Thomas Freidman Says the World is Flat, After All


Writing in the New York Times Magazine, Thomas Friedman lays out his case that the world’s flat after all.

It’s flat because new technology makes it possible for anyone with the smarts, a computer and an Internet connection to collaborate in a global network of knowledge.

This is the newest wrinkle in globalization, according to Friedman who has written on the subject in The Lexus and the Olive Tree and Longtitudes and Latitudes.

…hierarchies
are being
flattened
and value
is being
created
less and
less within
vertical
silos and
more and
more through
horizontal
collaboration

–Thomas L. Freidman

It’s a
Flat World,
After All

Globalization is the social and business reality in which faith and culture are being shaped and lived out. It’s more than a wrinkle, really. It’s already having profound impact on how corporations function, as Freidman illustrates. The collaborative workstyle he describes is a whole new way of working across distances and other boundaries.

In meetings I attend there is often discussion about a “global church” but the meaning of the phrase is still very murky to me. Is it about organization? Is it about theology? Is it about worship? Is it about changing relationships in mission?

Friedman makes clear that in the corporate world globalization is about basic challenges to existing management styles and organizational structures. I suspect the biggest challenge globalization presents to organizations and individuals is the need to re-think our place in the world.

The potential is profound. It will mean all of us have to re-think our roles and responsibilities as workers and as citizens. What will the future hold in an interactive, collaborative, participatory, always-on, pluralistic environment? What will faith look like in these circumstances?

Corporations are coming to terms with a very different competitive environment that is knowledge-based and geographically distributed across the globe. Imagine what this means for management and control.

It’s not just where we’re heading. It’s where we are. In some ways faith communities have been at the leading edge of thinking about life in a holistic way. We know that we are connected with people in ways far more binding than technology and national boundaries. And, at least as I understand it, Christian faith provides us a basis for viewing this reality in a constructive and expansive way, not in a fearful and defensive way.

I think Freidman’s contention that the world is flat presents us with an opportunity and a challenge. The opportunity is to interpret this new understanding so that we don’t live in fear and to find words to talk about our responsibilities as members of the global community. The challenge is to support policies that provide opportunity to all people–workers in the U.S. and workers beyond the U.S.–in a just and equitable sharing of the world’s resources so that we can sustain the environment and live purposeful lives wherever we are.

I know how grandiose these words sound. But, faith is a fairly grandiose enterprise if it helps us understand our meaning and purpose in life. For me, coming to terms with the flat world means coming to terms with new words to discuss the global community. It means working to create a new global awareness. It’s an exciting challenge, trying to figure out how to get around on this flat world.

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