Saturday, November 11, 2006

The World is Flat?

Old school has truly become just that, old school. As a grade schooler I was taught that Columbus sailed the great seas to prove the world is round. And, until now, I really believed that the world was round.

In his book, "The World is Flat", Thomas L. Friedman starts by giving Christopher Columbus credit for discovering a round world. The author very quickly turns the table and provides his reasoning on why today's world has actually gone flat.

I am only about 50 pages into the book but I believe the author's reference to the world being flat relates to how much business and action taking place through the use of computer screens, cell phones, teleconferencing and the like. The book starts by describing the outsourcing of services from American companies. No, not to other American companies but to other companies in other countries.

Outsourcing is a growing phenomenon that's been taking place since the year 2000. Did you know that some fast food restaurants are taking your drive-thru order through a computer then sending the order to another computer in a country thousands of miles away and then that computer processes the order and sends it back to the restaurant so the preparers can prepare, pack, collect your money and send you on your happy, hurried way?

The percentage of error reductions that this type of outsourcing has saved the fast food chain (which is nameless in his book) is phenomenal in itself but it also gets the people through the drive-thru line faster. Now take a minute and think about this. A computer takes your order at the drive-thru, it (the computer) sends the order to another country and the order gets returned to the food preparers faster than a person can take your oder, type it into the computer and get it to the food preparer. And, there are fewer mistakes in the orders. Amazing.

The outsourcing from the U.S., according to Friedman, has created entire economies in countries that most of us will never visit or even imagine exists. There are accounts of how some of the outsourcing companies teach their employees how to speak several languages and to speak without their native accent.

Friedman also has a recurring theme of the U.S. falling behind all of the other countries in our flat world in technology. It is a big book but it seems to read fast. I am looking forward to reading more of his research.

But, I really want to root for Columbus's round world. It took such great courage and unyeilding belief to jump in a big old wood boat and sail into the unknown, the world has to be round, it just has to be....