From the mind of writer Ben Parr comes his first work, Captivology: The Science of Capturing People’s Attention, a scientific and psychological approach to how attention is captured. In It, Parr addresses the role technology has played in severely lowering our attention spans due to the 24/7 access to unlimited entertainment it provides. Because of this, it’s much harder for individuals and companies to get noticed, making learning how to rise above the noise even more important.
Of all people to write such a book, Parr is one of best. Beginning his career at Mashable following his graduation from Northwestern University, he eventually transferred to CNET as a commentator and columnist. After retiring from the site in 2013, he announced in early 2014 that he was in the process of writing Captivology. Even still, according to Parr, the entire endeavor took him a total of two years researching, writing and editing. While based in as much scientific fact as he could find, he relates that his main aim was to make the book much more engaging than some of those scientific papers he had to sift through.
Though the science is a wonderful basis to build on, Parr went even further with interviews of over 50 scientists and current visionaries. This extensive list includes such names as Steven Soderbergh, David Copperfield, Jeff Weiner, Shigeru Miyamoto, Susan Cain and Sheryl Sandberg. It is a highly varied list that takes into account all industries and what it takes to pull notice in them. Beyond the interviews, Parr breaks down attention captivation into three stages that involve a total of seven captivation triggers. From this platform, he is able to provide succinct advice for everyone, be it the respected CEO or a child giving a book report.
What is captivology? How do you think it applies to an individual?
Captivology is the science of attention. But more importantly, it is the science of capturing attention for your products and ideas, utilizing the scientific and psychological knowledge we now possess. Captivology helps individuals become more captivating, but even more important it makes their projects and ideas stand out from the crowd.
What impact do you hope to have on companies, individuals, and our understanding of attention?
I hope that my research will show people how they can capture positive attention for their passions and ideas. I want the aspiring musician or teacher to be able to captivate his or her audience. I want the struggling entrepreneur to bring his or her product to market. I hope Captivology will do all that and show everyone a new model of attention that will make us think more long-term about the future.
What lessons in captivology can we learn from popular television shows that are dominating the social and second screen experience (basically covering all the attention getting/keeping tech) such as “The Walking Dead” maintaining our attention?
Everyone loves a good mystery, and everyone pays attention to a plot twist. Shows like The Walking Dead or Game of Thronesbuilds compelling characters and worlds that we have to follow. More importantly, they create stories that we must follow week to week and year to year, because we must know what will happen next. They activate our compulsion for completion.
In highly competitive fields, like artists (anime, 3-D sculpting), what do you recommend these solopreneurs do to use what you’re teaching to generate interest and profits?
Use the captivation triggers and harness them for your work. Know your audience’s mindset and how to adapt to it (Framing). Do something a little different that makes people turn their heads (Disruption). Establish your credentials and reputation as an expert (Reputation). And build a relationship with your customers based on validation and understanding (Acknowledgement).
In the end, it’s not about the solopreneuers, it’s about the ideas they bring to life and the creativity they generate. The Masters of Attention don’t get attention for themselves, but for their ideas, and the same must be true for any solopreneur trying to stand out. Good ideas last forever.
Lots of people believe that, “If You Build, It They Will Come”. What are the shortcomings of this mindset?
This mindset hurts us. It assures that countless art, products, people and ideas never see the light of day. We’ve missed many Van Goghs and Edisons because of this outdated mindset. We should be encouraging scientists, artists and entrepreneurs to evangelize their work and share it with the world. Especially now, when there’s so many less interesting things competing for our attention.
In your own work as a venture capitalist, how are you witnessing startups beat their competitors at getting attention to secure funding?
The smartest entrepreneurs are utilizing key captivation triggers to get the attention of investors. They are leveraging their networks, credibility and expertise to stand out (Reputation Trigger). They are building products that make a splash and blow away investor expectations (Disruption Trigger). But most of all, they are building potent communities that will last the test of time. These entrepreneurs don’t sit on their hands or send cold emails praying someone will answer.
With crowdfunding, how can someone with an idea maximize their exposure on crowdfunding site?
Utilize the Acknowledgement Trigger and activate your community. Social media traction in the first 24 hours after launch is one of the strongest predictors of a crowdfunding campaign’s potential success. Kickstarter and Indiegogo campaigns have disruptive products with strong launches, large community support, and endorsements from experts. Don’t be afraid to ask your friends to help you spread the world, and show what you’ve created to experts and thought leaders so they’re on board before the day you launch your campaign to the world.
Having only been a few months on the market, Captivology has already earned itself quite a name and enough positive reviews to potentially shoot it up the ranks as one of the best sellers of 2015. It’s already been featured on CNN, ABC News, Harvard Business Review, NPR, Forbes and far more. Because of this success, he has been invited to speak at businesses and on news programs across the world. It is certainly a promising first book in what no doubt will be one of many during Parr’s career.
Captivology is a fantastic read for those that want more than just tips on how to manage a world they couldn’t possibly hope to have any control over. By delving into the scientific and psychological take on such a busy world, Parr’s work addresses what the self can do versus trying to change and unchanging environment. As the reviews are showing, it has been an extremely smart approach to what could have been a long, boring treatise on the human psyche. Captivology proves yet again that in order to change the world, one must change their self.