Digital Media

Monday, October 30, 2006

The World is Flat: A Brief History of the Twenty-first Century
Thomas L. Friedman

I apparently have been sleeping for the last decade or so. Or maybe, as Friedman suggests, the triple convergence that most CEOs now understand, is being kept a big secret. The walls, ceilings and floors are gone. But we still haven’t even begun to see what this convergence is capable of in this "flattened" world. Friedman says that up until now we have been in the process of creating tools to collaborate and connect. Now the real IT revolution can begin. Companies will need to find ways to work together and combine technologies to compete and innovate in a global business economy.

While I knew most help numbers now go to a call center in India, I had not realized the extent of the technology infrastructure in the country and the extent to which they will still be able to expand.

The extent of India’s brain power in the U.S. can already be evidenced by the large numbers of Indians working in America’s technology hubs, such as Microsoft and Boeing. The U.S. education system does not produce enough technology workers to keep up with demand. This does put the U.S. at a disadvantage. While it holds the upper hand in creative innovations, there is not much to stop India, and other countries like China, to begin advancing their own technologies. The United States will need to stay on top of innovation to continue to stay competitive.

Usually, when Americans talk about globalization, they speak of it as taking jobs away from Americans. But Friedman takes a wider view of globalization. The flattening of the world, he says, will allow individuals to take control. They will have the power to improve their circumstances no matter where at in the world they are. You don't have to be born in a certain country or to a family with a certain amount of status to succeed. The flattening of the world has empowered almost anyone in the world to communicate and do business with someone on the other side of the world. The collaboration that flattening allows brings the world closer together. Americans are interacting with people around the world all the time, and sometimes they don't even know it.

The United States is not likely to keep its technology advantages. The U.S. will have to reinvent itself in an increasingly flat world to stay competitive with the rest of the world. Companies will likely become more interdependent. They will be forced to collaborate with people in other countries to stay competitive through efficiency and cost-cutting.


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