Analysis of “The World is Flat” by Thomas Friedman

In the book, The World is Flat, Thomas Friedman writes about his journey to India during which he realizes that globalization has changed the core principles and concepts of economy. The book is devoted to the theme of globalization. Friedman suggests that the world has become flat because globalization has erased all competitive differences between developed and emerging countries. From Friedman’s perspective, the flatting of the world is a direct result of the development of the workflow software. Furthermore, Friedman distinguishes among three periods of Globalization. Special attention is paid to the examples of companies in India and China, the business units that provide a wide range of services. These companies have become integral elements of the global supply chain for such global brands as Dell and Microsoft. Overall, the book is written from an interesting and rather unexpected perspective. The language is easy to understand while numerous examples make the personal opinion of the author supported by reliable evidence from real modern companies.

The book is devoted to the in-depth analysis of the idea of flatteners or the events which led to the elimination of competitive advantages between emerging and developed countries. Friedman lists ten flatters including the collapse of the Berlin Wall, Netscape, workflow software, open-sourcing, outsourcing, offshoring, supply chaining, insourcing, in-forming, and the steroids. From the first glance, these events, developments, and concepts do not fit together because they cannot be put into one line by function or sequence of emerging. Nevertheless, Friedman draws a clear connection among all of these factors. For example, talking about the collapse of the Berlin Wall in 1989, Friedman notes that this allowed people from both sides of the wall to join the economic mainstream. In other words, the collapse of the wall gave people an opportunity to exploit the economic opportunities they were previously deprived of. The next factor, Netscape, is also logically explained. Friedman points out that the Web in general and Netscape, in particular, made the audience for the Internet global. The Internet made the world flat because it has no restrictions for users and can be used by any person living in any country.

At the same time, Friedman hints that software and technological developments minimized the importance of human relations. Today machines can talk to other machines and the involvement of humans is no longer vital for successful operating. The global collaboration is carried out by machines while the human factor is no longer the key element of this collaboration. This statement is not fully explained though. While machines are confidently replacing many human-related activities from daily life, the human factor cannot be underestimated because all decisions are still made by people, not computers. Open-sourcing, on the other side, contributed to the flattening of the world but the effect was rather positive. For example, working on online projects, sharing ideas, communicating, informing, doing business, and meeting new people on the Internet has a positive impact on the world. The distances have lost their devastating value and today people can reach each other in seconds even when they are thousands of miles apart.

Another aspect covered by Friedman is outsourcing. He argues that outsourcing made the world flat because it allowed companies to divide activities into companies and subcontract the ones which can be performed more efficiently and cost-effectively in another country. Nevertheless, Friedman does not mention that outsourcing gave emerging markets is an opportunity to grow, prosper and enter the global economic arena. Moreover, Friedman does not talk about the benefits of outsourcing for the companies who gained an opportunity to decrease their operational expenses. Finally, there is no mentioning of the fact that outsourcing allowed decreasing prices and, as a result, customers could buy products at more attractive prices. Regarding offshoring, Friedman states that the internal relocation of the company’s processes to foreign countries was beneficial for the companies as well as accepting countries. At the same time, as Friedman suggests, offshoring created competition among emerging countries for the opportunity to have businesses offshore to them.

Special attention should be paid to the discussion on in-forming and steroids. Interestingly, Friedman introduces these two new concepts into his discussion on the flatness of the world to show how information technologies have shaped global economic development. In particular, Friedman provides an example of Google as an unlimited source of information. Never before in the history of humankind, so many people could find so much information about so many things. The growth of search engines is tremendous as more and more people rely on the Internet as a reliable and, more important, quick source of information about anything they want or need to know. Furthermore, Friedman refers to personal digital devices (mobile phones, insane messaging, etc.) are steroids contributing to further flattening of the world.

In addition to the ten specific flatteners of the world, Friedman suggests three additional components that have created a new global arena. For example, only a decade ago, one machine was unable to perform multiple functions while today convergence of machines made it possible to perform multiple tasks on one machine (printing, emailing, faxing, and communication, etc). Furthermore, the flatteners combined led to the development of the new business model. Taking into account this need for the new business model, the collaboration among people became horizontal. It means that people and companies had to add value through innovation working across departments and countries. Of course, understanding and active usage of technological developments are the essential elements of effective horizontal collaboration.

Finally, Friedman talks about the opening of the previously closed economies to the world. The attention of the readers is drawn to the emerging markets of India, China, Russia, Central Asia, and Latin America. Nevertheless, Friedman focuses only on one aspect of their emergence – they added new brainpower to the global economy and fostered global collaboration. Looking at the factors outline by Friedman, it would be logical to suggest that the author argues in favor of flattening the world. Nevertheless, the concluding sections of the book are rather unexpected because Friedman proposes remedies to fight the flattening crisis. One of the solutions outlined by Friedman is for the United States to update the skills of its workforce. There is an evident lack of correlation between the discussed flatteners and the offered remedies.

In conclusion, the book is rather interesting because Friedman talks about globalization and its impact on making the world flat. Many examples are of interest to modern readers. However, there is no central idea of the book. The conclusions reached by Friedman are limited to the United States of America only while the major part of the book is devoted to emerging markets. Despite this failure, Friedman succeeds in creating an interesting book about globalization and its impact on the world.

References

Friedman, Thomas. The World is Flat. Farrar, Straus and Giroux publishing, 2005.