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an Attention Model of Top Managers' Opportunity Beliefs for Strategic Action

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The process of directing attention towards some information and away from others is the defining characteristic of the cognitive mechanisms of attention. Attention is an individual property derived from the cognitive functions of their minds. Within human develop automatized activities practices to improve attention and achieve sustainable cognitive focus or develop deliberate attention. Many difficult cognitive or physical actions require considerable attention to perform as they are novel, but with sufficient practice they become routine, that no longer demands the same effort and require less attention resources. Humans deploy two processes to face scarce attention: using automatic back of mind processing wherever possible in routine activities, and using scarce front of mind attention capacity when exceptional cases arise.

Prior experience and knowledge have a significant role, linking various environmental changes to different potential opportunities; acting as schema for individuals to interpret information. In other words, the cognitive structure is an organized collection of prior knowledge and experience. Prior knowledge is one of the main factors in opportunity recognition.

It acts as a base for top managers’ formation of subjective environmental representation to develop strategic action. Thus, acting as mental templates for environmental information meanings formation and directing top manager’s attention to relevant aspects in the firm’s environment, leading to high levels of strategic persistence and enhanced performance in slowly changing industries.

Complex knowledge structure, with deep and rich connections helps in noticing changes, integration nature and linkages between known components related to architectural changes that are usually hard to detect. Nadkarni and Narayanan highlighted that knowledge structures (called strategic schema) vary in terms of complexity; breadth and variety of concepts organized in top managers’ cognitive structures and number, richness and depth of the links between those concepts. Such knowledge structure complexity can develop strategic flexibility.

Polaroid company failure to capitalize on its early investments in digital imaging technology was a result of top managers’ failure to apply the right knowledge structure to the changes in the firm’s environment. However, the knowledge structure explanation is not sufficient to explain why Kodak and Canon were able to notice the potential of digital cameras before Polaroid. The role of top managers’ attention processing might be used to explain Kodak and Canon success to notice unexpected important aspects in their environment.

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