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Book Review – The World Is Flat

The World is FlatNew York Times columnist Thomas Friedman makes an effort to explain how the world turned flat and what that means for us. The book has been widely popular for almost a year now. Over 640 reviews at Amazon speak for itself. “The World Is Flat” is considered one of the leading books on Globalization. I would argue that it is more than that.
The book can act as a guide on how to position yourself in the modern world.

What has made extreme globalization possible?
The first 200 pages deal with the fundamentals.The book lists 10 main events that made “flattening the world” possible: The fall of the Berlin wall, the rise of the Internet, work flow software, open source, outsourcing, offshoring, supply chaining, insourcing, in-forming and what he calls the steroids – Digital, Mobile, Personal and Virtual.

Some if this reading is rather technical and might bore the non-technical reader a little bit. Avid “techies” might find some of the reading a bit light. Hard to find a compromise here.

The title of the book appears a bit too often for my taste. The author repeats it like a mantra.

The book gets more interesting once the basics are covered. It is peppered with Interesting anecdotes from small and large companies all over the world. Well, mostly in China, India and the United States.

What‘s next?
“Flattening the World” is obviously a scary trend for many in the Western World.

  • Who is going to win and who is going to loose?
  • Are we going to be able to maintain our standard of living?
  • How do you best position yourself in a world that is changing faster and faster all the time?
  • Who is calling the shots?

These are just some of the questions that we are facing. The book makes a real good effort to provide the readers with a better understanding on how to position themselves in order to have a future in a completely global workplace.

Mr. Friedman stresses education as one of the foundations of a successful society in the future. He also talks about the global struggle over energy resources as another major competitive factor. Without cheap or enough energy resources a country will struggle to grow and compete in the global market. (Ever wonder why China is protective of Iran during the current nuclear debate?)

“The World Is Flat” also explains some of the shortcomings in Mexico. Even though Mexico signed the NAFTA agreement over 10 years ago, the country never really benefited from it. Mr. Friedman shows that Mexico still has a long way to go.

Political ending
Mr. Friedman is not a business writer and “The World Is Flat” is not necessarily a book on economics. The book gets more and more political towards the end. It is my favorite part. In less than 70 pages the author explains what today’s biggest threats are and how to best deal with them in his eyes. He talks about the need for trust and security in order for an global economy to function. How can this be achieved with the strong forces in the Middle East being focused on disrupting our lives? The author has traveled the region extensively and is well known and respected in many parts of the Middle East. He makes clear that it will be a lengthy and tedious process to get rid of Islamic fundamentalism and terrorism. He argues that it can and has to be done only by strengthening moderate forces, not by direct intervention.

Mr. Friedman is obviously concerned but lays out a vision that encourages everyone of us to think about a better and safer world. He shows small examples on how people with limited resources went on and made a contribution to education and bettering people‘s lives.

The book makes very clear that individuals have more control over their lives than ever before in our history. Doing the “unthinkable” and turning dreams or visions into reality has never been easier. The problem only is that nobody else will do it for us. The role of the Governments continues to diminish.

My favorite sections of the book are a story about “untouchable” kids in a small school in India and a n outsourcing program set up in Cambodia that lets employees get a higher education at the same time they are working and making money as well.

Many people will think that this is all dream-world material.

  • What will happen to our less educated workforce that doesn’t have the option to acquire new skills?
  • What will happen if global competition intensifies?

The author makes clear that many things we think are happening in 20 years from now are already happening here and now. It would be foolish to ignore the big signs at the wall.

Mr. Friedman, tries to simply explain some of the simple truths about the complex world we currently live in. Many people may disagree with his position, but he certainly challenges all of us to think for ourselves.

I would rate it as a must read book for:

  • Highschool and college students in order to understand the importance of education and what they are up against.
  • Every employee/worker/entrepreneur in America who tries to better understand what they can do to keep their jobs.

Last thought

Mr. Friedman praises the benefits of the Internet and how so much content is available at no cost. He claims in the book that he would never subscribe to the WSJ online because you have to pay for it. Even though the New York Times is still free, his column isn’t. He did get moved to a premium section of the paper. Maybe because this book was so popular.

Get it at Amazon: The World Is Flat

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