Maybe the World is Flat?


Monday was somewhat surreal for me.

I’ve been teaching online for over ten years but despite the fact that I was sitting in front of a computer in Ontario, Canada, the audience shifted in a very big way.

This time round, my online community leadership course had participation not only from Canada - including NWT, New Brunswick, Ontario, and Saskatchewan -  but also from South Africa, Brazil, New Zealand, Mexico, England, and the United States.

While it’s been some 15 years since I first heard author and NY Times columnist Thomas Friedman use the phrase, “The world is flat”, in a keynote address, that’s exactly what popped into my head.

While at the time I’m not sure I totally grasped his concept of globalization, his book title, The World is Flat, was a metaphor for explaining how unprecedented advances in technology had leveled both the pan Canadian and the global playing field. As Friedman put it at the time, everyone is a player regardless of where they live, “In a flat world, you can innovate without having to emigrate.”

Clearly, progress in technology has contributed to this decrease in the importance of geographic place because I’m sitting in my sweater and yoga pants facilitating discussion with people from around the corner and around the world. Together, we learned more about one another through our introductions and participant discussions in chats, polls, and on a white board.

For sure that was something I definitely didn’t see coming fifteen years ago, and yet this now flat world of ours truly is a global, internet-enabled platform for multiple forms of sharing knowledge and work, regardless of distance, geography, and time.

Perhaps most important, is that it’s becoming increasingly clear that we need to maximize this opportunity as well as find new ways of working within this flat world. Instead of collaborating vertically (where innovation is initiated on a top down basis), we are equipped to do more learning from one another and collaborating horizontally to deliver value, creativity, and innovation. Whereas I’ve been working for years to gather and share learnings from Canadian leaders making a difference, I’m now finding a new tribe. Who ever thought it would be with others wanting to make a difference in such distant corners of the world?

Posted on 10-02-19

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