Attention: Move to a more cooperative model and increased situational awareness

by Tom Carroll

I have been thinking about the Attention economy and what it means for businesses. I find the idea of a more cooperative value model eludes most traditional businesses. I have had to explain multiple times that the value of an interaction includes more than just the product and the cash payment. There exists around all interactions meta data that in some cases exceeds the value of the obvious portion of a traditional transaction. I think that many companies take meta data for granted. There tends to be an assumption that only one party is capturing meta data. In non-online interactions that assumption maybe correct, but in the online world what is good for the goose is good for the gander. Businesses will wake up real quick when customers realize that they can monetize their book purchasing or reviewing habits on amazon by sharing their meta data with Borders.

No longer is the customers meta data a private source of insight or value. As new companies move to free customer meta data and its stored value, traditional businesses will have to move to a more cooperative model. I expect some companies will fight this effort by trying to institute draconian terms of use and invoking copyright protections. Those companies will be fighting a hopeless battle, and if they are successful it will only create a black economy of customer meta data and that is never good. A transparent and open meta data trade is best for all parties involved.

The cooperative model will force companies to work to provide more value for the meta data in the form of better financial terms, increased services, and a broader continuity of experience. Cooperative companies will enable customer creation of a rich situational awareness. That situational awareness will drive productivity and create additional business opportunities.

Thomas W. Malone gave a presentation on the Future of Work at the Accelerating Change 2005 Conference, which focused on the impact of the declining cost of communication. This declining cost of communication is enabling both customers and companies alike to utilize a broader spectrum of the information in our everyday lives. In the future we will all need and have personal situation awareness systems. This will make the information management tools of today look like a Motorola Bravo pager in the age of smart phones.