The World Is Flat


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The World Is Flat

  1. 1. The World is Flat A Brief History of the 21st Century Author: Thomas L. Friedman Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux Date of Publication: 2005 ISBN: 978-0-374-53048-8 Number of Pages: 593 pages About the Author The Big Idea Change (in all its abstract and tangible forms) is inexorable, often Thomas L. Friedman burning and paralyzing. Yet it should neither daunt and petrify us, nor nip our bold actions in the bud. This epoch, this state of affairs, Thomas L. Friedman won the 2002 this seemingly unassailable global madness in human history Pulitzer Prize for commentary, his third Pulitzer for The New York Times. engulfing a debilitating sense of unfamiliarity and stupor, is what He became the paper's foreign- internationally acclaimed newspaper columnist, Thomas affairs columnist in 1995. Previously, he served as chief economic Friedman, reveals in his brilliant and audacious writing of The correspondent in the Washington World Is Flat. bureau and before that he was the chief White House correspondent. In 2005, Mr. Friedman was elected as a Friedman employs the metaphor of the flat world to describe how member of the Pulitzer Prize Board. globalization--taken up to an almost sky-scraping height and down Mr. Friedman's latest book, quot;The to an even more unimaginable depth--has levelled the “playing World is Flat: A Brief History of the field” and made possible not only the “virtual” compression of 21st Century,quot; was released in April 2005 and won the inaugural geographic space and time, but also the incorporation of the world's Goldman Sachs/Financial Times total population into a lattice of connectivity and collaboration. Business Book of the Year award. In 2004, he was awarded the Overseas Exceptionally provocative and amusing, Friedman has once again Press Club Award for lifetime proven to be an author of magnificent possibilities, using a new- achievement and the honorary title, fangled framework that stirs every reader to feel, see and think Order of the British Empire (OBE), by Queen Elizabeth II. beyond. His book, quot;From Beirut to Jerusalemquot; (1989), won the National Book Award for non-fiction in 1989 and quot;The Lexus and the Olive Treequot; (2000) won the 2000 Overseas Press Club award for best nonfiction book on foreign policy and has been published in 27 languages. Mr. Friedman also wrote quot;Longitudes and Attitudes: The World in the Age of Terrorismquot; (2002) and the text Published by BusinessSummaries, 3001-91, 11010 NW 30th St., Suite 104, Miami, Florida 33172 accompanying Micha Bar-Am's book, ©2006 BusinessSummaries All rights reserved. No part of this summary may be reproduced or transmitted quot;Israel: A Photobiography.quot; in any form or by any means, electronic, photocopying, or otherwise, without prior notice of
  2. 2. The World is Flat by Thomas L. Friedman The World: Just Like the Pancake on Your Plate A lot of the olden times' voyages spurred by imperialistic powers' quest for gold ingots and spices have avowed that the world was round. Navigators were incredibly overwhelmed at their “circular” expeditions, that they got their pointers on ink and conveyed their “rounded” hypotheses (in writing) in no less than a jiffy of their state of bewilderment. Centuries later, a valiant soul from the fringes of journalism proves otherwise: the world is flat. So flat, you could almost sink your teeth into it. Friedman brings to light this flat-world platform, a phenomenon that has enabled and enjoined--and continues to do so at an irrepressible speed--not just countries or companies but more importantly, individuals, to go global very easily and seamlessly, through innovations in information technology such as the personal computer, fiber-optic cables, and work flow software. This “IT boom” has resulted in the massive digitization of information, creating a plinth where intellectual capital and knowledge-intensive products could be produced, disaggregated, distributed, put back together again, and delivered from anywhere at any point in time. Such “flattening” process has indeed given a whole new degree of empowerment and freedom to the way people work--certainly a milestone in human progress. And as more and more individuals and groups gain not just the opportunity, but the capability to “plug in and play,” all the knowledge workers and centers of the world become linked into a single grand network of global partnership and mutual exchange. Continents blur. Distance becomes superseded. Via advances in digital machinery, the North became realistically on South's doorstep and the East became only a stone’s throw away from the West. All because the world, as Friedman has put it, is flat. Ten Forces that Evened Out the World 1. The Fall of the Wall and the Waging of the Windows With the Berlin Wall erected so sturdily (and stubbornly at that), a population of Germany had been relegated to an overcast portion of the globe, eyes shut to the “other” side of the world where, much to their chagrin, the sun was shining brightly. But came the day of its crumbling, and we saw people liberated from the twilight of their existence. Not only did this unleash forces that ultimately released the masses from the bonds of communism; it actually caused the naissance of democratic advocacy, consensual governance and a free-market economy. This was a pioneering flattener as it allowed people to see not a divided world but a seamless whole. It primarily ushered in a global view of the future. The effect was felt not only in Germany; it somehow rippled and spilled-over to other nations of Latin America and the Soviet Empire, in India, and China, where people had been enduring the manacles of socialism and authoritarian rule. It was a sort of chain [2]
