Four Key Points About Enterprise Attention Management

June 22, 2009 at 4:09 pm | Posted in Attention Management, Information Work, interruption science | 1 Comment

I’m just putting the finishing touches on a new document on Enterprise Attention Management.  This one will be a short primer on our view of the subject.  It’s been over two years since my main document on EAM was published and my thinking has evolved as I’ve hit questions from people at presentations and in private conversations.  It’s also been shaped by the press coverage of information overload and e-mail overload – often by encouraging me to put warning signs in front of some slippery slopes that they wander into: Counting all distractions as interruptions?  Lumping interruptions into information overload?  Using 100% focus and efficiency as the benchmark to compare “cost of overload” to?  Assuming only tips and tricks for individuals can chip away at it?  Yeesh!

After a brief description of what enterprise attention management is and its business context, I describe 4 points that are key for my position on EAM:

1. Not Everyone Feels Overloaded

As strongly as you and a few like-minded people may feel about the impacts of information overload, a lot more people just don’t notice or care.  But improving efficiency and reaction time: that’s something everyone can get behind.  Get away from having to shake everyone awake about the “problem” and its a lot easier for others to get on board with your efficiency argument.

2. Key People in an Organization Can Take Action to Improve Efficiency of Information Workers

You can try to organize your little information garden and give tips to your teammates to do the same and one small portion of your company will breathe a little easier.  But there are a few people who select the gardening tools and set expectations for everyone’s gardens – they have a different set of things they can do to help everyone in the organization.

3. Use EAM as a Lens to Understand Impacts of New Information-based Technologies

Enterprise attention management can be used as a lens to analyze how various technologies and programs will impact the attention of information workers.  One recent example of applying this architecture is the “EAM for e-mail” posting I did here.

4. Influence Process and Culture Selectively

An evangelical approach to “information overload” starts with declaring it “bad” and then figuring out how to force people not to overload each other.  A more practical approach does not see lots of information as good or bad, but rather focuses on efficiency and looks for key moments when processes and culture can be influenced.  These include teachable moments, such as new hire training or rolling out a new technology.  They do not include an e-mail blast or interoffice memo out of nowhere telling everyone how they should now behave.


1 Comment »

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  1. Good points. I like the approaches to driving change without having to convince everyone first that the problem is “bad” (not that it isn’t, but I’ve often seen the divergence of personal perceptions about it). Thanks for putting it in this perspective.

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