Apr
03

Innovation Insights from our Pal Tom Friedman

A Tom Friedman-bashing comment last week spurred me to investigate the blogosphere for the case against the NYTimes writer and author of the World is Flat and Hot, Flat and Crowded (for a particularly venomous snapshot, check out Rolling Stones writer Matt Taibbi’s perspective). Clearly, many take offense to the very predictions, ruminations, occasional thievery and metaphors that have helped Friedman become so popular.

Well, I haven’t read everything Friedman has written, nor the volumes more of thoughtful and snarky criticisms of him. But I’ve heard him speak several times and read these past two books. I like hearing his ideas. He has access to people, cultures and ideas that I don’t, and certainly his insights into the flattening of the world has helped many of us better understand the accelerating global changes these past two decades. If you don’t know much about the World is Flat despite hearing about it the last few years, it is certainly worth checking out a video of Tom speaking (click his pic):

Tom Friedman

But, of course, I am most interested in innovation–and in particular trying to better understand what creative skills are needed for this century. I am biased toward appreciating Tom because he believes as I do, as he says around the 23 minute mark of the video above, that “the most important economic competition going forward is going to be between you and your imagination.” As the outsourcing and automating of old middle class jobs continue, Tom asks, what will be the skills for the new middle in the flat world? He offers some particularly valuable ideas, with provocative evidence from his personal travels and interviews. Here is one list of desired skills from Flat–all of which require us to improve our right, creative brain and interpersonal intelligence–that he sees in a “Help Wanted” ad for future competitive advantage:
1. Great collaborators and orchestrators. “It is about being able to operate in, mobilize, inspire and manage a multi-dimensional and multicultural workforce.”
2. Synthesizers. He sees a new position–CIO: Chief Integration Officer–that brings together different talents, people and domains, such as artists and engineers, to create new value.
3. Great Explainers. Managers, writers, teachers, producers, journalists and editors that can explain all this stuff.
4. Great Adaptors. Versatilists–see my similar thoughts on comprehensivists–as opposed to specialists.
5. Green People. He addresses this throughout his latest Hot, Flat and Crowded book.
6. Passionate Personalizers. He explains that passion and curiosity will become more important than IQ.
7. Great Localizers. People who can tailor and translate products and services to needs of the local community.

Whether he is entirely right about these particular skills, can we have any doubt that it will be creative skills like these that will lead to innovation and prosperity wherever they are practiced in the world?

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