  3. 3. The World is Flat by Thomas L. Friedman reaction, and no sooner did these countries' economies started opening up to global capitalism and taking advantage of its benefits. Pitted against this period was the unstoppable urge to somehow escape and reach out to the so-called “other” world. By some sheer trace of luck, information began to slip through the “wall” using fax machines, telephones and later on, the personal computer. With the launch of the first Windows operating system in 1985, the desire to amass information and communicate became more manifest. Such desire has been enhanced as people gradually authored their content and turned it in digital form. This bolstered the flattening mechanism of the fall of the Wall. Both initiated a huge leap in personal empowerment. 2. The Dawn of Connectivity: When Webs were No Longer for Spiders When people learned of the Windows-enabled PC, they were definitely in for an exhilarating high. But with the emergence of the Internet as a tool for global connectivity, they sure are up for a hangover. This breakthrough has allowed people to take their digital content and transmit it to others at a soaring speed and a very low cost. Glazing this prodigy was the inception of the World Wide Web as a virtual realm where individuals could post their digital content so it could be accessed by almost anyone from any part of the globe. One could just imagine how this episode has taken people by storm and practically brought human beingsregardless of location, color, or ideological proclivitiescloser to each other. The good part doesn't end here. People just came looking for more information: few are just not enough. Much thanks to commercial web browsers kicked off by Netscape. Individuals immediately found themselves hooked with anybody's Website on the Internet, and in no time, they were able to interact and be in touch with more other people anywhere on the planet. This was another juncture that jazzed up that flattening of the world. It unlocked another door to a collaborative world. 3. Work Flow Software: Don't Mind the Difference and the Distance Most of the time, man could not just be contented even if he already plays so well within his hinterland. The same goes for companies whose CEO's felt that there was more to just “digitizing” information. Apparently, computer systems for accounting data would be in stark contrast for those, say, in human resources, sales and marketing or procurement. This reality has, in one way or another, been a big slap to the genius of management. They may be digitally-attuned but in the core of operations, a major dilemma breeds. As such, companies sought for a sort of infrastructure against which the system disparities between departments, units or even regional branches are outstripped, and CEO's would never have to worry about attempts at overhaul just because one mechanism can't operate with another. Through ingenuities in software engineering, “work flow software” brought in that once-thought-to-be-impossible uniform digital content in spite of distance and differences in the nature of work. It carried out transmission protocols and standards for interoperability. This contributed to the [3]
  4. 4. The World is Flat by Thomas L. Friedman flattening of the world as more people are able to liaise and take part in a digital endeavor. 4. Uploading: Redefining the Multi-Colored Post-Its Think about how much digital power is expelled (and how flattening this would be) when increasingly, people from all walks of life from every niche of the globe imbued the Web and started stuffing it with the products of their inimitable know-how? Rather than just passively downloading information, people are now able to upload files and globalize other digital content sans the snags of traditional hierarchical organizations or institutions. This spanking power of individuals and communities to send up, out, and around their own products and ideas has fundamentally redesigned the flow of creativity, innovation, political mobilization, and the gathering and dissemination of information. It has made things a bottom-up and globally side-to-side phenomenon and not an exclusive and stifling top-down one. Uploading has been a revolutionary form of collaboration in the flat world simply because it engendered a virtual “meeting of the minds.” Friedman cited three forms of uploading: — Community-developed software, where source codes or underlying programming instructions are made available and easily accessible online; — Blogging, an open-source newsroom that has become a personal virtual soapbox so that people now have a platform for telling their own stories; and — Wikipedia, a user-contributed online encyclopedia that has induced an astounding rate of participation from its clients by way of its open-editing movement. All these examples are huge flatteners as they responded to a very deep human longing for individuals to involve themselves and make their voices heard louder than ever before. 5. Outsourcing: Bringing Home the Bacon through Somebody Else's Hands India, back then, was just another gumboot in the map, unnoticed and stepped-on by major players in the global arena. But when Y2Kthe so-called millennium bug that augured the busting of computer systems--detonated and rocked the world with panic, India began to figure gracefully in its posture: the ugly duckling has now been looked at as a beautiful swan. Known for being a repository of lower-cost yet high- quality talent in engineering, computer science and software technology, India, in no time, had its programmers flouncing American shores to get to the Y2K drudge work. Indians just did it, and at that, did it well. For what looked like an ostensible preparation for much bigger work Indians knew were coming in on them, the country took advantage of the overinvestment in fiber- optic cables and in two shakes, it relished the bandwidth connecting its brainy population to the techies of America. With an enormous demand from e-commerce, often at a staggering cost, America, in its need to survive in the midst of investment [4]
