We live in an attention economy. There is too much information out there, and simply not enough neural capacity to filter, organize and make sense of it all. The winners in this economy are those who have cultivated the art of attracting attention to themselves. People like Kim Kardashian – who has made a lucrative business out of attracting attention to herself on behalf of sponsors.
I might be pushing it a bit if I said that as a head of L&D you are in direct competition with Kim Kardashian for learner attention, but it is undoubtedly true that your learners are subject to the same dynamic that is seeing the entire information industry chasing a vanishingly small public attention span: ‘Encouraging adults to pay attention to lectures for more than 15 minutes has always been a challenge … However, now, attention spans and patience are measured in minutes and seconds – especially on laptops, tablets, and smartphones’ (Bersin 2014).
Learners are becoming more impatient, more self-directed in their learning, and have ever greater access to always-on mobile computing. This puts you in competition with sources such as Wikipedia and the major social media platforms. We know from research (including the latest report from Towards Maturity) that learners learn best through social collaboration and actively look for this too. These sources can give quick answers to problems your employees face in their everyday work, but the information might not be correct, or aligned with your organisation’s values and compliance obligations. Make no mistake about it: you are engaged in a war for learner attention. Here are five tips for how to win.