Summary of Thomas Friedman’s The World Is FlatIn The World Is Flat, Thomas L. Friedman discusses events and technologies that are“flattening” the world and increasing globalization. Friedman feels the world is highlyinterconnected without regard to hierarchy, distance, organizational size, individualstatus, culture, or language. He describes ten "flatteners" that are reshaping the world.Flattener 1 – Fall of the Berlin WallThe end of the Cold War broke down barriers between people. To catch your attention heidentifies this flattener with 9/11. November 9, 1989 is when the Berlin Wall fell. Hecontrasts it with 9/11 which is journalistically neat but not terribly pertinent.But Friedman doesnt stop with a political-historical event. About the same time (the1980s), Apple and Microsoft were making personal computers available to the world. Notonly did the Berlin wall fall but Microsoft Windows opened [cute]. Part of flattener #1 isthe personal computer, the ability of individuals to put their thoughts in digital form.Flattener 2 – The InternetOn August 9, 1995 Netscape went public with first internet browser available to thepublic at large. Now people could access information from all over the world.Flattener 3 - Workflow softwareMany software developments, standards, and protocols enable computers and otherdigital devices to interact over the internet so that work and other projects can be done bypeople any where in the world.Friedman notes that with the first three flatteners a collaboration platform is emerging forpeople to share digital content inexpensively all over the world. In the mid to late 1990sthe world changed. The remaining flatteners expand on this opportunity for collaboration,"steadily flattening the world even more."Flattener 4 - UploadingUploading is Friedmans word for people creating content and contributing to theInternet. This document is an example. Perhaps the most significant is the developmentof open source software. Hierarchy and organization are not required; quality content andwork product can come from anywhere.Flattener 5 – OutsourcingFriedman recounts the story of Jack Welch at GE forcing his IT people to contract outsome of their work to Indian vendors, starting a tidal wave of change.Flattener 6 - OffshoringWith instant and virtually cost free global transmission of data and communication,companies can place each business department responsible for one part of the value chainin the most productive geographic location.
Flattener 7 - Supply-ChainingThe rapid, accurate global movement of components and finished goods is now possibleon an unimaginable scale. Freidman describes a Wal-Mart distribution center as anexample.Flattener 8 - InsourcingIf a company has an extraordinary skill, it may market that skill as a service even thoughthe company appears to be getting into something totally unrelated to their basic business.Freidman used UPS as an example. UPS, the package delivery company, has a majorhub at Louisville Airport. Toshiba’s turn around time on the repair of laptop computerswas too long and affecting customer satisfaction. They turned to UPS to operate therepair shop in Louisville. Computers are returned to the customer in 3 days. UPS is alsomanaging Papa Johns pizza delivery as well as their supply logistics. UPS is good atscheduling, delivering and keeping track of items. UPS sells that skill as a service.Flattener 9 - In-FormingFriedman describes this as "the individuals personal analog to uploading, outsourcing,insourcing, supply-chaining and offshoring... the ability to build and deploy your ownpersonal supply chain - a supply chain of information, knowledge and entertainment."Flattener 10 - SteroidsAll sorts of things are happening to magnify the previous nine flatteners. Examples arethe continued effects of Moores Law, wi-fi, instant messaging, file sharing, P2P, VoIP,videoconferencing...Next he talks about "the triple convergence" which brings home how these ten flattenersare changing and will change the world.His first point is the sum is more than the parts. Each development has value in itself butit is much more valuable when combined with the others. A PC is great, but coupled withthe internet the possibilities expand tremendously. The ten flatteners taken togetherconstitute a quantum leap and "created a whole new platform. It is a global Web-enabledplatform for multiple forms of collaboration".The second convergence addresses the fact that the world today looks much the same asthe world yesterday. With any major technological advance there is a lag betweeninvention and major impact because organizations, processes, and facilities have to beredesigned around the new capability. Friedman gives various examples starting withlight bulbs and electric motors. Each changed society but there was a lag.The third convergence is globalization. He speaks of "new players, on a new playingfield, developing new processes and habits for horizontal collaboration - that I believe isthe most potent force... The scale of the global community that is soon going to be able toparticipate in all sorts of discovery and innovation is something the world has simplynever seen before." He sites many examples of international developments.
Related Subject MatterIn the 1990s there were a number of books attempting to predict the shape of the post-Cold War world. Paul M. Kennedy wrote The Rise and Fall of the Great Powersexpressing the US was a superpower but like many superpowers before, it will lose itsposition due to financial and geographic over extension, internal weariness, coalescingopposition, and changing circumstances.In The End of History and the Last Man, Francis Fukuyama proclaimed that free marketsand liberal democracy had triumphed and many nations would model themselves onthose principlesSamuel P. Huntington (The Clash of Civilizations and the Remaking of the World Order)talked of major, multi-national cultural groups competing with one another, e.g. Islamversus liberal, democratic western nations.Friedmans The Lexus and the Olive Tree describes the power and force for change of thedeveloping global economy. It also describes the deep rooted emotional reaction andopposition to change.