Tag Archives: The World is Flat

R U Global — Resources for World Leaders: Redefining Global Strategy

Redefining Global Strategy: Crossing Borders in a World Where Differences Still Matter, by Pankaj Ghemawat. Boston: Harvard Business School Press, 2007.

Reviewed by Harold Henkel, Associate Librarian

Since the publication of The World is Flat in 2005, Thomas Friedman has emerged as the leading guru on what we are told is a new globalized world. In over 500 pages of unsourced anecdotes and recounted conversations, Friedman drives home his thesis that technology has created an unprecedented (flat) state of affairs, in which business and capital move around the world, unimpeded by distance and national borders. But is it all really so simple? Not according to professor of global strategy Pankaj Ghemawat, who has little time for Friedman’s book or method. In a revealing footnote, Ghemawat writes, “Friedman’s book is hard to engage with directly, since its 450-plus pages contain no tables, charts, footnotes, or list of references.”

Redefining Global Strategy is divided into two main parts. Part 1 is devoted principally to an exposition of the significance of the author’s thesis that “the current state of the world is one of semiglobalization: levels of cross-border integration are generally increasing and, in many instances, setting new records, but fall far short of complete integration and will continue to do so for decades.” The implication of a semiglobalized world is that there is no textbook for managing global operations. As it has ever been, international business entails added risk, and managers and entrepreneurs have to be able to think strategically, beginning with the question of whether they should globalize at all.

Having demonstrated how cultural, administrative, geographic, and economic differences still matter, Part 2 focuses on what Ghemawat calls the AAA strategies for global value creation:

  • Adaptation strategies that adjust to differences across countries.
  • Aggregation strategies that overcome differences across countries.
  • Arbitrage strategies that exploit differences across countries.
    • The final chapter of Redefining Global Strategy summarizes and recaps the main themes of the book. Ghemawat emphasizes that doing business internationally requires a strategy, and strategy involves hard analysis—not “playing pinball to the headlines” or reacting to “global bogeymen that don’t have a scientific basis.” The book concludes with a five-step process to help managers begin the process of competitive analysis and strategy formulation in global operations.

      Redefining Global Strategy is not a quick read. The author’s intended audience is business leaders and entrepreneurs whose decisions have consequences and therefore are in need of a serious and authoritative consideration of the subject. To decision-makers who prefer to take Thomas Friedman and others like him as guides to the future, Ghemawat has this warning: “Buying into this version of an integrated world—or worse, using it as a basis for policymaking—is not only unproductive. It is dangerous.”1


      1Pankaj Ghemawat, “Why the World Isn’t Flat,” Foreign Policy no. 159 (March 2007): 60.

RU Global – Resources for World Leaders: The World Is Flat

Reviewed by Leanne Hillery, Assistant Librarian

The World is Flat: A Brief History of the Twenty-First Century, by Thomas L. Friedman

The World Is Flat: A Brief History of the Twenty-First Century is Thomas Friedman’s chronicle of the changes taking place in science and technology that have, in essence, flattened the world. By “flat,” the author means the formation of a level playing field where trade and political barriers are lowered, allowing new technologies and the digital revolution to make the world more interconnected.

The book is divided into two sections: the ten forces that flattened the world and what a flattened world means for America, developing countries, and the global political scene. The first part of the book is devoted to describing in detail the ten factors and how they have worked together to increase competition on the global scale. The second part describes the effects of flattening on the world and how countries and individuals can work to adapt to the rapid changes taking place.

Within these pages, Friedman addresses how nations can survive in the constantly changing world. He posits that survival today is based on a culture’s ability to adapt to the changing global environment. He describes this as the ability to “glocialize.” This does not mean that a culture should sacrifice its unique character and core elements, but that it should adapt to include elements of the new environment affecting it.

He also suggests that companies not promise lifetime employment, but train employees to be employable in worthwhile lifetime occupations. Friedman also states that education will continue to be one of the most important factors that determine the success of companies and individuals. He suggests focusing educational efforts on four skill sets to help young people prepare for the increased global competition for jobs they will face in the future: 1) learn how to learn; 2) develop passion and curiosity; 3) improve interpersonal skills; and 4) enhance right brain (creative) abilities.

The World Is Flat sheds light on the many different effects and results of globalization on key professions (business, economics, politics, education) as well as on the individual. Thus, there is something in this book that will be of interest to everyone. We all have a stake in the global changes that are currently affecting our world. According to Friedman, globalization is driven by individuals. We all have a part to play in the process.