Poverty of Attention

“What information consumes is rather obvious. It consumes the attention of its recipients. Hence a wealth of information creates a poverty of attention. “ – Herbert Simon, 1970

I love this quote because Simon said it decades before the introduction and explosion of the World Wide Web and the various devices we use to access it. Many people, me included, find it very difficult to put down and not be tethered their notebooks, mobile devices, and tablets. Accessing the Internet, and all of its wonderful information, has severely fractured our ability to focus on the things in life that provide significant meaning. In many ways, we have become mindless consumers of data with no real avenues to use the data in the development of meaningful personal relationships. Perhaps the development of our IQ is prohibiting the growth of our EQ.

Gallup, Inc. is well known for the Clifton StrengthsFinder assessment. One of my favorite themes (of the 34) is Individualization. From the Gallup Business Journal:

Your Individualization theme leads you to be intrigued by the unique qualities of each person. You are impatient with generalizations or “types” because you don’t want to obscure what is special and distinct about each person. Instead, you focus on the differences between individuals. You instinctively observe each person’s style, each person’s motivation, how each thinks, and how each builds relationships. You hear the one-of-a-kind stories in each person’s life. This theme explains why you pick your friends just the right birthday gift, why you know that one person prefers praise in public and another detests it, and why you tailor your teaching style to accommodate one person’s need to be shown and another’s desire to “figure it out as I go.” Because you are such a keen observer of other people’s strengths, you can draw out the best in each person. This Individualization theme also helps you build productive teams. While some search around for the perfect team “structure” or “process,” you know instinctively that the secret to great teams is casting by individual strengths so that everyone can do a lot of what they do well.

What is the cure for technology and information overload?

Individualization.

Spend more time with people, doing the things that really matter. Create meaningful moments and memories. Don’t solely pursue increased intellectual levels and the bottom line. Don’t let technology control you, drop your electronic devices for an hour or more per day and engage humanity in a meaningful way.

Work-life balance is a myth, but being engaged in moments in time is meaningful. Take time to develop your emotional competence. Your family, friends, and colleagues will notice how you are continually rejuvenated and engaged in what you do.

Turn the poverty of attention into attention on the things that provide you with eudemonia.