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on 20 March 2017
It is a description of many aspects of globalization. It could be sometimes a bit more concise
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Thomas Friedman charms the readers with his grand story of a fast changing world in a borderless life of business, wealth, competition and entrepreneurship. Interesting read, but his vision and messages are too narrow and even too simplistic. What is more, his knowledge about China and India and other parts of the world is less than profound. More serious readers should also read 2 other new books: 1. China's global reach; 2. China and the new world order, both by Chinese journalist/consultant George Zhibin Gu, which offers more dynamic and realistic insights on emerging China and India in relation to the established West.
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on 3 June 2007
Yes, this is very much a US-centric book, with plenty of criticism towards the US nevertheless. It is aimed at an American audience and it does not claim to be the definitive work on China or India.

Yes, it is verbose and brimming with personal anecdotes sometimes masquerading as hard data. But it still presents the enormous revolution -- a series of extraordinary events that have converged -- that is so overwhelming and rapid that most of us simply have not had time to even begin to process what is happening to us. You may not agree with everything he says -- including the solutions he suggests -- but this book is well worth reading. You don't have to agree with everything he says, and it is superficial in parts. Nevertheless I am certain that Americans and Western Europeans would be challenged by this book.

As a Career Counselor, I think there is much food for thought about the world of work and skills needed in tomorrow's marketplace ... which will be here much sooner than we think.
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on 1 August 2006
Other Amazon readers' reviews put me right off this book (all over in 10 pages etc). But my boss asked me to read it, so I persevered. I'm glad I did. Despite the 569 pages (not including anything so outmoded as a bibliography), and despite the many and often very lengthy examples and case-studies, not to mention the long quotes from other writers, there are important messages in this book. It's a good speed-read, if you get my drift. I recommend it on that basis.

Freidman makes a bold claim. Around 2000 a triple convergeance occurred which created a new historical era. Ten flatteners (i.e. changes) created a new, flatter, global playing field. Businesses and individuals (especially would-be zippies from India, China and the former Soviet Union) began to move from vertical to horizontal ways of creating value (i.e. doing business). People suddenly gained access to the flat world platform. Walls, ceiling and floors blew away. Out went command and control. In came connect and collaborate. Noone knows anymore who is exploiting who. Our jobs are being digitalized, automated and outsourced. To survive as a new untouchable middler you'd better become a great orchestrator, synthesizer, explainer, leverager, adapter, or a passionate personaliser. Failing that, just be brilliant, like Madonna or a cancer specialist. Failing that, just be well anchored, like a dustman.

Ok, I parody rather than paraphrase. Readable it always isn't. But that's got most of the bad stuff out of the way. Not all the quotes are bad: "It is a difference of degree so great - of low-cost interconnectivity, of individual empowerment, of global newworks for collaboration - that it is a difference in kind." This it least a bold and stimulating claim which is worthy of examination.

Freidman's central case is that in the first great age of globalisation, it was countries/ governments who first began to establish global collaborative links. Then it was companies. Now it's individuals. To put it another way, we've gone from hunting, to agriculture, to manufacturing industry, to services, to services delivered globally. To put it really badly, in a phrase that irritatingly won't leave my head, the Berlin Wall has become the Berlin Mall.

But aside from the central thesis there are some illuminating passages. Friedman gave me a lot of insight into terrorists. Typically, they are young, male, well-educated but also alienated by impersonal global economic changes and forces which affront their personal and cultural dignity and threaten their identity. Freidman calls them "neo-Leninists" and compares them with their 19th century European counterparts, the violent liberal, Marxist or anarchist revolutionaries, educated, middle class but displaced by industrialisation. This is a real historical insight. Also useful is the account of how terrorists utilise the new global platform. Bin Laden and friends used the internet to create their sinister and deadly "airline." The e bay praise points system is also interestingly analysed, as is the history of the anti-globalisation movement.

Freidman is not as naive about the new globalisation as some reviewers claim. He sees the dangers, of which the "Virtual Caliphate" is only one. But globalisation needn't mean Americanisation. It needn't destroy cultural identities because crucially, he argues, we can upload as well as download. The local can go global. We can all be players.

