Business, it is often thought, is a process concerned entirely with things like quarterly and annual turnover, return on investment, units shipped, and other directly quantifiable and objective measurements.
While all of those things are, certainly, a core and fundamental part of any business, there is a good argument to be made that the human traits that underlie the business are even more important.
The academic and writer Cal Newport has had much to say on the importance of directed attention, with regards to professional success. On that note, and drawing largely from his book “Deep Work,” here are some reasons why attention matters in business.
Because it can allow you to address problems before they become insurmountable
If you encounter a problem in your professional life that seems sad and insurmountable, the odds are very good that there had, in fact, been warning signs well in advance of the ultimate “catastrophe” that you simply failed to notice.
Many things that could go wrong in a business can be quite serious, even catastrophic, in their more advanced forms. Hydraulic pump repair, or a compromised internal server, are both serious issues to deal with.
The more attentive you are to the specific details and nuances of your business, the better position you will be in to spot and address problems before they become insurmountable.
It’s often quite incredible how easily things can be amended, if they are dealt with in a timely fashion.
Because your ability to do skilful work (and to become skilled) is largely a function of attention
In “Deep Work,” Newport makes the case that the surest protection against being made redundant by advances in AI technology, is to do the most “skilful” work you possibly can.
At the core of his argument is the idea that truly skilled work – what he calls “deep work” – can only really be achieved when you are dedicating your undivided attention to one task at a time.
Skill development and acquisition certainly do take effort and attention, and doing your best work, in today’s increasingly distracted professional landscape, is largely a matter of safeguarding your attention and filtering out those distractions.
Because attention is an endangered resource these days, so the more that you have the more you will stand out
In his book, “The Shallows,” the writer Nicholas Carr looks at the ways in which the Internet, broadly, has changed how people think and experience the world around them.
Among other things, he highlights that there is ample evidence that the Internet has reduced everyone’s attention span, and has made focused concentration a scarce commodity.
The majority of jobs today still require, and will still benefit from, directed attention. It’s just that the bar for that directed attention is lower today than it has been in the past.
Clearly, then, if you work to develop your skills of focus and attention, you will be in possession of a valued resource that will help considerably to make you stand out from the crowd.