According to Friedman, how can individuals, corporations, and nations prepare to survive in our flat world?

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huntress | College Teacher | (Level 2) Associate Educator

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In Friedman's "flat world," individuals can thrive by becoming "untouchables"--"people whose jobs cannot be outsourced, digitized, or automated" (280) or made "tradable by electronic transfer" (282). These will be three types of people: (1) people who are "special or specialized," like Madonna or Michael Jordan (282); (2) people who are localized or "anchored"--whose jobs just be done in a specific location; and (3) people who are the "Old Middles," who used to work the middle-class jobs now being outsourced due to flattening (283). These "old middles" need to become "new middlers," making themselves fit the first two categories somehow on a global scale, becoming skilled and educated so they can "adapt to rapid technological change, [and] respond to international competition" (284). 

Countries can meet the challenge by being introspective--acknowledging that they are underdeveloped and be brutally honest with themselves about their strengths and weaknesses, and how both will affect their performance/competition in a flat world (407). These developing countries need to get (1) the necessary infrastructure to connect more (internet, mobile phones, modern airports, etc); (2) a competitive education system to develop their people into innovators and collaborators; (3) governments and bureaucracies that will effectively and productively manage the connection between its people and the world; and (4) the right environment (a country must give back to the planet--not only does this help all in general, but it attracts the kind of workers who have knowledge and are mobile (408). 

Companies must prepare for the change and accept the changing world with their eyes open. Some of Friedman's observations about companies that survived  are enlightening: 

1. "Whatever can be done, will be done. The only question is whether it will be done by you or to you" (442). Those who survive are building "collaborative, build-your-own business models that are unprecedented in history" (447), disregarding place and name to create internet companies who provide the best possible products and services for the most competitive prices. 

2. "The most important competition today is between you and your own imagination" (447). The most successful companies in today's world seek and encourage those who compete with themselves to do what can be done instead of being happy with the status quo. 

3. Small companies "act big." They collaborate to "reach farther, faster, wider, and deeper" (449). They use supply-chains, outsourcing, insourcing, and flatten their organizations to reduce bureaucracy and improve communication. 

4. Big companies "act small," offering the right (limited) choices and letting customers develop the products (such as Starbucks offering a limited menu which can be transformed into 19,000 products) (454). 

5. Be collaborators, because value creation is becoming so complex that no single firm or department can handle it alone (457).

6. Stay healthy by doing periodic company "health" checks and identify "hot spots"--core competencies, skills, or functions--and sell those to their clients (461-2).

7.  Outsource for the right reasons--to win (not to shrink), to innovate faster and gain market share, not to save money (465). 

8. Focus on how the company does things. That is, "deliver a more meaningful customer experience," "deal more consistently, openly, and honestly with your suppliers and investors, and more decently with your employees," to "engender loyalty that brings them all back and trust that enables greater collaboration" (468). 

9. Don't build walls. Watch what others are doing and be flexible enough to adapt and compete. This may mean outsourcing more technology while hiring more creative thinkers (469-72). 

 

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