Moulton Lava

Moultonic Musings

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Location: New England, United States

Monday, November 26, 2012

The Quest for Attention

Attention is a scarce resource.  Children seek attention; advertisers and marketeers seek attention; people on social networks seek attention.

We give attention to those who are funny or entertaining or alluring.  We withdraw attention from the banal, dull, and boring.

If people are in the market for attention, then there is a market opportunity for entrepreneurs who are willing and able to give personal attention to those who seek and crave it.

But what does it mean to pay attention to another person?  It cannot mean simply observing.  And it surely cannot mean spying or stalking.  How do we distinguish between desirable forms of attention and unwanted forms of attention?

Ray Bradbury suggests an answer in his short story, "I Sing the Body Electric," which readers can view in the made-for-TV movie, "The Electric Grandmother."  At the end of this touching story, the android grandmother reflects on the question of whether her affectionate attention to the children equates to genuine love.  The android grandmother exhibited a trait not commonly found in our high-tech systems.  She had an extraordinary level of empathy the ability to sense, understand, and respond to the emotional state of the children with whom she was deeply and profoundly engaged.

It occurs to me that in the 21st Century, successful entrepreneurs will turn the advertising model upside down.  Instead of seeking attention, they will master the art of giving quality attention to potential customers, by engaging them in open-ended dialogue that listens attentively in a way that builds insight, understanding, and empathy with their conversational partners.  In that way, successful entrepreneurs will be able to recognize (dare I say diagnose?) the otherwise unarticulated needs and wants of potential customers.

What kind of entrepreneur will undertake such an ambitious enterprise?  Surely not the one who has a specific product or service they are peddling from their own internal operations.  Rather this kind of entrepreneur will be a broker who matches potential customers with quality providers of precisely what their clients need and want.

If you were an average consumer, would you engage in a dialogue with such a broker  one who listened attentively and recognized what you needed but were too shy or reticent to actively seek on your own?