The MegaTrend of Distributed Attention is driving everything


Yesterday I ran Getting Results From Crowds and Crowd Business Models workshops in Sydney, the first in a global series of crowdsourcing workshops.

In opening the Crowd Business Models workshop, I ran through some of the driving forces that are shifting business models to crowds. I had quickly drawn up the list the evening before the workshop, with the first coming to mind Distributed Attention.

During the workshop we had an awesome panel of three of Sydney’s top entrepreneurs: Rebekah Campbell of Posse, Sebastien Eckersley-Maslin of BlueChilli and Phil Morle of Pollenizer.

Each one of them spoke about how much harder it is to get people’s attention than even a year or two ago. For each of them, one of the fundamental reasons that business models need to start with crowds is that individual attention is increasingly fleeting. You can’t bolt on crowds to a business model as an afterthought – it must be at the center.

It is pretty clear to all of us that our attention and that of everyone around us is becoming increasingly scattered, and sliced into thinner and thinner slices.

Over the weekend I watched some old TV interviews with people like Marshall McLuhan, which showed a stark contrast to the micro-second attention of today’s TV. But today’s attention is more scattered than even just a year or two ago.

We cannot expect that this trend is going to stop and turn around.

I’ll loop back another time on the neurological and social implications of distributed attention. In the short-term the MegaTrend of Distributed Attention must be at the top the business agenda. It drives literally everything a business does, not least how it engages with its customers.

For a start, because our attention is increasingly distributed across what we currently call social media, companies must engage in that space. You may only get slices of people’s attention, but the alternative is to get none.

All of which underlines the imperative of building and evolving true crowd business models. It will be increasingly difficult and almost futile to aggregate sufficient individual attention. The only way to engage will be through crowds, who collectively focus attention, aggregating the slivers of distributed attention into a meaningful connection.

It may be obvious, but it has only now just struck me quite how powerful the trend of distributed attention is, and how it needs to be at the heart of how business is done. Let’s work out the strategies that will respond to this fundamental challenge to almost all traditional business models.