I have just started reading Thomas Friedman’s The World Is Flat: A Brief History of the 21st Century. I’m reasonably certain it is one of those books that I will read cover-to-cover. A friend was recently quite surprised to learn that though I buy and open many books (you wouldn’t want my annual Amazon bill), I read fewer than half cover to cover.
My surprised friend had asked me if I had gotten around to Malcolm Gladwell’s Blink. I said I had, and that I was finished with it after three or four chapters. Gladwell is one of those writers who takes a topic worthy only of five, maybe six thousand words in the Atlantic Monthly and turns it into an insipid tome that becomes a best seller.
By my lights, a far better book on intuition is Gary Klein’s Sources of Power: How People Make Decisions. And as to the unconscious processes that go on behind the curtains of consciousness, though they play a major role in shaping our perceptions, thinking and decisions, Tim Wilson’s Strangers to Ourselves is a better read than Blink. Also, you might take under consideration Ellen Langer’s Mindfulness, a delightful book about our brain’s disposition to shift us into automatic pilot mode relieving us of mindful thinking, often to our disadvantage.
But I stray. I brought up Tom Friedman’s new book, The World is Flat because I think it’s an important book about globalization and its impact on the most local of cultural considerations, the individual human being.
Freidman quotes David Rothkopf, a former senior official in the Department of Commerce and now a private strategic consultant:
Globalization is the word we came up with to describe the changing relationships between governments and big business. But what is going on today is a much broader, much more profound phenomenon.
Freidman continues with his own take on globalization:
It is not simply about how governments, business, and people communicate, not just about how governments interact, but it is about the emergence of completely new social, political and business models. (Italics added.)
And then back to Rothkopf:
It is about things that impact some of the deepest, most ingrained aspects of society down to the nature of the social contract. (Italics added).
A colleague recently questioned the practical payoff of reading as much as I do when I could be devoting much of that time to build a more remunerative consulting practice. I would like to think I’m giving clients an important value-added by bringing to the table a body of informed knowledge about what things will look like in five, ten or more years into the future.
It used to be that you could expect next year to unfold pretty much like this year is unfolding and last year unfolded. That is no longer the case. The world is evolving at warp speed. Failure to constantly be on the lookout for clues as to what will be different next year and the hand full of years beyond next year leaves a person (or company, or brand) highly vulnerable.
At the speed change is taking place today, by the time one learns of a change affecting his or her company and his or her person, it can be too late to muster what it takes to adapt to it.