The Personal MBA

Master the Art of Business

A world-class business education in a single volume. Learn the universal principles behind every successful business, then use these ideas to make more money, get more done, and have more fun in your life and work.

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What Is 'Novelty'?

Novelty is the presence of new sensory data. Novelty is critical if you want to attract and maintain attention over a long period of time.

Even the most Remarkable object gets boring over time. Human attention needs novelty to sustain itself.

Continue offering something new, and people will keep paying attention.

Josh Kaufman Explains 'Novelty'

At the height of World War II, Norman Mackworth took British Air Force radar operators away from their jobs for a special mission: staring at clock for two hours at a time.

Mackworth was a psychologist who specialized in studies of vigilance-the ability to maintain high levels of attention on a single object for long periods of time.

Radar operators were natural test subjects-their job mostly consisted of looking at blips on a radar screen in a dark room for hours on end.

Most of the time, very little on the radar screen changed. When something abnormal appeared on the screen, however, it could be critically important: inbound enemy airplanes on a bombing mission.

The radar operator's job was to be alert enough to notice anomalies immediately, but the task was extremely difficult-boredom often led to mistakes that cost lives.

To simulate this challenging environment, Mackworth created the "Mackworth Clock," a device designed to test how well people pay attention over time.

The "clock" featured a second hand that worked like a normal clock, with a twist-it would randomly skip a second, ticking two notches instead of one.

The test subject's job was to press a button every time they noticed the skip.

Here's what Mackworth found: after ten minutes of staring at the clock, the quality of the operation's attention went down dramatically.

The maximum period of sustained attention even highly motivated operators (who were given substantial bonuses for performance) were able to sustain was thirty minutes-any longer, and they'd inevitably zone out.

Novelty-the presence of new sensory data-is critical if you want to attract and maintain attention over a long period of time.

One of the reasons people can focus on playing games or surfing the Internet for hours at a time is novelty-every new viral video, blog post, Facebook update, Twitter post, and news report re-engages our ability to pay attention.

In Brain Rules, John Medina shares how he's able to keep the attention of his students effectively in classes that last more than an hour: he plans his class in modules that last no more than 10 minutes.

Each module starts with a Hook-an interesting story or anecdote, followed by a brief explanation of the key concept. Following this format ensures that his audience retains more information and doesn't zone out. (That's the primary reason this book is organized in short sections that take less than 10 minutes to read.)

Even the most Remarkable object of attention gets boring over time. Human attention requires novelty to sustain itself.

Continue to offer something new, and people will pay attention to what you have to offer.

Questions About 'Novelty'


"Why is it that when I ask for a pair of hands, a brain comes attached?"

Henry Ford


From Chapter 6:

The Human Mind


https://personalmba.com/novelty/



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The Personal MBA

Master the Art of Business

A world-class business education in a single volume. Learn the universal principles behind every successful business, then use these ideas to make more money, get more done, and have more fun in your life and work.

Buy the book:


About Josh Kaufman

Josh Kaufman is an acclaimed business, learning, and skill acquisition expert. He is the author of two international bestsellers: The Personal MBA and The First 20 Hours. Josh's research and writing have helped millions of people worldwide learn the fundamentals of modern business.

More about Josh Kaufman →