc., each necessary in its own right, to ultimately solve a criminal act, not terribly unlike the long form blog posts I routinely publish here.

Michael D. Moberly June 20, 2017 St. Louis [email protected], the ‘Business Intangible Asset Blog’ since May 2006, 650+ blog posts published, ‘where one’s attention span, intangible assets, and solutions converge’!

Readers are invited to explore other published blog posts, video, and position papers at https://kpstrat.com/blog

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