The world is flat | collaboration worldwide

Thomas L. Friedman describes in “The World is Flat”, that the world shrinks to a small place. Fiber-optics, the internet and new technology creates a new world. A world in which the “new found power for individuals to collaborate and compete globally” is the new driver of the new society. The new “flat-world-platform” is “enabling, empowering, and enjoining individuals and small groups to go globally” very easily and seamlessly. He calls this phenomenon Globalization 3.0.

Friedman describes that everything that you can source out to someone who is cheaper will get sourced out. If this will be the booking of a table in a restaurant or the booking of a hair cut appointment with you hair stylist.

Two things are very important for me to mention: Friedman has found that:

  1. “the hierarchies are being challenged from below or are transforming themselves from top down structures into more horizontal and collaborative ones”.
  2. that this new relvolution will enable all societies to participate. Not only the western countries, but also the countries in Asia.

One very interesting insight for me was that Friedman described Wal-Mart as a company that has one key assest. It is able to run the best supply-chain. In his words Wal-Marts is a leader in “supply-chaining“. “Supply-chaining is a method of collaboration horizontally—among suppliers, retailers, and customers—to create value. (…) All it “makes” is a hyper efficient supply chain.” Wal-Mart started to by from customers to be able to get the best prices and to be able to wipe out all the layers between the manufacturer and the end-customer. But to make it really perfect Wal-Mart focused on three thing:

  1. They worked with the manufacturers to cut their costs
  2. They created a suppl-chain that were low-cost and frictionless = lean
  3. They created a information system, so that even the manufacturer knew what the customers were buying.

I consider these three elements as the basic of any lean management production system. And Wal-Mart is obviously a professional in this. Why is this important for us? Because we need to see that Wal-Mart did, what we always teach in Scrum: Get rid of the impediments, streamline your processes. Make things faster by simplification without compromising the key principles. (Tobias article talked about this.)

Friedman talked about a couple of other key elements of the new-collaboration platform – the 10 flatteners, but more important than this are his three very important insights:

The first one is about the technology that enables the new area of collaboration and work:

It is a global, Web-enabled platform for multiple forms of collaboration. (…) enables individuals , groups … to collaborate — for the purpose of innovation, production, education, research, entertainment … like no other creative platform ever before. (…) Going forward, this platform is going to be at the center of everything.

The second is:

New ways of business, and this always takes time. (…) We needed the emergence of a large cadre of managers …, and workers to get comfortable with, and develop, the sort of horizontal collaboration and value-creation processes and habits that could take advantage of this new, flatter playing field. (…) the convergence of a set of business practices and skills that would get the most out of the flat world.

According to Friedman, Carly Fiorina said: “We have gone from a vertical chain of command for value creation to a much more horizontal chain of command for value creation.”

I believe is very important to see this — that I started to write on this blog has something to do with all of this. I start to be part of this uploading of content. I did wrote a book the old way. Finding a publisher, sitting for week down and writing and now it is out. In the meantime I did not realize that the new way of working is already there – the change is already in progress. The corporate culture in the US and in Europe is in most companies far behind all this. When we try to help teams using Scrum, when we work with customers, then we do not see anything of this but it is already there.

The third conversion described by Friedman is the social time bomb. I believe it is worth to cite the whole paragraph:

It is this triple convergence — of new players, on a new playing field, developing new processes and habits for horizontal collaboration—that I believe is the most important force shaping global economics and politics in the early twenty-first century. Giving so many people access to all these tools of collaboration, along with the ability through search engines and the Web to access billions of pages of raw information, ensures that the next generation of innovations will come from all over Planet Flat. The scale of the global community that is soon going to be able to participate in all sorts of discovery and innovation is something the world has simply never seen before.” (Friedman)

Two additional drivers are there: a) the hunger of the people in the countries we called third world. These people in East Europe, in India, in China, in Africa, in South America they want. I have nowhere seen teams that work harder. These people want to change their future. Friedman discovered that these people have new name in China.

Zippies: “young city or suburban resident, between 15 and 25 years of age, with a zip in the stride. Belongs to Generation Z. Can be male or female, studying or working. Oozes attitude, ambition and aspiration. Cool, confident and creative.”

B) The other driver – and this is an idea from Friedman I had not seen earlier but he is completely right: The “new” countries do not have legacy. The can invent new technology without the need of being compatible with old stuff.

That is the same phenomenon we had in Germany after World War II. We needed to build a completely new industry and this helped us to build a industry that was more modern as any other industry in West Europe.


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