Last Monday at the international Million Dollar Round Table annual meeting, New York Times columnist and author, Tom Friedman talked about his soon-to-be-published book. His talk entitled The World Is Flat 3.0 had something for everyone.
His original work, The World Is Flat, published in 2005 stressed that many past US economic advantages have been reduced by ten developments making the nations of the world more interdependent. Each nation now has more opportunity for competitive growth in a global economy.
Now Friedman says the speed of change is so rapid and unpredictable it seems that machines are calling the shots instead of their human designers. (My terms.) For example, he cites Uber as the world’s largest taxi service having no vehicles. Internet Service Providers link everyone and everything in communication but produce no content. Zillow and Trulia help sell real estate without owning any land or having any agents. So who is this trend helping?
Manufacturers (he calls Makers) are able to quickly design and build unique products with 3D printing instead of mass production and save money in the process. And how creative is this? Japanese farmers are putting FitBits on the hooves of their cows in order to determine when to artificially inseminate them. The time period during which the insemination takes place even provides a 70 percent probability of choosing the sex of the calf.
Evil intentioned terrorists (he calls Breakers) are using the web to recruit impressionable young people. Others perhaps only misguided are spreading real-time videos showing seemingly outrageous law enforcement conduct stripped of all normal and redeeming context. Ethnic people groups are wont to obliterate the arbitrary straight political boundary lines of the past that divide them from their relatives.
Above all, Friedman says the conditions that allowed workers, companies, and organizations, even governments, to survive and thrive by being average are gone. We can complain as a group or a nation about unfair competition and wish for the good old days all we want. But we as consumers and those all around the world are looking for extra value at the least cost from whomever and wherever the most motivated, innovative people are making great things happen.
Locally, I know our city government, Chamber of Commerce, and school districts are examining new ways to ensure that new businesses do sprout and thrive right here, fed by entrepreneurial fire that still exists and using the talents of young people taught the best technological skills possible. But it still comes down to the individual and our families. Are we willing to work hard in both study and working careers?
Friedman said we must always think like an immigrant. We have no entitlements. We must find our opportunities and work harder than others might need to. We must live like we might lose our blessings tomorrow. Be so committed that you want to carve your initials in your work at the end of each day. Passion and curiosity will trump intelligence.
He closed with an anecdote about a Perkins restaurant server in the Twin Cities. He ordered a traditional breakfast but his friend ordered something healthy including fruit. When the lady server brought his food, she said, I brought you extra fruit! She was not in control of very much, but she was going to make the most of what she could.
It is pretty simple when you think about it.
(Past performance is no guarantee of future results. Advice is intended to be general in nature.)