Friday, September 15, 2006

Giving Up On Reading “The World Is Flat”

I have heard people mention the title of the book “The World Is Flat: A Brief History of the Twenty-First Century” by Thomas L. Friedman. Then a friend said I simply must read it as it explains in part why my husband is still unemployed. I put my name on the wait list for it at the library and waited weeks for it to be my turn to read it.

Well last night I finished the first chapter (all 48 pages of it). I am going to give up on this book.

I find the book very, very, very long winded. I just can’t take it.

When I was working for a corporation, at one point they gave their managers tests about their communication style. I wasn’t a manager so I didn’t take the test. There were four communication types. At the end each manager was given a color graphical illustration of their own method. Then they all had to display it on their desk, outward facing, so that anyone who entered their office (other managers) were to assess their preferred communication style and to adjust their own presentation of whatever they had to say in order to get it to the way the other would want to hear it for the most effective receipt of the information.

I had asked my manager about the results and she explained a bit. From what I remember, this was the gist. One type wanted you to state up front what your point was, no beating around the bush, and then backing it up after with the information. Another type wanted you to beat all around the bush with the background information and history then at the end, to deliver your point or suggestion or the problem or whatever it was. Another wanted you to state your point in one sentence and shut up. Well that is what I remember. One interesting thing was when my manager explained to me what her results showed it was already what I knew about her and I had already been doing that. Ditto for all of the other managers I spoke to, it came natural to me as I thought it did to everyone, that over time we learn how to best communicate to people, especially when we are discussing problems and complicated issues.

So anyway my own style does not like a ton of beating around the bush and making me guess what the point is. I don’t like 48 pages of background information leading to nowhere then a bang at the end with the point. So Friedman’s writing style is driving me nuts and I am abandoning it. It is not that I am not intelligent enough to understand what is being said, but it is just too long and unable to keep my interest.

I also don’t like that Friedman does not play devil’s advocate at all, at least with this chapter he didn’t. He states all kinds of examples of work situations and work processes that are changing but he doesn’t give reasons why they may fail. One example is the mentioning of a pilot test of having a McDonald’s Drive Through order taken by a person 900 miles away, in other words, not having the person in the building taking the order. Why was it not questioned as to the purpose of that? Is it really more cost effective to have a person 900 miles away taking the order? Does the order taker make that much less than those inside the building? This was all in America, mind you, so minimum wage is minimum wage. I don’t see huge cost savings by outsourcing the orders taken from a drive-through window, so how about the author explaining it to me? Nah, he doesn’t do that. So far he keeps writing about this situation in that country and saying, "See this company doing that, see, see, see"? I am getting the gist that this is an alarmist type of thing to do. I’d like to see some holes in these practices pointed out and to see some ideas of how some of these things may fail over time. For example another friend of mine said, “Yeah, they can pay the Indian workers a low wage right now but what will happen when the cost of living rises there and they want more money and the cost goes up and up and up?” That’s a good question that so far was not posed.

The book is nearly 500 pages. I can’t take a ton of rambling like that; I guess it is not in alignment with my communication style. My friend tells me that I should skim it only, and I have tried, but can’t seem to find his points lost in so many words, so I give up.

There are way too many books I want to read and other ways I want to spend my time to force myself to read this book.

Also my husband keeps trying to convince me that an economist perhaps would be a better person to analyze this type of situation than a journalist for the New York Times (albeit one who has won the Pulitzer Prize three times).
Since I didn’t read the entire book I can’t do a proper book review of it, I don’t think that’s fair. But I wanted to share my thoughts about it so far in case anyone is curious about it.

Hey maybe this would be a good book to listen to on audio while I’m doing something else, like driving, perhaps I’d like it more in that manner, hmmm, maybe I’ll borrow that from the library if it is available.

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