We often focus on the attention economy as it relates to life online, but it’s a helpful lens for thinking about the rest of our lives too.
Attention hours are a useful thing to count when thinking about how valuable an activity is, and how much time you might be wasting if you do it badly.
Ten hours of your attention preparing an hour’s presentation seems like a lot, but even if you only have twenty people in the room – twenty of the right people – and you do what you set out to do, you’ve just doubled your investment.
Attention hours also help us to see the value that we risk wasting with bad presentations. Even if your audience haven’t paid money to see you, they’re paying attention.
What could you achieve with twenty hours of your audience’s work? How about a hundred hours?
What could they – could you – buy with one hundred times their average hourly wage?
What will you do to make the most of this valuable opportunity? What will make it worth it for them, which will also make it worth it for you?
Crikey, it’s a very long photo of a postbox – read on for some thoughts about information architecture and the Royal Mail.
From a distance
Everyone knows what a postbox looks like – if you’re looking for one, they’re easy to find
Anyone who isn’t looking for a postbox can ignore the postbox at no cost to their time and attention
Most local people will remember where this one is even if they’ve never used it – so they know where to go when they do need it, or when others do. (Top British Question: “Excuse me, but do you know if there’s a postbox nearby?”)
When you want it, when you’ve found it, it’s got all the info in the right place, in the order you’ll ask for it:
Is this postbox in use? (answer implied)
When’s the next collection?
What’s the latest I can drop my letter today and have it collected? (If I’m happy with this, I can stop reading straight away).
If I’m in a hurry, where’s the nearest place I can go for an earlier collection?
If I’ve missed that too, what’s my last chance at a collection?
If I have other questions, where can I find answers or who can I call?*
*With apologies that I was in too much of a hurry to architect the second photo well enough to include everything!
I’ve already shared an extract from this episode about systems thinking here, but the whole interview is fascinating and everyone I’ve recommended it to has thanked me for it.
Marc Andressen more-or-less invented the web-browser as we know it and made Netscape (the biggest internet browser of its day, which was sold for a profit), which seeded the development of Mozilla Firefox, which you might be using right now. These days he’s a really influential venture capitalist, a quick (and very smart) thinker and fast talker.
This interview is full of useful and interesting gems, and Brian Koppelman does a great job of pulling out some interesting applications to art and pop culture. Apart from systems thinking, highlights (to be unpacked in future) include:
The importance of networks and scenes (‘scenius’) in fostering and spreading innovation
How to make your way, taking as a given that many things of life are unfair or wrong
The relative value of ideas versus work
Marketing, sales, and how to get your ideas in front of people
The Test – the ability to get a ‘warm referral’ to investors or key players not as cronyism but as an excellent test of the qualities needed to be a successful entrepreneur
You can listen to the episode here, download it here or read the transcript here.
Basically this means that since the demand of one good is linked to the demand for another good, if a higher quantity is demanded of one good, a higher quantity will also be demanded of the other, and if a lower quantity is demanded of one good, a lower quantity will be demanded of the other.
You only get to do this once, so how are you going to play?
There’s a time for gritting your teeth, grinding it out, pushing through barriers. No pain, no gain is often true.
But for everything that isn’t necessarily hard, what’s more of an incentive to show up – hard work or fun?
If little and often is the best way to build something, to help people, to grow – what’s going to bring you back often?
What’s going to make people want to come with you?
Life is too wonderful, funny, tragic and absurd not to have fun along the way. The older I get, the more important I think this is, and the more ridiculous it seems that we put on po-faces for so much of our working lives, as if curt nods and knitted brows signal expertise and authority more reliably than a bit of levity and, dare I say it… joy?
There are giants who loom large for us all: the Greats who laid the foundations and those who shook them – men and women who broke through and shaped the world.
In a sense, who made us.
There’s no need to name them – we know who many of them are, and we learn more about them as we go. And besides, there are too many to name and most are far away.
And there are the smaller giants: smaller people who stand tall in our eyes because they stood close. They gave us a boost, helped us see, carried us before we could walk or when we couldn’t walk any further. I won’t name these because I can’t – or rather, I can only name some of my own.
We all know about compound interest in the world of money. Save £100 a month for thirty years at one percent interest** and you’ll have a little under £42,000 by the end of that time (compared to £36,000 at zero-percent).
Make that investment at 5% and suddenly you’ll hit £83,000.
10%*** makes almost £228,000.
It takes time, and the commitment to building something steadily. No tricks, no promises of outrageous returns, a degree of risk – but not when compared to not investing at all.
What if the interest we seek for our work – attention, respect, partnership, remuneration – could compound in the same way? Often it seems that we’re after a flash in the pan (Viral. Now.), or that we’re not building anything consistently at all.
Starting with almost nothing, drop by drip, brick by brick, little by little, we can build a mountain.
** 1% annually, calculated monthly
*** A reasonable return from a stocks-and-shares index fund
We’re staying at a simple hotel in North Sulawesi.
The setting is idyllic.
Our hosts are unfailingly pleasant and helpful.
Good food is served three times a day, at regular times… plus or minus an hour.
Our room is cleaned… intermittently, and our bin emptied when we take it to reception ourselves.
We have lights, running water, and even air conditioning… until the power goes off around 7 a.m. each day, after which there’s intermittent generator power until the evening. There’s no coffeemaking or showering unless the power’s on.
All of these things are fine, and part of the fun – but for the first few days the uncertainty was inconvenient and uncomfortable.
Problems like this can be made to disappear with little effort, at no cost, and without changing anything. All it takes is communication and a bit of consistency:
“We serve breakfast at 7 a.m. daily. Lunch will be served between 12 and 1 p.m., depending on what time the dive boat gets back.”
“We will clean your room once every three days. If you need your bin emptied between times, please leave it at reception and collect it empty later in the day.”
“Because we’re on a small island, the power supply is unreliable after 7 a.m. A thermos of hot water will be available for making coffee, and we will run the generator during the heat of the day, from 11.30 a.m. to 3 p.m. for air conditioning. Mains power usually comes back on around 5 p.m.”
These could be shared with guests before booking, and again on arrival, so everyone knows what’s going on. No more questions to staff, no more confused or disgruntled guests.
Communicate clearly. Create the right expectations. Fulfill them. Everybody wins.