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Attention Harvest: Bring Home the Knowledge

Someone once remarked: "Journalists are in the business of harvesting attention."

This is also true for knowledge management practitioners. Attention is the concentration of mental powers. The mission is to cultivate attention and assure its effective application to revenue-producing business processes.

Organized attention needs to be delivered to what matters most to improving business performance. Put another way, as Professor Hayek wrote in 1945, "Civilization (knowledge) advances by extending the number of important operations which we can perform without thinking about them."

In the past, to improve productivity, we just wanted to: "Get information to the workers!" This spawned vast networks, advanced architectures, electronic appliances, ...and... an information glut.

The irony is that workers now have more information than they could ever use.

More information isn't the solution. It's the problem.

All the accessing, searching, profiling, databasing, workflowing and portaling in the world won't help if workers don't have meaning in their mission.

For example, over last decade, many companies have focused attention on their operational processes such as accounting, personnel, manufacturing and IT. This "process re-engineering" only delivered marginal cost reductions and revenue improvements -- not the factor improvements promised.

Business leaders are now discovering it is much more important to optimize and focus attention on revenue-producing business opportunities. It's smarter than the continuous refinement of existing structures and past achievements. Peter Drucker calls this process "organized abandonment."

This course change has expanded the application service provider market ("apps on tap"), web-based business services, consulting, outsourcing and renewed the "outside-in" focus on customers, for example.

This shift requires a new way of thinking about knowledge management. It is no longer appropriate to "capture, aggregate, diffuse and disseminate" all enterprise information.

Information is always there, but attention walks out the door every evening. Attention will always be precious and in short supply. It must be harbored and targeted to profit making activities. Attention needs to be optimized and unconditionally focused on customers and revenue-producing business processes.

Business knowledge managers strive to enhance zones of collaboration, sharing, learning, context and community for stakeholders. They pursue an environment of effortless sharing and unconscious collaboration. Their objective is to maximize the efficiencies & effectiveness of mental concentration and imagination. When successful, they ease the application of organized attention to business opportunity.

To optimized attention, give authority to the receiver, not the supplier of information. Mobilize trusted intermediaries such as enterprise investigative reporters and reference assistants. Adopt a retail approach to information, not wholesale.

To harness attention, use the narrative form to establish context and make sense. Honor collaboration. Build physical and virtual environments that expand and extend same-time interaction. Informate routine procedural activities to conserve intellectual effort for revenue-producing business processes.

Furthermore, practice "Infokanban," or just-in-time information management and delivery. Strive for an information supply chain that is just sufficient to exceed customer expectations and expand revenue production. Build-down or outsource expensive, low-value, non-customer processes. Deliberately endeavor to improve the quality of intellectual work life at the expense of mechanical habit.

Precision engineer your attention capital.

Productivity and productivity growth (innovation) are enhanced by sheltering attention for application to relevant, profit building intellectual effort. The goal of the knowledge manager is to reap and organize attention to improve intellectual effectiveness and performance for revenue producing processes.

Business innovation has always required leadership, people, process and technology. New are broad-based collaboration requirements and a superabundance of information. Knowledge managers need to marshal business awareness. They need to create the lean and mean information supply needed to optimize mental concentration and focus. The deliberate assembly and application of organizational attention on revenue-producing business processes will improve competitiveness and delight customers.

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