Last week, our cohort discussed the book, The World Is Flat, and began a great conversation about our understanding of globalization and the world we live in.

A little background:

The World is Flat, by Thomas L. Friedman, explains his theory on how the modern world is being flattened (in contrast to Christopher Columbus proving the world is round in 1492). Globalization is the main reason for this figurative flattening, with more and more countries able to compete for global knowledge and business, further “leveling the play field”, as Friedman called it. During the time of Columbus, the world was large and vastly unexplored. Fast-forward to the 21st century and we’re now living in what Friedman calls Globalization 3.0, in which the world’s widespread connectedness has drastically shrunk the planet’s size. Whereas in 1492 countries were doing all the globalizing, it’s now individuals who are the driving force behind globalization

One of the major sections of the book discusses Friedman’s Ten Flatteners, the factors leveling the global playing field. They are as follows:

  • Collapse of the Berlin Wall in 1989
  • Introduction of Netscape
  • Workflow Software
  • Uploading
  • Outsourcing
  • Offshoring
  • Supply-chaining
  • Insourcing
  • Informing
  • The “Steroids” (Wireless, Voice Over Internet, File Sharing)

Since this book was published in 2005, our class thought of two flatteners to add:

Social Networking

In the last five years alone, the rise in individuals collaborating has exploded in size. Earlier this month, Facebook reached 1 billion users. According to Youtube.com, there are over 800 million unique users visiting YouTube each month! Our world grows smaller but more connected through social networking sites like these and many others. I can hear about world events and stay connected with friends living around the globe in a matter of seconds, all from the convenience of my personal computer.

Mobile Technology

With the rise of personal smart phones, more and more people now carry mini computers in their pocket. These devices and many more keep us connected more often in more places. I bought my first smart phone this past summer: now I can check my Facebook, reply to emails, and even write blog posts anywhere and anytime! As much as I love my Droid Incredible 2 (yes, I really do!), I’ve found it’s harder to separate myself from technology and the Internet “world” when I always have my smartphone with me.

As part of the discussion, we went around the room and each shared something we found interesting or disagreed with regarding Friedman’s theory.  Most of us had something to say about outsourcing, from revealing previous negatives attitudes toward it to being amazed at how so many situations in our everyday life could be outsourced. Have you ever considered that the person who takes your order in the drive-through at McDonalds could be speaking to you from across the world? Although this is not usually the case, it is ALWAYS a possibility in the future.

So, for those of us preparing to enter the workforce, what are the implications of this flattening world? As the global playing field is leveled, how do we set ourselves apart?

Unfortunately, there’s not one magic answer. According to Friedman, however, one way we can do this is by striving to become one of the “untouchables”: individuals whose jobs can never be replaced by outsourcing or machines. The human mind still is and always will be an extremely valuable asset; technology can only replicate it so much.

Overall, our class discussion was very insightful and solidifying in my “updated” understanding of globalization. I am especially excited to experience the world more thoroughly when we travel to China and India this December! I have no doubt that we will see and encounter evidence of the flat world on which we live.

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