The World is Flat by Thomas L. Friedman is a great book to read for anyone interested in how the world and business is changing due to technology. He starts out by explaining how the Internet, the fall of the Berlin Wall, outsourcing (and various versions of it), and complex supply chains are creating a “flat world”. It goes on to explain how all of these are converging, complimenting, and growing on top of each other. There are some great detailed examples from Dell, Wal-Mart, Wipro, JetBlue Airways, and many others. Just the details in these examples makes for interesting dinner conversations.
Often, the topics of automation and outsourcing bring up thoughts of job loss, but a great quote from the book is:
"There may be a limit to the number of good factory jobs in the world, but there is no limit to the number of idea-generated jobs in the world."
He has tips on how individuals and companies can take measures now to not only survive in this changing world, but to also leverage it and thrive because of it.
The best advice for individuals is to do a job that is specialized, meaning that it cannot be digitized or easily transferred to a lower-wage location, while also constantly acquiring new skills and being very adaptable.
The best advice for companies is to provide the best service and products cheaper and quicker than your competitor, which is nothing new, but it points out how other companies are leveraging the convergence that I noted above to do just this. The book mentions a few times how it is better to outsource the tasks that can be outsourced, so the cost savings can be poured back into jobs that generate new ideas, which can be applied to create better products and services. One great tip that we certainly use within Microsoft is to leverage technology to collaborate and create business processes within your company and with partners and customers.
After he covers the technical and business aspects, he then gets into sociopolitical ramifications and possibilities to this changing world, which is just as interesting as to how all of this will impact individuals and corporations.