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BW Businessworld

Book Review: Benefits Of Delay

In the book, Friedman talks of simultaneous accelerations around us and how these interact with each other

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Even your house help will tell you that our world is reshaping itself. The question that bothers us is how to get the most of it and that seems to be an unending quest – unending till you encounter Thomas L. Friedman. In his latest offering Thank You For Being Late, this three-time Pulitzer Prize winner offers us a manual on how to think about this era of accelerations. And accelerations there are many. Friedman picks up the three most significant ones in this book – technology, globalisation and nature. But first about this quirky title – which is about when the person you have set out to meet is late he or she provides you this window of an opportunity to connect with ideas that you have been struggling with. And that’s why Thank You For Being Late. This work can perhaps be seen as an extension of Friedman’s earlier work – the bestselling The World is Flat.

In Thank You For Being Late, Friedman talks of simultaneous accelerations around us and how these are interacting with each other. These accelerations are reshaping the workplace, geopolitics, politics, ethical choices, and communities in our world so fast that we need to pause and engage with ourselves. To get an essence of how it is all panning out is Friedman’s take on how technology moves up in step changes. All elements of computing power – processing chips, software, storage chips, networking, and sensors — tend to move forward roughly as a group. As their improving capacities reach a certain point, they tend to meld together into a platform. And the platform scales a new set of capabilities which become the new normal. Now for Friedman the platform that birthed around the year 2007 constituted one of the greatest leaps forward in history. He chronicles it nicely in a chapter interestingly titled ‘What the hell happened in 2007?’ reflecting on how the pace of change moved up a few notches then.

Friedman is certainly apt at his craft with his being a columnist with New York Times so apparent in the way the narrative is built up proficiently – piece by piece. He writes with a vision of a stargazer and one element that stands out is the way he processes and compiles all conversations – his and others. Whether it is the conversation between Steve Jobs and the legendary venture capitalist, John Doerr, who backed Netscape, Google and Amazon that reshaped history (again, in 2007!) or be it the conversation that Friedman’s Indian host’s wife, Urmila, has with her maid – he brings out a nuance or a context that makes his thesis not just profound and logical but interesting too. Had Freidman not paused for such conversations, he believes he never would have taken apart, examined, and reassembled his own framework of making sense of the world in this period of change. The conversations flow seamlessly right through Thank You For Being Late with the penultimate chapter being more of a poser – Is God In Cyberspace? The answer is perhaps ‘No’ — but He sure wants to be there! Friedman argues in the end that we need to discover our sense of community and he illustrates this in the last chapter on his home state Minnesota — which, according to the author, has a relatively inclusive, harmonious and pragmatic government. Wish the leaders across the world are listening.

Disclaimer: The views expressed in the article above are those of the authors' and do not necessarily represent or reflect the views of this publishing house. Unless otherwise noted, the author is writing in his/her personal capacity. They are not intended and should not be thought to represent official ideas, attitudes, or policies of any agency or institution.

Giraj M. Sharma

Sharma is founder-director, BehindTheMoon Consultancy

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