The World is Flat: a Brief History of the Twenty-First Century
by Thomas L. Friedman
Make a note of this book title and become acquainted with the author. Even more importantly, consume the content. Read it again and again. Analyze it. Evaluate it. Understand it. Know how it impacts you today and how it will inevitably impact your future.
As I travel from coast to coast in my role as a consultant and speaker, I’m fascinated by the reality that this book divides everyone into one of two categories: 1) Those who are very familiar with the author, his research and revelations and 2) those who know nothing of this author or the subjects of globalization and the flattening of the world as we know it. Those in the latter category seem to feel as though this growing trend doesn’t affect them in any way and probably never will. This is truly frightening as this trend is impacting every American every day in any one of a variety of ways. This book will inform and astound everyone who reads it or listens to it on CD.
Thomas L. Friedman has won the Pulitzer Prize three times for his work at The New York Times, where he serves as the foreign affairs columnist. He is also the author of three best-selling books and the winner of the National Book Award.
In this revealing page-turner, Friedman demystifies our brave new world for us, allowing us to make sense of the often bewildering global scene unfolding before our eyes. His aim is not to give you a speculative preview of the wonders that are sure to come in your lifetime, but rather to get you caught up on the wonders that are already here. The world isn’t going to be flat; it is flat. What Friedman means by “flat” is “connected”—the lowering of trade and political barriers and the exponential technical advances of the digital revolution have made it possible to do business, or almost anything else, instantaneously with billions of other people across the planet. He explains it all in breathless narrative and great detail dating from the year 1492 until today.
I can’t possibly describe in a few paragraphs what Friedman so eloquently shares in 488 pages so allow me to tease you a bit with a few excerpts that should send you sprinting to your nearest bookstore to get your own copy of what will soon become the coffee-table textbook of anyone who cares about the future of this country and its citizens.
Friedman describes “The Ten Forces That Flattened The World” and “The Triple Convergence”—subjects which most of us know very little of even though both affect us in dramatic ways.
Friedman elaborates on Bill Gates’ statement, “When I compare our high schools to what I see when I’m traveling abroad, I am terrified for our work force of tomorrow. In math and science, our fourth graders are among the top students in the world. By eighth grade, they’re in the middle of the pack. By 12th grade, U.S. students are scoring near the bottom of all industrialized nations.”
“In 2001, India graduated almost a million more students from college than the United States did. China graduates twice as many students with bachelor’s degrees as the U.S., and they have six times as many graduates majoring in engineering. In the international competition to have the biggest and best supply of knowledge workers, America is falling behind.”
In many small- and medium-sized hospitals in the U.S., radiologists are outsourcing reading of CAT scans to doctors in India and Australia! In 2003, some 25,000 U.S. tax returns were done in India! In 2005, that number topped 400,000! In most cases, tax-payers were totally unaware of the out-sourcing.
There are currently 245,000 Indians answering phones or dialing out to solicit people for credit cards or cell phone bargains or overdue bills.
Jet Blue has outsourced its entire reservation systems to housewives in Utah.
If you own a Toshiba laptop computer that is under warranty and it breaks and you call Toshiba to have it repaired, Toshiba will tell you to drop it off at a UPS store and have it shipped to Toshiba, and it will get repaired and shipped back to you. Here’s what they don’t tell you: UPS doesn’t just pick up and deliver your laptop. UPS actually repairs the computer in its own UPS-run workshop dedicated to computer and printer repairs at its Louisville hub. You can now ship your laptop one day, get it repaired the second day and have it delivered back to you on the third day—thus enhancing the once-tarnished Toshiba reputation for taking forever to handle repairs. By the way, the UPS repairmen and women are all certified by Toshiba. UPS is not just delivering packages, it is synchronizing global supply chains for companies large and small.
These are just a few of the fascinating examples you’ll discover in this groundbreaking new book. Friedman consistently points out that globalization and the flattening of the world offer us as many opportunities as it does challenges. In fact, he claims we can actually flourish in this new flat world but it will take the “right imagination” and the “right motivation” … both of which he describes in detail. The author wants to tell you how exciting this new world is, but he also wants you to know you’re going to be trampled if you don’t keep up with it. This book makes one think, and then think again. Here we are busy with our day-to-day life, not paying attention to what is ongoing in the world around us. Thomas Friedman surely opens the eyes with this book and makes you consider where your role is in the flat world. This book is required reading for anyone concerned about our future.
(This book review was originally published in 2005 as one of the Top 10 Books – Edition 13.)
Harry K. Jones is a motivational speaker and consultant for AchieveMax®, Inc., a company of professional speakers who provide custom-designed seminars,
and consulting services.
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