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Focus is the new IQ - Part 1

Updated: Apr 12

In recent years, our attention has increasingly become one of our most valuable resources, and we are treating it very badly by comparison. Our colleague István Liska, Agile coach, spent months researching, reading and consulting with experts on the subject, and then thought it was worth devoting a whole series of articles to the topic. In this series of articles we will cover the following topics:

  • why digital noise is growing all around us

  • what is attention capitalism -> attention economy

  • why we are constantly looking at our phones

  • how we can work and live mindfully in this noise

  • how to create a workplace where focus remains a core valuerad

Part 1 - Information overload

Is the noise around us really getting bigger? We need information, we depend on it. But the road to the information we need has never been more tempted and distracted. We have to sift through the leading news stories, clickbait headlines, fake news, hashtags, flash trends and ever more irrelevant content to find what's valuable to us. It seems like an ever-increasing task, and when at 2am the question "When do fish sleep?" video, we can admit to ourselves that we don't always succeed. According to a 2018 report by market analytics firm Statista, the amount of data/information in our world is growing exponentially.

The graph above shows the total amount of information produced on Earth in zetabytes and by year up to 2025.1 zetabyte = roughly 1 trillion gigabytes.

From the beginning of history to 2010, we have created 2 ZB of digital information in the world in total. Today we produce that much in two weeks, and by 2025 it will take about 4 days. Thanks to cat videos!

Where does so much information come from?

The explosion in the volume of information coincides with the fact that we are slowly doing everything in the digital world.

It has become easy to generate and share content with smart devices. We produce content as if we have to. For example, on Instagram alone, over 500 million Insta-stories are created every day. You upload photos and videos to your facebook, instagram, tiktok page. This is how you contribute a few drops to the colossal sea of information. Marketing and brand gurus talk about building a business by posting, advertising, seoing and doing it all on multiple platforms, often. That's why the digital space is crowded with business content. Today, there are roughly 350-400 ads trying to sell us something in a day, and that number is only going to grow. Of course, they are targeting your favourite platforms. This is how you get unsolicited YouTube ads in your face, for example, which can pop up and distract you even while you're watching a video. A report by Hootsuite & We Are Social, published in April 2020, shows how the process of digitalisation is progressing worldwide. I've highlighted some of the key figures:

59% of all people use the internet and around half of them also use social media and smartphones.

Moreover, if we look at the trends, we can see that these numbers are also rising steeply. It also follows that half of humanity has not even started producing content yet, but every year 100 million people are joining the information bloodstream.

The numbers show that we continue to love social media platforms. They provide the bulk of our interactions and related information. The first places are occupied exclusively by software from US companies.

2.5 billion people.

No other physical or virtual space like Facebook unites so many people on Earth today. But there is no stopping. Although social media platforms have sucked in billions of people, there are still billions of untapped potential users. Add to the user numbers, which continue to grow at an astounding rate, the also steeply increasing amount of information generated by device-to-device and device-to-person communications through IoT, chatbot and other trends, and it doesn't take a genius to see that these trends are further fuelling information saturation.

More users = More interaction = More information

How does this information explosion affect the system and individuals?The fact is that the amount of information per person will continue to rise dramatically.

This is what American information scientist Simon Herbert, one of the first pioneers of artificial intelligence, said:

"What information consumes is rather obvious: it consumes the attention of its recipients. Hence a wealth of information creates a poverty of attention, and a need to allocate that attention efficiently among the overabundance of information sources that might consume it."

In other words, in reverse, information consumes your attention. The more information you have, the less attention you have. At the very least, it takes more and more energy to filter a relevant topic out of the noise and stay focused on it. Information overload is therefore related to how much you can focus in everyday life.

In the next article, we'll look at why we not only overproduce, but also overconsume information. How we go from being fast consumers to fast content consumers.


Author: István Liska, Agile Coach

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