Just Seven Things

Exploring why and how we do what we do, and how we can do it better

Archive for the tag “Attention”

The Management of our Attention

‘The ability to attend to our environment, to our own feelings, and to those of others is a naturally evolved feature of the human brain. Attention is a finite commodity, and it is absolutely essential to living a good life. We need attention in order to truly listen to others – and even to ourselves. We need attention to truly enjoy sensory pleasures, as well as for efficient learning. We need it in order to be truly present during sex or to be in love or when we are simply contemplating nature. Our brains can generate only a limited amount of this precious resource every day.’ – Thomas Metzinger, The Ego Tunnel

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Pay Attention to Your Attention

The Hawthorne effect refers to a study in 1924 on the effects of the changes in working conditions (lighting/ cleanliness etc.) on the productivity of a set of factory workers. One potential conclusion from the study was that the biggest impact on productivity was the act of being studied. Productivity slumped whenever the studies concluded.

Joe Griffin and Ivan Tyrrell in Human Givens argue that the giving and receiving of ‘attention’ is a basic human need. They refer to Idries Shah and his studies when they note that ‘many social and commercial transactions are in fact disguised attention situations’. Shah suggested that humanity could benefit enormously by ‘studying the attracting, extending and reception, as well as the interchange, of attention’:

‘If individuals are unaware that what is driving them in certain circumstances is the demanding, extending or exchange of attention, believing they are engaged in something else – such as learning, informing, helping, buying or selling – they are likely to be less efficient in achieving their ends’

So by remaining mindful of the currency of attention in your interactions with others, you can achieve your goals more effectively. Since I read this, it’s had a big impact. Rather than necessarily re-interpreting all situations – I think we are well developed in understanding clear attention needs and giving – it has made me more aware of how to respond better to the clear ‘needy’ situations (mine and others). I have tried not to interpret the interaction as being anything other than need driven. I have found that subtlety unlocks  a much better response in me to both my own needs and others. The act of focusing on the ‘attention transaction’ has also has enabled me to better understand what’s really driving my needs. And then do something about them.

Where the whole area gets really exciting is when you consider it within this context of learning. Griffin & Tyrrell argue that it is clear in the attention exchange that we suspend our critical faculty. It is something we have to do if we are consider and absorb new patterns of information:

‘When attention is focused and we grasp what someone is telling us in an uncritical way, we have absorbed a pattern at an unconscious level. Its full meaning and ramifications may not become apparent at once but, once the pattern is in the brain, it will affect future actions and add to the sum total of our knowledge. Knowledge only becomes real in action, when it is experienced. This is how we learn’

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Are We Getting Better at Thinking?…and Innovating?

For all the talk of the evils of the web in terms of driving us to attention deficit/ dispersal, a few areas I’ve been reading have glued together in my head which may make a case for the opposition:

First, in a fantastic book on writing powerfully for business: We, Me, Them & It,  John Simmons makes a point, ‘For as long as I can remember I’ve used writing to sort out my thinking’

I’ve been toying round with a way of prioritising my time – personally and at work – around 5Cs: Create, Connect and Collaborate, Communicate and Consume. So in that order, I try and allocate any time I have to ensure I’m not just consuming or communicating. Since I restarted writing and refocusing on creativity nearly sixteen months ago, I’ve probably never been happier. I’ve argued to others that it makes my brain feel fresher and more flexible. The act of creation is satisfying, and I feel that I think better as a result of forcing myself to articulate things better – even when I play with words or ‘dump’ thoughts without much structure. I find this unblocks my thinking. Read more…

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