The World is Flat, by Thomas Friedman

Last night I finished Friedman’s The World is Flat.

It’s a fairly wow big idea book; following are some of my notes and thoughts. This is not a review or anything like that; it’s just things I want to remember from the book.

Ten forces that flattened the world:

  1. Berlin Wall coming down, opening the iron curtain and creating the idea of one world market/community
  2. The dot-com bubble, with all the over-building of investment and infrastructure that resulted
  3. Common data languages and computer interoperability standards
  4. Open source software and community projects
  5. Outsourcing of work (kickstarted by Y2K)
  6. Offshoring of production (especially China)
  7. Supply-chaining – the science of coordination
  8. In-sourcing (hiring companies to perform traditionally internal company processes)
  9. In-forming (more and better data freely available for all
  10. “The steroids:” computing technology that is digital, mobile, personal, and virtual

The triple convergence:

  1. global, web-enabled collaboration: sharing of knowledge and work
  2. business process reorganization to take advantage of technologies: flattening of hierarchies, consolidating like functions, virtual companies, etc.
  3. China, India, and Russia joining the world markets at about the same time

On political and economic systems:
“Communism was a great system for making people equally poor. In fact, there was no better system for that than communism. Capitalism made people unequally rich.”

On China:
“China has more than 160 cities with a population of 1 million or more.”

“China is a threat, China is a customer, and China is an opportunity. You have to internalize China to succeed. You cannot ignore it.”

On international job competition:
“When I was growing up, my parents used to say to me, ‘Tom, finish your dinner. People in China and India are starving.’ My advice to you [kids] is: ‘Finish your homework – people in China and India are starving for your jobs.”

On change:
“No institution will go through fundamental change unless it believes it is in deep trouble and needs to do something different to survive.”

On staying competitive in the global job market:
“Average Joe has to become special, specialized, or adaptable Joe.”

On being in trouble:
“One thing that tells me a company is in trouble is when they tell me how good they were in the past. Same with countries … when memories exceed dreams, the end is near.”