  5. 5. The World is Flat by Thomas L. Friedman capital drying up after the dot-com bubble had burst, soon discovered how beneficial it would be for its companies to draw on Indian brainpower, thus, the instigation of outsourcing and its contribution to horizontal collaboration and value creation. Outsourcing instructed America that any service, call center, business support operation, or knowledge work that could be digitized could be sourced globally to the cheapest, smartest and most efficient provider. Using fiber-optic-cable-connected workstations, Indian IT experts could now get under the hood of American computers and do all the adjustments even if they were located halfway around the world. 6. Offshoring: Taking it over to the Cut-Rate Waters When China formally joined the World Trade Organization (WTO) in 2001, it meant that it agreed, in principle, to make its own competitive playing field as level as the rest of the world. When the country first opened its tightly closed economy to foreign investment, companies in industrialized countries saw it as a fantastic new market for exports. This scenario also guaranteed multinational firms that if they shifted factories offshore to China, they would not just be cutting down on production costs and increase their efficiency but simultaneously be protected by international law and standard business practices. This, according to Friedman, likewise improved China's attractiveness as a manufacturing platform. Here, we witness a real leveling aspect. As China makes itself an indubitable base for offshoring, other developing countries like Malaysia, Thailand, Mexico, Brazil, and Vietnam would inevitably follow suit and transform their selves into the same appealing hub. As China's triumphant experience unfolds right before these countries' eyes, they become compelled to better start tinkering with their own economies lest they trail behind the race. In Friedman's words, this has created a process of competitive flattening, in which countries scramble to see who can give companies the best incentives, on top of their cheap labor, to encourage offshoring to their waters. 7. Supply-Chaining: Nothing Beats Symbiotic Networks When the world became flat, companies must take advantage both of producers and deliverers of their products at the lowest prices anywhere they can be found. If they don't, they are good as guillotined. Along these lines, supply chains slotting and weaving in dozens of suppliers, distributors, port operators, customs brokers, forwarders, and carriers into a finely tuned string operating in concert has become a source of profit and competitive advantage in a flat world. If the total cost of delivering all your parts on time to and from all corners of the globe, you are the champ, and that gives an edge among your rival companies. Supply chains are mechanisms for horizontal collaboration--among suppliers, retailers and customer--in order to create “added” value. As Friedman held, they have become important flatteners because the more they grow and proliferate, the more they force the adoption of common standards between companies (making interface almost robotically possible), the more they eliminate frictions, the more the [5]
  6. 6. The World is Flat by Thomas L. Friedman efficiencies of one company get adopted by the others, and the more they promote global alliance. 8. Insourcing: Why Look Out When You Can Look In? Orchestrating global supply chains never proved to be fuss-free, and many companies did not know how to pull this off or simply did not have the updated mental frame to manage such complexity. Hence, came the tinges of insourcing and Friedman used the case of the America's United Parcel Service to illustrate the “wonders” achieved by the company the moment it started to “look in.” From being a traditional package delivery firm, UPS went into the business of “synchronized commerce solutions,” approaching companies with its own strain of analysts, repair personnel, technical support, engineers, manufacturers, packers, and transport service. Indeed, as e-commerce empowered consumers to transact with myriad products via the Internet, UPS had also found itself in the interesting position of placing a portion of the drudge work right upon its hands. Its role in logistics required a much more intimate and extensive kind of collaboration among its client-companies and those companies' specific customers. It equally propelled the flattening of the world by facilitating platforms for every business to vastly improve its global supply chain. 9. In-Forming: The World Right at Your Fingertips Upon Google's debut on center stage, people gleefully uttered to themselves that the digital world just kept getting better--and before long, it would be best. The power of search engines like Google, among others, functioned as a total equalizer as people obtained an unvarying access to overall research information anytime and anywhere, sending the world's knowledge products practically in everybody's pockets. In-forming, in Friedman' lexicon, begets self-collaboration. More than the quest for knowledge, individuals become their own self-directed and self-empowered researcher, editor, and selector of entertainment, an unmitigated antithesis of being told or taught. “Search” became the ultimate expression of might and control, using the computer, looking at the world through the Web, and finding exactly what they want in the twinkling of an eye. In-forming also involves searching for allies, friends, and collaborators. It lets consumers gather around topics that are meaningful to them and permits the formation of global communities across international spatial and cultural boundaries, which is another critically valuable world flattener. 10. Steroids: Enhancing the Techie In You People acquire a PC, and they are never the same. They get a hold of cellular phones and they come sauntering the streets with the signs HT (high-tech) splattered on their foreheads. They purchase an Mp3 player or a palm pilot, and you have their sense of self augmented to the size of Jupiter's. When information becomes digitized, and manipulated and transmitted at escalating speeds through [6]
