Thursday, December 07, 2006

Book Review - The World Is Flat

Ten times, at least, this book stared out at me from the bookshelves of my local Barnes and Nobel or the airport shop. Ten times I couldn't part with $25. The good news is that I finally bought it for $15.79. The bad news is that I could have started using the material inside this miraculous book much earlier had I not been so cheap.

The premise of the book is fairly simple and may cause you to think, as I did, "Oh! That's obvious! I don't need to spend money and time to find out that young people in India are doing customer service and support jobs for major tech companies. I know that some companies in the advertising specialty industry are using Russian, Chinese, and Vietnamese artists to do production art. I know that the best way to get a package from Los Angeles to London overnite is UPS.

What I didn't know was that UPS now handles fulfillment for Nike, computer repairs for Toshiba, and assembly for Nikon. What I didn't think of was that I could actually outsource almost my entire office operation to India. I received a complete education in how I could have kept and even increased my business with Target, K Mart, Toys R Us and others by getting some of our products made off shore, packaged, labeled, and bar coded exactly as these companies wanted. We decided we did not have the core competancy to handle the exacting details required by these retailers. But Asian supplier do, and they are only too happy to work with US importers as middlemen to the majors.

Almost every page was an eye-opening experience. The writing is totally accessible to the non-technical reader. For non-fiction the material is very engaging.

I love to prognosticate about the future, and believe that a large part of leadership is based on an ability to be future oriented. In The World Is Flat, Friedman gives us plenty of ideas about what the future might look like. He does this from both a business and a geopolitical standpoint. If your not into politics, you can skip lightly through these sections. However, they are extremely instructive in understanding such issues as why S. Korea does so well and Saudi Arabia is so backward.

In other posts I have tried to persuade those who read these virtual pages that the future of the smallest businesses are just as threatened by a failure to keep up with the kinds of changes Thomas Friedman illustrates throughout the book as are major corporations like Ford.

If I had a rating system from 1-10 for business books, this one would get an 11. You should just click right here and buy it now. (Full disclosure. I make 6% if you buy the book through clicking on that spot. I also make 6% on anything you buy at Amazon if you go to Amazon through my blog. This fact, however, in no way shades my opinion of this book.)

I will have more to say about Thomas Friedman and The World Is Flat in future posts.

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