There's an excellent book making the rounds of several wood products-related associations, including the Hardwood Plywood & Veneer Assn. and the Wood Machinery Manufacturers of America. It's called, "The World Is Flat: A Brief History of the Twenty-First Century." In it, author Thomas Friedman assembles all of the pieces of the puzzle that put into clear perspective the current state of globalization, how it came to be and the potential dire consequences for businesses that choose to ignore it.
Friedman, a three-time Pulitzer Prize winner and foreign affairs columnist for the New York Times, demonstrates world-class journalism skills in weaving interviews with business leaders and individuals from the four corners of the Earth, along with personal observations and anecdotes to tell his story. He convincingly draws a strong correlation between the growth of global sourcing and the digital revolution. In Friedman's "flat" world, the Internet has made it possible for businesses and individuals around the world to collaborate and compete in ways never before imaginable in real time.
A perfect example is our freelance graphic designer Laurie Casselberry, who several years ago moved from the flatlands of Chicago to the extremely un-flat state of Colorado. Because of the advent of e-mail and a host of software dedicated to desktop publishing, we routinely send her files of text and photos and she returns them to us as finished layouts. As Friedman would relate, Laurie could just as easily have moved to Bangalore, India, and continued her association with us.
At least equally important as the explosion of the digital age, Friedman notes that the easing of trade and political barriers has given cause for companies to look beyond their borders to capitalize on opportunities.
Friedman acknowledges that the loss of U.S. jobs, including manufacturing, to China, India and elsewhere is a bitter pill to swallow. Yet, he says, the managers of U.S. companies who choose to go offshore for less expensive sources of product manufacturing or services should not be looked at as traitors. In his opinion, companies that outsource do so to improve and expand their businesses, not to shrink them or to try and hang on for dear life.
There are many people plying their living from the wood products industry who would have a difficult time sharing Friedman's generally optimistic view about how the good of growing the world's economy and strengthening geopolitical ties across all borders outweighs the bad of businesses or individuals who lose out to foreign competition. Yet, no one can deny that the world is getting smaller and there are fewer places to hide.
On the flat Earth, companies cannot afford to rest on their laurels; they must continually innovate. In today's flat world that requires being open to all of the possibilities the round world has to offer.
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