  7. 7. The World is Flat by Thomas L. Friedman wireless technology afforded by your IT doodads and gadgets, the flattening of the world is enormously amplified even without your knowing it. “Steroids” are to Friedman, what water does to wires: they turbo-charge. He mentioned several exemplars which include: — Computing, the speed at which information could be drawn in and out of the computer, shrank and stored, and to a large extent made portable; — Instant Messaging and File Sharing, enabled by peer to peer networks championed by Yahoo and MSN; — Internet Phone Calls, creating the VOiP, or the voice over Internet protocol service that progressively revolutionized the telecommunications industry; — Video Conferencing, making possible the closing of deals and settling of trade agreements via virtual conference rooms packed with digital media; — Computer Graphics, resulting in more interactive gaming; and — Wireless Technology, with mobile phones and PDA's bringing your office “desks” wherever you are. So the World Is Really Flat: What Do We Do Next? As the ten flatteners converged and worked together to level the playing field, people would normally find their personalities wrought with confusion and more questions to ask. It would definitely take some time for people to adopt new habits, skills, and processes that will maximize the flattening and derive value from it. A flat, frictionless world, after all, is a blessing and it may be good for global business. But it may also pose threats to the national bearings and distinctive institutions that locate people their place in the world. Some would feel elated by this newfound freedom. Others may feel anxious and disoriented. Whatever the case may be, in the interim, countries, companies and individuals have to do some whopping sorting out in order to get a clearer grasp of the flat world. The following are some points to ponder on: — Facets of Exploitation. In the collaborative exchange, say between India and America, who really optimizes the partnership and who gets the bigger share of the pie? — Multinational Appetite. Should international corporations prioritize its global cravings over the local interests of the countries where they are headquartered? — Lines of Authority. From a vertical command and control arrangement, people step into horizontal connect and collaborate set-ups. What does this portend for the nature of and manner by which work is done? Do hierarchies essentially obscure and organizations, in the strictest sense of their definition, pass away? — Multiple Identities. Should people be dubbed consumers, or producers too? Can Indian techies working for American powerbrokers still be really Indian? [7]
  8. 8. The World is Flat by Thomas L. Friedman Can Americans outsourcing much of the dirty work to India still claim its comparative advantage? — Intellectual Property. Who owns what in the seamless world? How can products of your know-how be protected in the Web? Does your personal signature still matter with other collaborators dissecting your ideas and taking part in chopping them? — Personalized Service. Would it still feel right when computers start capering in every aspect of your life? When you try some shoes on and they don't fit, can you call on a computer for immediate help? Does your favorite salesman finally take his last bow? The Flat World: Chasing Its Blues Away Friedman reasonably abets his readers that the stifling change brought about by the flattening of the world must not be attacked with trepidation but rather embraced with conviction. The ensuing discussions will demonstrate just how countries, companies and individuals ought to handle this confounding trajectory. America and the Art of Muddling Through — Right technical skills and an adequate level of mental flexibility. This is the first route to raveling the flat world. In an era of fierce competition, the task is to exceptionally accomplish the required homework and transcend mediocrity, altering old frameworks of work and fastening the appropriate infrastructure that would enable the country to lead the race and win the game. Jobs ought to be continuously reinvented so that the workforce become “untouchables”people whose knowledge and skills can't be easily digitized, automated, or outsourced. These may include: 1. Great Collaboratorssales, marketing, and management personnel doing much of the liaising work for global companies; 2. Great Synthesizersmathematicians partnered with marketing experts and computer engineers, inserting creativity with accuracy and logic; 3. Great Explainerswriters, teachers, producers, managers, and journalists who would see through complexity and interpret it; 4. Great Leveragerscomputer engineers who exclusively manage and maintain systems for critical endeavors/projects; and 5. Great Adapters“versatilists” who can splice a hodgepodge of know-how — Right Curriculum, Right Education. People in the flat world must be able to learn how to learn, to openly adapt to what is new and to anchor a certain degree of psychological mobility. This era calls for more than people's intelligent quotients; passion and curiosity must also be part of the academic pottage. Universities must nurture not only the left brain, which is the seat of sequence and analysis, but also the right brain from where context, emotional expression and synthesis spring forth abundantly. Rigid left-brain training simply [8]
