The gifts of attention in the garden of knowledge: presence, engagement and investment


This year as ever – no, more than ever! – our attention will be a battleground for all kinds of media and dissemination channels pumping out ‘stuff’ whether legitimate, wanted, useful, applicable, or not.

With an attention span that is currently estimated at a staggering 8.25 seconds, no wonder that our books, papers, articles, communities of practice, discussion groups, websites, blogs, tweets are suffering from growing disinterest from among their members. Maybe we are slowly but surely going towards ever smaller ‘groups’ of highly active members that have decided to invest their time in this or that arena, while the empowered listeners (yeah, us lurkers!) are increasingly superficially part of ever more groups.

In that world, there are three gifts of attention that anyone can give, that really make a difference – and ever more so:Mind Full v. Mindful

The gift of presence

The first obvious and yet very hard-to-reach gift that you can give anyone, any group, any conversation, any initiative, is your attention, your true and unconditional presence, in the best possible meaning of the word.

Being there, listening – deeply and with a true emotional care for who and what you are listening to – paying attention is one of the most precious gifts you can give these days. Our time is divided by ever more activities derived of ever more options. Your presence is not to be taken lightly. Mind this for yourself, as you pay attention to specific conversations, but mind this of others when they are giving you this presence.

The first gift of attention is what makes or breaks nascent spaces, nascent relationships. It’s the water that gets the shoots off of our quirky life moments.

And if you are up for it, you can offer…

Up And Away Engagement (credits: Brian Wolfe)

Up And Away Engagement (credits: Brian Wolfe)

The gift of engagement

Engaging is a difficult word to grasp. Here’s what MacMillan Dictionary has to say about it:

engage with someone/something to make an effort to understand and deal with someone or something

But in the context of giving your attention to information and knowledge initiatives, engaging would be the next step from presence. It is when you start dealing with the person or conversation, over a period of time, talk with, react to, share, reflect, do things together.

In more familiar KM terms, this is what makes the difference between a platform set up for people and a community of practice, or between an online brochure and a vibrant community website, or between a linear/boring/unidirectional meeting or process and one that brings the best interactions and learning out of groups.

The second gift of attention is the light that makes shoots grow up strong and wide, and become bushes, forests and entire worlds.

And if you are ready for it, you can proceed to give…

The gift of (emotional) investment

The ultimate stage is when you are so invested in the person or initiative that you actually put all your passion to it and start championing it from all your heart. When you invest your time to be at the forefront of an issue, when you are the ultimate connector, the introductor, the builder, the visionary, the patron, the adviser, the coach, the parent, the executive, the director, the leader, then you are at the heart of the matter. And it doesn’t have to be an exclusive matter, the more the merrier and the more passion the more energy – but also the more need to channel that energy.

This is the stuff that builds the universe, the spark that turns head bulbs on and up towards the next challenge, the next (seemingly) silly frontier. That’s the stuff true leaders are made of and it is the most precious gift of attention that you give and one that you should choose to give carefully as it really can take energy off of you.

The third gift of attention is the love that gives the shoots their unique beauty and switches secret levers and buttons in us, to trigger us to do something, something beautiful, transcendental, radically different.

So where are you going to distribute your gifts of attention in 2016?

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