Business, generally speaking, seems like the kind of field where only highly tangible factors really play a role. Things like infrastructure, units shipped, quarterly turnover, and so on.
But while a business is, of course, largely going to be driven by these sorts of concerns, it’s also the case that actually making a business work is a far more human process, which involves all sorts of traits and concerns that are a lot more “abstract” and difficult to pin down.
Among some authors, notably Cal Newport, it’s been suggested that “attention” might be the most valuable asset for any serious professional. Here are a few reasons why that might just be the case.
- Because success and failure often hinge on very small nuances
In all sorts of different domains, the line that separates success and failure, or innovation and fruitless tinkering, is going to be very thin indeed.
Precision Engineering, as a discipline, relies on highly precise and exact mechanical measurements and calculations – and this serves as a good metaphor for much of what goes on in a business, as a whole.
No one is going to be perfectly on point with what they do in their business at all times. But, the more attentive you are to the nuances and details of whichever issue you’re addressing, the higher the likelihood that you’re actually going to notice and effectively address those small but highly important factors.
- Because the more attention you pay to something, the better able you are to bring all your energies to bear on that thing
In his book, “Deep Work,” Cal Newport essentially argues that in the age of AI and machine learning, the only really secure way to conduct yourself professionally is to bring all your attention to bear on one thing at a time, as much as possible, so that you can engage in truly “deep” and skilled work that sets you apart from the competition.
This argument isn’t just based on pure conjecture, either. There is actually a good deal of evidence that multitasking, for example, makes you less effective at every individual task you may be trying to manage.
Newport also cites evidence that even something as innocuous as checking your phone can totally throw off your ability to focus and do “deep work” for a significant stretch of time.
The more attention you can pay to something, the likelier you may be to really shine in that area.
- Because attention drives engagement, to a significant degree
In order to make it as an entrepreneur – or even just as a motivated professional, in general – you need to have psychological fortitude and the ability to motivate yourself day in and day out.
Generally speaking, when we become sick and tired of things and find it hard to engage with them attentively, it’s often because we have stopped giving them the level of attention that fuels interest and engagement.
When you really focus and pay attention to what you’re doing, you will frequently be able to tease out layers of meaning and interest that might otherwise have seemed absent before.