The World Really is Flat, Part II: Now that it's flat, all sailing is smooth, right?

Posted by J Matthew Buchanan at December 20, 2005 08:49 AM

Remember my story about the new IBM (Lenovo) X41 Tablet that I bought?  I relayed the story in last week's post to The World Really is Flat series.  Here's the punch-line -- the computer, once shipped, travelled from Shanghai, China to my front door in Perrysburg, OH in one day.  How's that for a flat world?

I related that example as a personal experience that allowed me to realize that the world really is becoming flat.  After I had that experience, I saw the flat world in everything around me.

So all is good, right?  There's plenty of opportunity and no problems in this new flat world, right?Corso

As Lee Corso would say, "not so fast, my friend."

There are plenty of problems in the flat world.  Indeed, there are plenty of new problems.  The rest of my X41 story illustrates this point...

So there I am, drooling over my brand new X41 Tablet.  As I said before, I have zero patience when new tech toys arrive.  I tore into the box immediately, threw the instruction manual aside, and began setting up the computer.  The out-of-box experience was amazing...the computer is beautiful to look at, and powered up perfectly with a simple plugging in.  Ready to roll.  The desktop wasn't overly cluttered with useless freebies (AOL, etc.) and the introduction software from IBM/Lenovo did a fine job of introducing the amazing utilities provided with the computer.

So now I'm ready to make it mine.  I gathered the discs for my must-have software packages, and prepared for an afternoon of installations.  First up, Microsoft Office 2003...just place the CD in the...hey, wait a minute...where's the CD drive?  I must have missed it in the box....

Nope.  No CD drive to be found (my one complaint about the X41 is the lack of an internal CD drive...but the external drive is so svelte, that I really don't even consider it a complaint anymore).

I checked the packing mention of the CD drive.  It's an "accessory" that costs extra.  I knew I had ordered it and checked my invoice to make sure. was ordered.

I logged into the Lenovo customer service site and checked my order.  Sure enough, it was split.  The CD drive was shipped separately.  OK, I can wait another day as it travels from China to Perrysburg.  (Remember...the world is flat and the shipment takes only a day....)

Twif_delayedSadly, that's just the beginning.  I tracked that package for the next two weeks.  It was sidelined in customs by the FDA (yes, the FDA) on "bird flu concerns" according to the UPS customer service representative.  Compare the tracking results for this package (at left) with those of the computer (in the first The World Really is Flat post).

What an amazing contrast.

The CD drive finally arrived.  I was somewhat hesitant to touch it, considering the whole bird flu thing.  I quickly got over that, though, and finished the setup...two weeks later

The FDA/bird flu "problem" completely robbed me of the amazing experience I had after seeing the computer shipped from China to Perrysburg in a day.  I was left with a sense of frustration and angst.  I love the computer...but having to wait two weeks to make it mine really ticked me off.

The lesson I took away from the experience is this.  The flat world brings new opportunities and new problems.  Bird Flu?  Customs delays on computer equipment by the FDA?  Crikey.  Who in the world expected that?  Not me.

While the flattened world presents plenty of new opportunities, it also presents new challenges and new problems.  As businesses establish new business relationships without regard (or with less regard) to geographical boundaries, plenty of issues must be addressed.  Lenovo is obviously taking advantage of the opportunities presented by the flattened world.  Should they have been aware of this problem..and addressed it?  Or do old, non-flat-world attitudes still reign - "Hey, we shipped'll just have to wait..." 

I didn't contact Lenovo about the problem (I guess I censored myself with that attitude...), so I'm not sure how they would have responded.

New problems will begin to reveal themselves as people explore the new opportunities presented by the flat world.  Being an optimist, I view new problems as an opportunity for new solutions...which, of course, bring even more opportunity...

So, on second thought, maybe all is good in this new flat world...


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Related Articles:
The World Really is Flat, Part I: From Shanghai to Perrysburg in One Day
The world really is flat
Whats Your Definition of a Rainmaker? Bullshitter?


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K, Says:

December 20, 2005 12:09 PM

Gawd, I love stories like this. I live in NYC, and there are about 3 different countries/regions here in the nabe I live in ( Chinese, South American, Middle Eastern ) The world is flat? My friend, the world is a cube, and the edges are sharp enough to shave with. Now I do like the nabe, especially the Chinese district, it's like downtown Beijing and the food vendors are peerless. But let's not kid ourselves, it's another world(s) entirely. The only difference now is that folks outside of NYC or SF can finally touch it for themselves. I can say this though, after bathing in it for the last decade, I couldn't imagine anything else. Here's a sample.

Waiting for the subway, an old Chinese man is sitting on a stool in the center of the platform. He's wearing dark sunglasses, a trenchcoat, and a fedora. He's playing an Erhu, a two string stand up fiddle, and he's playing what could best be described as a blues, as much as can be played on an instrument such as this. In this way the new world is a mashup like the legendary Griffin, with the head of an eagle, the body of a lion, and the tail of a certified public accountant. The charm is all in the differences.

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