The World Is Flat

I was introduced to this book by Simon Dale from SAP at a conference he was the keynote speaker for. Interestingly, I had read an article on the image used on the cover being central to a copyright case, so I was automatically interested. I then heard this book spoken about by several other people in casual conversation (clearly the book had reached tipping point) so felt compelled to read it.

So I jumped on Amazon and ordered The World Is Flat by Thomas L. Friedman (my copy is the expanded version).

I would suggest this book is a must read for any student and anyone in business so they can get a good view on the dynamics of the world we're in today.

I think a good indicator of how popular this book is that Googling "The World Is Flat book" returns 994,000 results! As you can imagine, the NY Times whom Friedman writes for regularly, has a pretty good review and summary.

Friedman not only writes well, but does so on an important subject- globalization - or more specifically the nature of the business world and how the global interconnectedness and outsourcing has leveled the playing field.

How did our current climate come about? There are 10 'flatteners' in total that Friedman lays out for us in the first part of the book (over some 200 pages and listed at Wiki) before explaining "the triple convergence" of all of them to reach tipping point.

But what about the opportunities and threats going forward? Whilst Friedman's view is largely focused on the United States (pages 261 to 392), the issues impact any "first world" nation including Australia. Friedman sounds the alarm with a call for diligence and fortitude - academically, politically, and economically. He sees a dangerous complacency, from Washington down through the public school system. Students are no longer motivated.

At this point if you've been following my blog, you will realise why I liked this book: it appeals to a world-view I have, specifically that we need to be investing in our education infrastructure to remain globally competitive. If you want a balanced view on this book, check out MetaCritic.

When you read through most people's reviews and comments of this book, the key criticism seems to be that the the book is very well-written, but over simplifies many of the key issues - most notably the realities surrounding the fact that in order for such a system to work with any kind of sustainability it needs to create jobs to replace the ones that have been outsourced.

Friedman's answer to this is that creativity and inventiveness will take the place of the grunt-work that's been outsourced. The critics argue that many of our society's most financially successful businesses have never invented or innovated anything, instead relying on finding new ways to produce an existing product in a way that's cheaper and faster than their nearest competitor - thus fostering an environment that's not very conducive to innovation. But isn't 'process' a competitive differentiator? And therefore building a better mousetrap is innovation! Additionally, I suspect only a small percentage of a sector needs to innovate (aka Apple, Google, Netscape, etc) to upset the incumbents (like Microsoft) sufficiently to drive change.

If you'd like to speed read the book (which I don't think you should because you'll miss out on most of the compelling information), Wiki Summaries has it online.

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posted by Lee Gale @ 6:16 AM,


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