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Thomas Friedman (1953- )Thomas Friedman

American journalist and expert on globalization (pictured right), terrorism and climate change.


Key books


Lexus and the Olive Tree (1999)

(see Lexus and the Olive Tree in the Business Books section for more detail).


Global society should balance the:

  • Lexus (the wealth creating global economy).
  • Olive tree (preserving the identity of individuals, communities and countries).


Key quote on globalization

A healthy global society is one that can balance the Lexus and the olive tree all the time.



The World is Flat (2005)

Ten forces have made the world “flat” i.e. globally interconnected and competitive with companies competing on a level playing field:


1. The collapse of communism

Capitalism spread to Eastern Europe (after the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989) and the Far East (including China).


2. The Internet

Linking people in a global information network.


3. Work flow software

Enabling computers to communicate with each other globally.


4. Open sourcing 

Free software and information and network sites like Wikipedia and blogs.

“The most disruptive force of all”, says Friedman.


5. Outsourcing 

Buying resources from foreign suppliers.


6. Offshoring

Transferring a company’s activities (like production) abroad to benefit from skilled employees at lower cost.


 7. Supply chaining

Global suppliers, retailers and customers.

The “Dell Theory of Conflict Prevention” states that two countries in the same global supply chain will never fight each other.


8. Insourcing

Employees providing services to other companies.


9. In-forming

Using search engines like Google to expand your knowledge.


10. The Steroids

Digital mobile devices like mobile phones and iPods.


Key quotes on careers

There will be plenty of good jobs out there in the flat world for people with the knowledge and ideas to seize them.

Girls, finish your homework - people in China and India are starving for your jobs. - Friedman’s advice to his two daughters.


Key quotes on knowledge and education

Imagination is more important than knowledge.

We simply are not educating, or even interesting, enough of our own young people in advanced math, science, and engineering.

In China today, Bill Gates is Britney Spears. In America today, Britney Spears is Britney Spears - and that is our problem.



Hot, Flat and Crowded (2008)


The world is:

1. Hot

Climate change (or global warming) will destroy us, unless leaders have the courage to give it top priority and introduce a  “green revolution" based on: 

  • carbon free and renewable energy (including nuclear) - so also avoiding political dependence on oil rich Middle Eastern countries.

  • energy efficiency.

  • conservation of nature and wildlife. 
  • personal financial sacrifices to help future generations (who will suffer most from climate change).


2. Flat

This refers to the globalization of the world economy which leads to:

  • the transfer of jobs and production overseas.

  • an increasing gap between rich and poor within and between countries.


3. Crowded

Growing world population (including more wealthy middle class people in industrializing countries like China and India).

This leads to: 

  • higher consumption of goods, energy and resources.

  • climate change and more exploitation of the environment (see point one above).


Key quotes on climate change

“The ability to develop clean power and energy-efficient technologies is going to become the defining measure of a country’s economic standing, environmental health, energy security and national security over the next fifty years”.

Capitalism may collapse because it does not allow the market to tell the ecological truth (quoting a Norwegian oil executive).



That Used to Be Us written with Michael Mandelbaum ,pictured right below (2011)

Thomas Friedman


America needs purpose, leadership and resolve to solve its big problems:


1. Poor education

(particularly in mathematics and science).

Success has made Americans lazy.


2. Climate change and energy shortages

In 2009 America spent more on potato chips than energy research and development


3. Lack of political consensus

Everyone must co-operate and make sacrifices to achieve a common purpose, as they did in Franklin D. Roosevelt's New Deal


4. Decline of manufacturing and innovation

People must take responsibility for continuous learning and innovation.


5. Global competition

Other countries (like China) are performing better, particularly in education.


6. Huge government deficit

This has big political and social consequences because:

  • the deficit is heavily financed by China
  • an ageing population will hugely increase health and social care spending


Key quotes (on America)

Nations that don't invest in their future tend not to do well there

The future of the country is in our hands, as it was for the GIs on the beaches of Normandy.

Our problem is not China...Our problem is us.


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