How to capture (and keep) attention Premium

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In an environment saturated with information and demands, the ability to capture, maintain, and hold attention is key to your effectiveness as a leader. After spending two years researching “the science of capturing people’s attention,” author Ben Parr shares his tips. His most important insight? People’s long, undivided attention is something you earn, and there are no shortcuts. Excerpt from the latest issue of Business Digest:

Business man surrounded by people

1. Capture immediate attention
People are hardwired to detect changes in their environments and, particularly, potential threats. This translates into a universal bias for novel stimuli. “We are constantly shifting our attention from object to object, looking for anything that is dangerous, interesting, or novel until we decide to focus our attention on something […] I’m not suggesting you speak louder than everyone else,” writes Parr. “But think about the subtle ways to play on people’s instincts to capture attention.”

2. Maintain short attention
People use shortcuts when deciding how to focus their attention. Reputation is one of the most powerful and frequently used such shortcut, particularly when you are dealing with an audience who doesn’t know you. Your reputation can help get people to listen to you if you establish yourself as an expert or authority.

3. Secure long attention
People have a deep-seated need to be recognized, validated, and understood by others, and this strongly determines to whom they give their attention over the long term. In regards to attention, Parr breaks acknowledgment down as:
• Recognition: do you know my name? Do you know I exist?
• Validation: Do you think I’m special, unique, or important?
• Empathy: Do you feel what I feel? Do you care about me? Do you understand me?

The Diabetes Care example
In 2011, Jesper Ek took over a team at Roche Diabetes that was suffering from disengagement and falling profits. His first decision was to refuse to talk about numbers or results; instead, he identified the message that could truly capture his team’s long-term attention – and that of their customers.


Based on Captivology: The science of capturing people’s attention by Ben Parr (Harper Collins, March 2015), “Manage Your Team’s Attention” (Harvard Business Review, janvier 2015),“ Are you paying attention?” by Julian Birkinshaw (London Business School, March 2015), “If You Want People to Listen, Stop Talking” by Peter Bregman (Harvard Business Review, May 2015) and the interview with Jesper Ek, Head of Sub Region Nordics de Diabetes Care, Roche Diagnostics.