Saturday, July 26, 2008

The world is flat by Thomas L. Friedman

I learnt in a course I took that the traditional manner of managing an organization through a rigid “command and control” structure is something companies cannot afford to do now. Now companies need to allow their “knowledge workers” or employees who have knowledge to come forward and create value for the company, in fact to encourage them to come forward. To do this you need to create an environment through which they can do this.

I just heard a video lecture on MIT World by Thomas L. Friedman who wrote the book “The world is flat” and the point he makes is that the world is now so flat that individuals across the globe are empowered. People in a certain country are importing machines from South Korea, hiring others from their local Arabic school and exporting their merchandise labeled in Arabic to Kuwait. Another very common example of empowerment at the individual level is when anybody with access to the internet and programming skills can go online bid for making a software and get the money for it. Another example is a blog: if I want to find out how people feel about the war in Iraq I can go find their blogs and read them.

An important point the author makes is that this move from vertical silos of countries and companies interoperating with each other to people interoperating with each other, a move from vertical to horizontal has taken place on the basis of a platform. This is the “flat world platform”.

The author has mentioned 10 flatners in his book and three of them in his lecture.

Here they are:

1) The PC enabled people to author their own content in digital form. This could be articles, music, images, in short anything that you can make with a PC.
2) The Netscape browser…leading to the dotcom boom…leading to massive, unplanned fiber optic cabling worldwide, thus connecting the entire world through the internet.
3) Alphabet soup: http, html, xml, tcp/ip, etc. A whole range of protocols that connected people’s software’s with each other. The author refers to this as the “workflow revolution” i.e. connecting peoples work flows.

An important phenomenon this “flat world platform” led to is “offshoring”. Another important phenomenon it led to is “uploading” (not downloading).

Uploading was the process of people uploading whatever content they wanted online. Examples include: Open source software, university education (eg. Lectures at MIT that are now online), blogging, Wikipedia (an online encyclopedia that is often updated as often as yesterday and about topics that are most recent), YouTube (a place where people can post their videos).

An important rule of the flat world that the author makes is: “Golden rule of business: Whatever can be done will be done”.

If you come up with an idea and you don’t materialize it somebody else will.

The point the author thus makes is that in this hypercompetitive enviornment you are actually competing with your own imagination.

At the individual level the author notes people who can connect two specializations example: enginnering and MBA, or caligraphy and computers (The author said that the font face that came in the mac and was very innovative was because of a person who had taken a calligraphy course at his university and was inspired by it).

The point i'd like to make here in line with my posts about decompartmentalization is: "the level at which you can decompartmentalize is based on how far you can stretch your imagination"

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