The World Is Flat

Within the past month, I finished reading The World Is Flat: A Brief History of the Twenty-first Century. Now I can follow-up my previous post on this book.

For expediency’s sake, here are my take-aways in rougher, list-oriented form:

  • Capitalism – unequal wealth; communism – equal poverty
  • RSS/Atom (feeds), blogs, tags – open, standard formats … but not open enough (e.g. annotations) … potential for integration with open, standard document-based metadata (e.g. XMP) … what I’m currently calling “fluid content dynamics” – more closely reflects the very nature of content–what do I really want to do?–capture thoughts and ideas … what is a .doc? why be forced to or choose to use Word? is the value Word provides worthy of my usage/loyalty/goals? what is the price of overkill over adequacy?
  • “Standards don’t eliminate innovation, they just allow you to focus it. They allow you to focus on where the real value lies, which is usually everything you can add above and around the standard.” -Joel Cawley (e.g. e.g. VoIP – voice is free; surrounding service add value)
  • “Software is not gold, it is lettuce–it is a perishable good.” -Brian Behlendorf
  • “This emerging era [open-sourcing] is characterized by the collaborative innovation of many people working in gifted communities, just as innovation in the industrial era was characterized by individual genius.” -Irving Wladawsky-Berger
  • Blogging as open-source intelligence gathering/dissemination
  • Don’t confuse a competitive race to the top for a competitive race to the bottom (e.g. China’s global economic strategy, “ECM lite” (Gartner’s “Basic Content Services”), etc.).
  • Get flat or be flattened!
  • Align ILM/ECM/CM/DM to its flatteners (i.e. blogs, wikis, feeds, tag clouds, etc.). Re-engineer yourself, your workgroup, your company and your culture (think BIG!) accordingly.
  • Are you transparent or translucent? I’m only the latter if I have no effective means to handle feedback.
  • The Triple Convergence – new players, new playing field, new processes and habits for horizontal collaboration
  • The state of being “legacy free” and the past’s drag on the present
  • The Great Sorting Out – understand when friction is to be kept, modified or eliminated (e.g. legitimate barriers to entry, etc.)
  • Value creation today is horizontal, not vertical–connect and collaborate, not command and control
  • Power of perspective and anticipating its effects (e.g. the empowerment of those benefiting the most profoundly from flattening)
  • Power of being able to assign or take action instead of asking for information because the information is already known
  • IP ownership – CC mark on blogs, living wills and trusts (e.g. include “my bits”)
  • Knowledge work and services (idea-based goods), not just (physical) goods, are tradeable.
  • Wants today become needs tomorrow.
  • “Sure, there is fear, and that fear is good because that stimulates a willingness to change and explore and find more things to do better.” -Vivek Paul
  • “You have to constantly upgrade your skills.” – mediocre was never an option, but now mediocrity has been permanently kicked out of the proverbial closet (thank goodness!)
  • Know how to “learn how to learn”
  • Laws -> Markets -> Innovation (i.e. why I’ve been reading books on the judicial system in America and blogging about it)
  • Running a marathon involves different musculature, breathing capacity and mental toughness than running a sprint
  • “In China today, Bill Gates is Britney Spears. In America today, Britney Spears is Britney Spears–and that is our problem.” -Thomas Friedman
  • Strive for the top but have a plan that accounts for arrival
  • “Transformation of an enterprise begins with a sense of crisis or urgency. No institution will go through fundamental change unless it believes it is in deep trouble and needs to do something different to survive.” -Lou Gerstner
  • “A crisis is a terrible thing to waste.” -Paul Romer
  • Versatilist (Gartner) – not specialist and not generalist
  • Values > Value; Values chains > Value chains
  • Liberating technology that enslaves
  • “Imagination is more important than knowledge.” -Albert Einstein
  • “…in a flat world so many of the inputs and tools of collaboration are becoming commodities available to everyone. They are all out there for anyone to grasp. There is one thing, though, that has not and can never be commoditized–and that is imagination.”

In reply to Erik’s comment, a very sensible reason for a corporation or company to pursue outsourcing is when it must do so to effectively engage critical knowledge workers. The talent pool is global; it’s not local. I want the best candidates to be employees. I prefer to work locally and draw from my communities; however, I can see when this may not always be possible. Thomas Friedman makes the point of saying that today natural talent trumps geography.

Some of the complaint I hear to outsourcing tends to be focused on cost rather than talent. I see an emerging rationale swinging more toward talent. This is why it’s extremely critical that our educational system catch up and surpass corporate knowledge worker requirements. If we don’t educate the best and the brightest, someone else will. If we can’t attract and retain local talent, then we’ll be forced to “go remote.” (Assuming that a corporation wants to be a global leader in the marketplace.)

A cost-based competitive advantage implies a volume-based corporate economy. Knowledge work and its enabling technologies and products are not yet entirely volume commodities. To become such implies that something else–not based on cost/volume–has taken its place. Whatever this is will likely be what future talent is attracted to.

Update 12/1/2008: For more of my book reviews and to see what else is in my book library (i.e. just the business-related or software-related non-fiction therein), please visit my Books page.