  9. 9. The World is Flat by Thomas L. Friedman won't do the works. The flat world deals with an ever-increasing need for inventiveness because everyday, preferences and trends transform at a rate man has never dreamed of. — Right People, Right Leadership. Governments must practice what Friedman termed as compassionate flatism. It must, through innovative leadership, inculcate the gains from being attuned to and progressive in a flat world and reconfigure a web of policies that would give Americans the appropriate outlook, education, skills and safety nets they will need to compete against other players in the leveled showground. It must teach the basics of personal “elasticities” and inspire citizens to dare, to conquer, and to make a difference. Most importantly, it must build “muscles” for lifetime employability of American workers whatever job they get into wherever they may be, by means of upgrading their educational level and keeping the standards of living high. Developing Countries: Plugging Away and Catching Up — A Brutally Honest Introspection Won't Hurt. This is what countries from the Third World should try to convince themselves with. In order to obtain a favorable clout in the flat world, developing states must initially look at where it stands in relation to the superpowers in the leveled playing field. Is their nation lagging behind, off to a good start, or near the finish line overtaking others? It must genuinely ask itself to what extent is the country adapting and taking advantage of flatism. It must carry out its own SWOT (strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats) analysis. If the drawbacks are greatly appalling, there is no need to sugarcoat them with quick-fix remedies because solutions do not take effect overnight. Learn from Others. — This may be a very lame resort, but for toddlers in the flat world, learning by way of imitating other countries' success stories will cushion them from the ill-effects of ambitious yet imprudent attempts at reform. Frameworks which have been tried and tested by other “flat” players might just be what your country is looking for. However, it takes more than just courage to make an effort and risk slipping-up. Courage must be coupled with insight and creative strategy that would take the country where its vision is--and more. Companies & Individuals: If You Can't Beat It, Dig Into It — When the world becomes flat, hollow out and don't build walls. Shying away through protective mechanisms won't take companies and individuals anywhere in the flat world. Countries would outsource not to shrink but to win; same is true that individuals would collaborate in global partnerships not to rupture their private boundaries but to gain more social contacts. Yes, the flat world is here to stay and it certainly can't be trounced or whitewashed. It then leaves companies and individuals alike, no other choice but to plow deeper and unearth the riches that lie beneath. [9]
  10. 10. The World is Flat by Thomas L. Friedman Cultivate a Culture of Reform. — As the old adage goes, wealth awaits the prepared mind. For companies and individuals, preparedness is a matter of choice, carrying out a positive decision to take the right steps no matter how tremulous your stances are. Adaptability to change begins from within--from a mindset that welcomes the titillation of fresh perspectives, and from a heart whose disposition harbors optimism amid insecurity. Living out a culture of reform snatches that galling immobility and stiffness away from brighter opportunities, without which, companies and individuals won't thrive in the flat world. A Closing Shot of Wisdom To survive in the flat world and flourish devoid of much difficulty, what countries, companies and individuals must possess may be summed up into three things: imagination, great humility, and willpower. The entire populace should know by now that old habits and modes of thinking won't whoosh anybody in the flat world. Worse, these would only hold development horses back and consign people to a murky segment of reality. If the leveled playing field produces out of this world designs and devices, then by all means people should counter it with even greater imagination and innovative behavior. To respond to the new, people must equally be “re-newed.” Second, great leaps start from small beginnings. Countries, companies and individuals simply cannot hastily force their way into the flat world and immediately reap its benefits. It takes great humility to admit the nuisances and limitations in implementing “flat” habits and it is only through this disclosure that people know exactly where to start, how to start, and at what pace. Too much nerve might cost a bigger price to pay, and if it does, movement is protracted and by the time people realize it, they can not anymore catch up. Lastly, it takes a huge amount of willpower to accept the inklings of the flat world, more so work people's way “atop” it. It begins with gentle orientation and, after period of acquaintance and countries, companies and individuals apparently get the “feel” of it, comes to an intensive “flattening” not just of the outside, but more importantly, of the inside. It a graceful process of letting go, of “dis-embedding” and finding feet on a new ground, starting anew and setting out where people never ever dared to go before. And when at last, you finally locate yourself in the flat world? You will never look back and believe again, that the world was once round. [10 ] ABOUT BUSINESSSUMMARIES is a business book summaries service. Every week, it sends out to subscribers a 9- to 12-page summary of a best-selling business book chosen from among the hundreds of books printed out in the United States every week. For more information, please go to