If you have heard of “attention capital theory” then you will know that the primary capital resource we have are our brains. Or our brain’s ability to create value through sustained attention. But too often, either as individuals or organizations, we do not really optimize this resource and rather take the convenient way and deal with whatever is at hand in our current culture of communication overload.
Jerry Seinfeld told this story on what made his TV series one of the most successful ever in an interview a few years ago with Alec Baldwin:
“Let me tell you why my TV series in the 90s was so good, besides just an inordinate amount of just pure good fortune. In most TV series, 50 percent of the time is spent working on the show, 50 percent of the time is spent dealing with personality, political, and hierarchical issues of making something. We spent 99 percent of our time writing. Me and Larry [David]. The two of us. The door was closed. It’s closed. Somebody calls. We’re not taking the call. We were gonna make this thing funny. That’s why the show was good.”
Can you imagine how some people must have felt about not having their calls or emails answered by them? To not have them join a meeting? To ignore what people wanted them to do even if this was labelled as urgent or even hierarchically important?
Why do we put convenience over value? Yes, it may make our life easier if we are quick to reply to an email or attend the next meeting. But what if we just “closed our door”- like Jerry and Larry did – could we possibly end up producing more value in the long run? What if you took the time to “make this thing funny”?