In what should be read as the companion volume, Evelyn Waugh's satire on journalism, "Scoop" (1939), inept foreign correspondents communicate from Africa to home via hilariously garbled telegrams. More global communication is probably not an unqualified good. But how great is the opposite?

But has the new connectivity really created Freidman's new global historical era? Waugh warns "of the innuendo and intricate misrepresentations, the luscious, detailed inventions that composed contemporary history", not to mention "the positive, daring lies that got a chap a rise of screw." Maybe the world isn't flat. But read this book anyway to learn more about what's been happening globally in the past five minutes. Which is quite a lot. Please excuse me now, time to upload.
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on 4 October 2010
I think that if you're familiar with the internet, follow a few blogs, maybe you are aware of globalization, outsourcing and some real basic business principles then just skip this one. I can imagine the big cat CEO of yesteryear rolling into his company and talking about this 'amazing' book he's found and how the world is like 'so connected!'. For the rest of us it's just a long, long drawn out process in which Friedman (who seems to reference absolutely nothing) tells us how well travelled he is and how, if we don't act right now, we're all going to miss out to China who will control the world. I got a sense of 'justice served' when reading how America was doomed by the clever Indians and how the US took their eye of the ball post 9/11 and went to fight terrorism instead. I stopped 4/5's into the book (thought I'd done quite well, actually). I don't like Friedman very much - he talks of UAVs/drones empowering junior commanders on the battlefield which couldn't be further from the truth. The UAVs just give the senior command change the ability to have complete oversight, so they don't have to trust or empower anybody - they can do it themselves. If you want a better read, go for A Brief History of Neoliberalism - somehow it seems like an antidote to Friedman's 'look how clever I am at discovering supply chain management' rubbish. Seriously, if you're reading this on a 'computer' skip it - you know it already.
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on 24 November 2010
Nothing but empty calories, fancy dressed-up metaphors, repetitions, and silly ranting. Having read Chang Ha-Joon's wonderful book Bad Samaritans, I decided to check out if this book was really as bad as Ha-Joon says. And, well, it is.
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on 6 July 2007
I think this is a good summary of how our interconnected world has recently come into being. The book has much to its credit and also much to be criticised.

On the one hand its a great read, its a journalistic journey (more like a romp) of discovery for the author, he randomly comes across various facts and research, some of it good some of it laughable, then knits together these disparate ideas into some naive vision of the whole.

The author lives up to the true traditions of journalism, take complex ideas, then simplify them (until they are simplistic) then from this point generalise about the world.

What I really like about this book is that it inadvertently reveals the isolationism and denial in American thinking, true the Author himself is trying to draw his fellow Americans attention to their myopia, but even the author is myopic, how a book can talk about changing world economic orders and not mention, other than one paragraph the European Community?

I am also a little confused about the notion that this is good for American consumerism as it reduces prices, but he seems to have missed that fact that the Americans are going to become poorer in the future and will not be able to purchase these goods and services because all the wealth generating activities are off shore! he seems to think that this is OK because it will be American companies owning many of the offshore companies. That may be great for the corporates and shareholders but what about the rest of society?

For creating a debate this book deserves to be a best seller, it does not have the answers and does not claim to provide them. The Author knows that something big is shifting and we had better start understanding what it is all about before its too late.
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on 17 May 2007
First of all, I loved Lexus and the Olive Tree, so I was really looking forward to this one. Oh dear, what a mistake!!

Generally, Friedman sets his arguement up quite well, it is a concievable idea that the world is becoming flatter. However, his arguements are backed up by what he see's and only what he see's. He fails to recognise that, for example, although India's economy is booming there is poverty on a large scale, but Friedman argues that if some people become better educated and they can compete on the world stage (against the US) then the poor will eventually be lifted out of poverty. I personally doubt that Mr Friedman.

This could have been a good book, but it is purely an opinionated perspective that backs the authors arguement of free market liberalism is good - and now it can be done on a global scale.

