Friday, April 29, 2005

The flat earth

Thomas Friedman has decided that the world is flat—flat in the sense that capital and labor can go anywhere and work from anywhere. As a generalization he is right — althought the taxi driver who took me to the airport to go to a meeting at which people sat face-to-face across from each other, still something of value, told me that his family was focusing on training themselves to be nurses because you can't outsource nursing. In any event, Friedman has been writing about the need for the US to develop a policy of training our youth to be able to compete in this flat world. His most recent column refers to a book by
John Hagel III and John Seely Brown entitled "The Only Sustainable Edge." They argue that comparative advantage today is moving faster than ever from structural factors, like natural resources, to how quickly a country builds its distinctive talents for innovation and entrepreneurship - the only sustainable edge.
It's an important question what this country can do to stay competitive in a flat world. My sense is that training our citizens is important, but equally important is to maintain a place where people want to be. If money and brains can go anywhere, the obvious question is where will people want to live. Clearly the weather makes a difference, as do social amenities, a pleasant social system, lack of corruption, openness, a sense of freedom, other compatible people, etc.

It seems to me that a country run by intolerant, bible-thumping, right-wing fundamentalists, no matter how well trained its work force, will fail to attract the talent it needs to sustain itself. Its pool of brains will drift away, and it won't attract new intelligence. Certainly some people, even some intelligent people, will choose to live there. But establishing a faith-based rather than an intelligence-based society is not the way to survive in the 21st century.

For those who are interested, here is how "The Only Sustainable Edge" describes it's message.
Our point of view is simply stated:
the edge is becoming the core
What do we mean by this? The edge is where the action is - in terms of growth, innovation and value creation. Companies, workgroups and individuals that master the edge will build a more sustainable core. While our primary focus will be on business activity, our perspectives will also be relevant to leaders of other kinds of institutions as well - educational, governmental and social.
They may have something to say — they probably do — but this extract doesn't convince me of that proposition. Also, they leave out the commas before the ands in their lists.

1 comment:

Matthew said...

I was always taught that the last comma in a list was optional, but I always preferred it.