The world is flat, not so much!

Friedman’s (2007) world is flatter

Friedman’s (2007) main claims are the world is flat and the global competitive field is leveling.  In reflecting, the author of this blog sees evidence that Friedman’s (2007) claims are alive and well.  Through the internet and technology, the world is connected now more than ever.  To illustrate, the author recently telephoned the Wall Street Journal newspaper because he was considering a subscription.  He found the customer service representative extremely knowledgeable about the benefits, which the representative conveyed to him.  As a result, he decided to subscribe to the paper.  At the end of the conversation, he inquired about where the customer service representative was located and she shared she was in India.  The author was surprised at her response because he did not detect an accent.  Indeed, the competitive field is leveling as Friedman (2007) indicated.

As another example, Friedman’s (2007) description of radiologists outsourcing CAT scan readings to Australia resonated with the author of this blog.  The author’s father was a radiologist and his father was on call, in addition to a regular week of work, every three weeks including weeknights, holidays, and weekends.  During call weeks, the author recalls his father up most of the night reading CAT scans.  However, when the author reached college, he came home from school break and amazingly found his father no longer took call because the hospital sent the CAT scans that occurred overnight and on weekends to Australia.  The benefit was that his father was no longer grumpy from a dearth of sleep.  Again, proof the world is flatter as Friedman (2007) stated.        

Florida’s (2005) world is spikey

Converse to Friedman (2007), Florida (2005) provides urban versus rural, the income divide, and innovation as illustrations that the world is spikey.  The author of this post sees validity in Florida’s (2005) assertions; in particular, the income divide resonated because he studies the topic in his work.  As background, the author works at a large financial services firm with nearly two trillion dollars in assets under management.  His job focuses on helping corporate clients motivate their employees to save for retirement and he studies the global trends for income distribution to serve his clients better.  As Florida (2005) outlines, the global income gap is widening.  Thus, the inequality of the distribution of income manifests the world is not as flat as Friedman (2007) implies.  Looking into the horizon, what point does the divide between the have and have-nots spark a revolution?

Shirky’s (2009) voice of many

Shirky (2009) leans toward Friedman (2007) because Shirky’s (2009) main theme of the voice of many is congruent with Friedman’s (2007) flat world where everyone is on equal footing.  Stated differently, a flatter platform (Friedman, 2007) enables the voice of many (Shirky, 2009) be heard.  To illustrate, social media is shaping the way organizations respond to customers.  The author’s company has a Facebook page where users from all around the world are free to comment.  In turn, the firm regularly reviews the comments to identify trends and makes changes to products or services as necessary.  Similarly, radio stations and television shows such as HBO Real Sports provide their Facebook page and Twitter account to the audience and ask them to comment.  Thus, the experience becomes social as Shirky (2009) indicated.  Finally, the author watched the MTV music awards this past year and took to social media through Facebook to see reaction to the show.  In particular, Miley Cyrus’ controversial performance caused many people to comment of Facebook; ultimately, the situation went viral.  Thus, social media through Shirky’s (2009) voice of many is shaping the direction of organizations and facilitating social interactions.       

Relevancy?

In comparing Friedman (2007), Florida (2005), and Shirky (2009), Friedman (2007) is the least relevant today.  To explain, Friedman (2007) provides anything that can be digitized can be outsourced.  However, the author’s experience with his company contrasts Friedman (2007) because it has not outsourced anything to India, China, or any other foreign country.  For example, phone center representatives are located at the company’s three locations in the United States.  If the world were flat as Friedman (2007) stated, would not the author’s firm outsource the phone center jobs to India?  Rather, the company decided to invest heavily in its public website and smartphone application to facilitate transactions in a cheaper manner.  As a result, the organization witnessed a channel shift in recent years from the phone center to the web and smartphones.  Friedman (2007) provided outsourcing and home-sourcing trends as evidence of the flattening of the world and assumed people would always be part of the equation.  However, the author thinks he overlooked the role technology plays in completing an entire process without human interaction.    

Another example that questions Friedman’s (2007) relevancy is re-shoring.  As edification, re-shoring involves American companies moving manufacturing back to the United States.  For example, a survey completed by Boston Consulting Group (“Re-shoring manufacturing,” 2013) indicated more than half of U.S. based manufacturing executives of companies with greater than one billion dollars in sales are considering or planning to move production back to the United States from China.  With rising global wages and increased transportation costs, American companies see the benefit to domestic manufacturing.  Moreover, American companies can leverage technology to do the work previously performed by people.  With the proliferation of the internet and advancement of technology, the author thinks the world is flatter as Friedman (2007) suggests because outsourcing works well for some situations.  However, as demonstrated by the technology scenarios above, the author also thinks outsourcing is not as pervasive as Friedman (2007) predicted and technology will play an even bigger role in the future.  What do you think?

   

References

Florida, R. (2005, October). The world is spiky. The Atlantic Monthly, 48-51.

Friedman, T. L. (2007). The world is flat (3rd ed.). New York, NY: Picador.

Majority of large manufacturers are now planning or considering ‘reshoring’ from China to the U.S. (2013). Retrieved from http://www.bcg.com/media/PressReleaseDetails.aspx?id=tcm:12-144944

Shirky, C. (2009, June 16). Clay Shirky:  How cellphones, Twitter, Facebook can make history [Video file]. Retrieved from http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=c_iN_QubRs0&feature=youtube

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