Visualizing "The World is Flat"

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I¹m reading Thomas Friedman¹s book, The World is Flat, for the first time. (Note: v1, not the recently released update)

I¹m finding that I like it, I¹m impressed, and I¹m also disappointed. The specific reason I¹m disappointed is that the book is about some incredibly complex interplays of factors, and there are no visual models in it (at least thus far). As a result, it seems to me that there¹s a lot of linear language, which does the book a disservice, in my opinion. My hands have been literally itching to start drawing out what I¹m reading and see where it takes me.

For example, here¹s one of Friedman¹s major points as I understand it, represented (mostly) in a systems model. This point is around how the hyped up forecasts of the web 1.0 boom led to some unexpected results in terms of increased connectivity to work possibilities for countries such as India.

For those of you who are familiar with systems models, I¹m a novice at using systems modeling, so please bear with me. For those of you who aren¹t, follow the arrows, telling yourself a story with the arrow meaning something like ³leads to.² The +/- signs next to each arrow talk about a similar/inverse relationship between the two variables. For example, starting with ³forecasts of e$ potential,² you can read its connection to ³investment levels² as: ³higher forecasts of e$ potential leads to higher investment levels² and ³lower forecasts of e$ potential leads to lower investment levels² - there¹s a similar (not the right word ­ what is it?) relationship between them. From ³investment levels² to ³pressure on cos to be efficient², there¹s an inverse relationship, meaning you can read it as ³higher investment levels lead to less pressure on cos to be efficient² and ³lower investment levels lead to higher pressure on cos to be efficient.²

I really like systems modeling and am investing in learning it specifically because it enables the modeling of a complex system. It also enables the conversation about where the most effective points of leverage are for changes. That¹s immensely powerful. In the next drawing, there are several lines that I would challenge if I were having a conversation with someone about this model because they represent assumptions about the interplay of variables, and getting those assumptions out on the table can lead to great conversations. Also, I like it because the best models are done by groups, and so the modeling process brings groups more into alignment with each other ­ it promotes conversation. And, once you learn it, the models are easy to read.

Continuing with The World is Flat, here¹s a model, at a high level, as I understand it, of a ³common-wisdom² story of the interplay between the stock market and job creation in the US has worked.

Now here¹s a view of how it¹s changing because of the flat world (the blue lines show the major changes).

Wow. Whether I¹ve got this right or not, this drawing or ones like it has tons of potential for starting great conversations...and of changing the dynamic of conversations so that they¹re about the interplay of several different forces rather than just one. I would have loved to see Friedman and his editor try some of these ­ it¹s the perfect forum for such visual interpretations.

SO: to this group: Is systems modeling a visual language? Is it ready for the masses? What would have to be done to make it ready for the masses?


P.S. Just so you know, I plan on putting these thoughts up on a blog ­ not the discussion that we have here which I hope to trigger, but something that looks much like this post.

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 ReplyReply to authorForward     Rate this post: Text for clearing space

Sheila Kim View profile More options Oct 17, 4:32 pm From: "Sheila Kim" <> Date: Tue, 17 Oct 2006 16:32:41 -0700 Local: Tues, Oct 17 2006 4:32 pm Subject: Re: Visualizing The World is Flat Reply | Reply to author | Forward | Print | Individual message | Show original | Remove | Report this message | Find messages by this author All, FYI - the images I mentioned ended up showing up at the bottom of my post, not in line with it, as I had written it.


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Christopher Peri View profile More options Oct 17, 4:41 pm From: "Christopher Peri" <> Date: Tue, 17 Oct 2006 16:41:57 -0700 Local: Tues, Oct 17 2006 4:41 pm Subject: RE: Visualizing The World is Flat Reply | Reply to author | Forward | Print | Individual message | Show original | Remove | Report this message | Find messages by this author Let me know if you cannot get it to work in your blog, I'll post them into Vyew as a short term solution until you can figure something else out.

I think there is a whole discipline and attached software effort around 'mind mapping' that coincides to this. I'll hit the web and see what I can dig up.


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