“May we have your attention, please?”

Hi there!

Earlier this week we brought you a small post on how to make your workplace atmosphere more collaborative. In line with that, today we wanted to talk about the importance of attention management and of starting to cultivate a quality of presence.

Nowadays we’re all amateur attention economists. We want to find time-effective ways to spare the attention we owe to those around us, and still have the awareness we need to ensure that we ourselves are getting the amount and type of attention we need and deserve to lead fulfilling and satisfactory lives.

Yet, as we enact this in our everyday routines, we often forget to ask ourselves what attention really is, how it should be used, how it can be transformed to fit different purposes and why mastering that can be beneficial.

Let’s take it from the top! The Latin root of the word attention literally meant “to stretch towards” – a good reminder that like at any other time, today attention continues to be a finite resource. There’s a limit to how much we can stretch towards something. Today it appears that dealing with attention is similar to dealing with a tradable asset, like oil or gold. In recent years specialists have started to talk about the world reaching “peak attention”, (by analogy to peak oil production), meaning a moment when there’s no more attention left to spend.

Considering this, it’s important to remember that a finite capacity for attention implies a serious decision on how to allocate it, and taking such a decision requires a good understanding of the fact that there are limits that will not and cannot change. Paying attention to too many things at once won’t mean we become better at being attentive. Perhaps it will only mean we’re turning one of our most important capacities into a mundane commodity.

Rather than allowing us to summon value out of thin air, making attention mundane can eventually lead us to chronically undervalue our time and our presence.

More than ever, it’s important to be reminded that attention comes in many forms. Thus our work or our studies, our friends, our families, our neighbours, our weekly shopping lists or our favourite hobbies should not need to compete for the same form of attention.

With relationships spread across the digital and off-line worlds, it now becomes vital to learn and decide on how to allocate different forms of attention, so that we don’t see our social lives regimented by things that are external to who we really are. In fact, learning how to allocate attention could be the key to avoid social saturation, and ultimately that is the best way to safeguard our perceptions of ourselves.

Destuffocate, innovate!

An interesting way to learn about the causes and likely developments of a range of social problems which have started to mark our lives, and which might become ever more pressing in the near future is to keep on track with the work of trend forecasters.
Trend forecaster James Wallman recently published a book about a social problem set to reach epic proportions – stuffocation. The term is used to refer a state of over-abundance, where we stop thinking of “having more” as a positive thing, to start perceiving it as something which can make our lives worse, bringing us more stress, anxiety and hassle. Generally, stuffocation is the reason why innovators like Wallman believe we’ve had enough of stuff, and that now is the right moment to start dedicating to finding and constructing happier alternatives.

In fact, some of these alternatives for the future are already here, and with social networking becoming more and more pervasive, we may find alternatives will start to quickly jump into the mainstream. Nevertheless, speed should not mean that alternative models like collaborative consumption and experientialism should be taken for temporary fads. Instead, they should be perceived as components of a long-term transformation. After all, the materialistic model which has lead us to the problems of over-abundance and stuffocation has taken most of the 20th century to catch on. To speak of a search for happier alternatives is to speak of long term cultural change.
Recent studies show that rates of individualistic consumption in Western economies have started falling since the early 2000’s, and in many societies the decline of materialistic models has already started, giving way to the pursuit of status, happiness and meaning through sharing experiences and resources.

Connecting all this to our news patterns of communication, it appears that in the 21st century, status and wellbeing will be increasingly drawn from what we do and from how we connect than from what we own. And what’s more? We might even find that many of the positive experiences we can get will often cost us next to nothing – like getting to know our local communities, starting up a conversation with our next door neighbours, helping each other out, cooperating and engaging in social learning, thus making our own cultures more distinctive in positive ways. We can gain identity through a simple collaborative effort to avoid the effects of stuffocation.

Inspiring enough? Why not try out the three simple steps Wallman suggests?

1 – Destuffocate!
2 – Don’t restuffocate.
3 – Take the amount of money you’d normally spend to purchase material goods and invest it in experiences and connecting with those around you. You’ll probably feel happier, have more interesting stories to tell, and find your daily life can have more meaning than you’d think.

Collaborative lifestyle for beginners

Have you heard about collaborative consumption?  What about the sharing economy? A quick google search will show you there are countless examples and interpretations of these concepts.

It’s striking to see how these relatively new ideas can already appear so overwhelming. In any case, we believe you’re always on time to start learning about them, and hopefully after reading this you’ll want to get involved in take part in the conversation.

In short, collaborative consumption is a socio-economic system driven by network technologies. These technologies enable the sharing and exchange of material or social assets on an unprecedented scale.

Collaborative consumption already introduced indisputable changes in the way we build our online relationships, and that is bringing in a change to how we get things done in our offline lives too.

Every time we use the online as springboard to achieve goals offline, we get yet another proof of how network technologies have a potential to positively disrupt relations of power, influence and trust.

With new lifestyles being enabled through this system, we are starting to witness the onset of what experts now refer to as the sharing economy.

This is to say that the innovations in communication are contributing to wake us up to the notion that hyper consumption is like a house of cards – it leads us to unsustainable lifestyles, and can potentially be the root of stress, anxiety, negativity or even social isolation.

The sharing economy could be just the right antidote for that, as it promotes a more responsible lifestyle, with more rational patterns of spending and consumption, encouraging sharing and trust. Ultimately, it renews a spirit of community which we’re all naturally wired to favour.

Adding to all this, the system is bound to become increasingly efficient, as more of us start getting involved. After all, it feeds on the strength of the communities all of us can form.

Once you start digging in on these concepts, you may be positively surprised to learn communities can take the most unexpected forms. The healthiest ones being those where members do what they can with what they have and where they are.

Why not take a chance to help empower your community? If you don’t let your friends be strangers, you’ll quickly see how simple actions can get you amazing reactions.

Trust – More than just a fad

In our time, dominant discourse has it that everything is going digital. We’re told that even things as trivial as sliced bread can and should be disrupted, a process which can be enabled by the internet and the use of social networking sites.

Yet, with the increasingly easy access to such platforms where we can write or talk to our heart’s content, crucial ideas might be getting lost. First and foremost, the idea that truly effective contact takes doing, instead of just writing and talking.

While social networking sites may allow us to tell the stories we think matter, they alone cannot represent the main building blocks of our stories. We’ve reached a stage where merely adding someone to our contact lists isn’t enough. If we already know how easy it can be to make a first contact, we should want our next generation of social tools to help us earn the right to talk to our new connections again, starting and maintaining positive and enriching conversations. This is to say that the focus of our new social tools should be on helping us recover some of the more tangible aspects that would naturally characterise social relationships, upcycling them to fit more current lifestyles.

We shouldn’t want our new tools to merely take us from one kind of “social networking bureaucracy” to the next, but rather to help us break down digitally imposed barriers, allowing us to seize the value of our networks.

Like in more conventional settings, trust must still be an important anchor for social relationships. Naturally, one of the most positive ways to gain trust is through reputation. Hence, a new generation of social tools should facilitate the process of recording and tracking our own reputation and that of people around us. Linking a positive approach to reputation with the potentialities of social networking should mean trust will start gaining value outside its initial environment, turning into an asset we can use to buy cooperation from others, even people we’ve never met.

This is what leads us to believe in the value of trust as a currency. If we’ve managed to keep your attention this far, we’d be delighted to invite you along to explore these ideas and more. Help us on our mission to prove trust is not just the flavour of the month.