Monday, September 14, 2009

Book Review: The World is Flat by Thomas L. Friedman

Title: The World is Flat: A Brief History of the Twenty-First Century
Author: Thomas L. Friedman
Publisher: Farrar, Straus, and Giroux
Year: 2005

First line: "No one ever gave me directions like this on a golf course before: "aim at Microsoft or IBM."

The World is Flat is a look at the monumental changes that have happened to the world to seemingly reverse medieval proofs that the world is round. After telling how he discovered that the world is flat, Mr. Friedman spends the next section of the book outlining the accelerating progress of globalization and the ten flatteners that he credits with being the biggest agents of change. Without spoiling the whole ten, the first two are the day that the Berlin wall came down and the day that Netscape, Inc. went public.

What do these and the other eight flatteners have in common? They opened almost the entire world to global communication and commerce. No longer was a huge portion of the world's population behind the Iron Curtain and cut off from the rest of the world. With the introduction of Netscape, the first "killer app" for browsing the web, everyone was not only free to travel, but also to obtain the knowledge that was becoming widely available on the Worldwide Web.

After outlining the flatteners, Mr. Friedman discusses what he terms the "triple convergence." This convergence enabled the flatteners to spread and take root with one another. This then spurred what he terms the great sorting out. In the sorting out, the status quo is being challenged and people will have to absorb change. For some, this change will be learning a new job, since theirs has been sent to India or China. For people in India or China, it's the rise of a middle class and how to cope with the new available material wealth. At this point, you're about halfway through the book.

The rest of the book covers impacts that the changes are having or will have on America, developing countries, companies of all sizes, and geopolitics: all affected by the flat world. These all include specific suggestions for each sector.

I found the section on the impact of flat world on the countries that are now harboring and encouraging terrorism very enlightening. Mr. Friedman has a very insightful view of how the flattening is affecting people in countries that are closed off and where the free-flow of information and goods is not allowed. Mr. Friedman ends up with a section on imagining what the difference will be in the world, should this flattening be continued.

While this is a sizable book at 469 pages, I found it flowed well and the information to be useful in understanding world events and international relations. It's well worth the read.

Review by Russ Stevens, M.B.A.

Russ Stevens teaches in the Management department of the School of Graduate and Professional Studies here at Hope International University and is currently pursuing a doctorate at Northcentral University.

The views in this book review are not necessarily the views of Hope International University.

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