of you, I took time over the summer to read a few good books.
Among my favorites was Thomas Friedman’s The World is Flat: A Brief History
of the Twenty-First Century. Friedman soundly explains how the global economic playing field
has been leveled in the digital age and what this “flattening” means for
companies, nations and individuals. Whether you’re the CEO of a Fortune
500 firm, the head of a government agency, or an emerging entrepreneur,
you must understand the new rules of economic engagement that have resulted
from the extraordinary technological developments in recent years. You must
constantly adapt and be receptive to new and complex information to be successful.
Not only does Friedman make the case for this, he also perfectly articulates
many of the drivers behind the Smith School’s strategy and its vision of
becoming a model for business education and research for the digital economy.
The World is Flat outlines 10 forces–from the Internet and Netscape
Web browser, to advances in workflow software and supply chain management–
that Friedman says have converged to create a “new global playing field
for multiple forms of collaboration.”
[…] we are entering
a phase where we are going to see the digitization, virtualization, and
automation of almost everything. The gains in productivity will be staggering
for those countries, companies, and individuals who can absorb the new
Eight years ago, the Smith School recognized that business schools had
to change if they were truly prepare business leaders and organizations
to “absorb the new technological tools” and reap the staggering gains Friedman
now describes. We transformed our research and curriculum to reflect the
needs of leadership for the digital economy, integrating the foundational
business disciplines with cross-functional e-business concentrations such
as global business, e-commerce, supply chain management, telecommunications,
financial engineering, and entrepreneurship. In short, as the world was
flattening, the Smith School was responding by charting a course to advance
business thinking and education for the 21st century. Today, the Smith School
is firmly dedicated to this mission. Our faculty research drives business
change for the new, networked world. And our teaching provides students
and corporate partners with the skills and knowledge they need to adapt
in global, technology-driven markets that we cannot predict. Friedman puts
the importance of this in perspective.
[…] the experiences
of the high-tech companies in the last few decades who failed to navigate
the rapid changes brought about in their marketplace by these types of
forces may be a warning to all the businesses, institutions, and nation-states
that are now facing these inevitable, even predictable, changes, but lack
the leadership, flexibility, and imagination to adapt […].
With its continued focus on technology, entrepreneurship and globalization,
the Smith School is answering the challenges presented in the new economic
order. We continue to differentiate the school with activities built around
the creation, management and deployment of knowledge. Like Friedman, we
understand that the technological and business transformation of the last
two decades is just the beginning.
The last twenty years
were just about forging, sharpening, and distributing all the new tools
with which to collaborate and connect. Now the real IT revolution is about
to begin, as all the complementarities between these tools start to really
work together to level the playing field.
Organizations of every size, including business schools, must recognize
that this transformation is real, it is pervasive, and it will continue.
Those who understand how to use the tools of information technology to manage
assets across the globe are the new barons of industry. In the digital economy,
no position is secure or defensible for very long, as fast companies create
new advantages by destroying the old. The World is Flat is a good
read for anyone seeking to better understand this new business environment,
and for anyone seeking to better understand the Smith School’s focus.