I am sorry but this book throws years of liberal reform right back to the grand old age of filthy capitalism of the pre-Beverage era. Some will enjoy (Capitalists'), i didnt!!
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VINE VOICEon 20 January 2007
Flat. So what does that mean? Well, if you are travelling Delta airlines or British Airways, and you need to talk to lost-luggage, when you make your call you are talking to someone in Bangalore. In India. There are some 250,000 people working in call centres in India, dealing with issues from all around the world. Often, when you ring customer-service, re you new computer or whatever, you may think you are ringing someone down the street, or at least in your own country. Chances are you are talking to someone in India. And consider the following staggering fact. There is a McDonald's drive-through restaurant in Missouri where, in the drive-in lane, when you roll down your window to speak into the microphone to place your order, the person you are talking to is not in the restaurant, but in a call centre 1,450 kilometres away, in Colorado ! The call centre person relays your order back to the restaurant, and by the time you drive to the collection point, your meal is ready. Apparently this service is faster, and creates fewer mistakes, than the in-house system. The really, really mind boggling thing is that, before long, that call centre could also be in Bangalore, in India, from where the service would work equally well, and be considerably cheaper, than from Colorado. That is what Thomas Friedman (TF) means by a Flat World. He means a smaller world. A world where because of fundamentally changing technologies, we are now not just competing with the local guys and gals for our jobs, or with the other firms in our own country for that order that we need so badly; we are now competing with people on the far side of the world, who often can do our jobs better, faster and cheaper than we can. Sobering stuff. This book is about globalisation and how it has changed our lives, and particularly how it will impact on the futures of the youngsters of today.

There is a fantastic amount of information in this book and a seemingly limitless number of TF's opinions and ideas. And I have to say that a huge amount of what he says makes excellent sense. There are many mature and useful reflections in the final section of the book, although for a book on globalisation it is a little ironic, to a European at least, to find that the book is, more-or-less, self-confessed as being a warning bell specifically for Americans. However, since it looks like there are going to be winners and losers in the globalised world, as there have always been in the non-globalised one, it makes sense that we should look at how the rules of play have changed (and they have definitely changed), if we want to stay in the game. (Nothing like a few cliches.) I am at a stage in my life where, while these issues are of real interest to me, they will have little personal impact. But I can't help wondering how things will be for my grandchildren, the eldest of whom is now seven. The world is different for them than it was 20 years ago for me, not simply in terms of degree, but fundamentally. This book explains how.

Quibbles? Well, I found the number of times that the word "flat" is used, in some form, (flat, flatten, flattening, flattener etc) eventually became irritating. I also think that TF has a tendency to construct a science out of his opinions, assigning terms to ideas as if they were newly discovered laws e.g. "The Ten Forces that Flattened the World"; "The Triple Convergence". There is more of that type of thing. Again, I found it a bit irritating at times. And I found the book a little repetitious. Perhaps he could have dropped 100 pages. But my overall view is positive. It's a worthwhile book which comes across as extremely well researched, teeming with interesting facts and fresh, important ideas.
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on 14 February 2007
"The world is flat" is one of the more overrated business book's I have read recently. The primary focus on the 10 factors that supposedly has flattened the world, suffers from the same problem of many other retrospective books. Its Friedman's opinions not researched facts. The flatteners are described based on stories of companies who had succeeded. If the flatteners where to have credibility, they should have been published first, and then used by a number of companies. Then again, the first part of the book it more of a history lesson than anything else.

The second part of the book primarily describes the US business leaders' inability to adapt new managerial styles combined with the inherent problem with a country that lacks educational opportunities for the majority of the population. Many of Friedman's new and innovative solutions to business problem in the US are based alone on cutting cost. This clearly demonstrates the inability of US business leaders to be innovative. The US managerial style to profit in business is the discount WallMart model with more for less. An approach that leaves US businesses crippled and open for hostile take over or filing chapter 11. If work and services truly move to the part of the world where it is done best and cheapest, next up are the CEO of all the major US based companies. The huge compensations packages they receive without providing worker, shareholder or the community with value tags their job as up for global sourcing. India, China or South Africa all have highly educated business leader at a fraction of the cost of a US executive.
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