As Thomas Friedman’s 2005 bestseller “The World is Flat” shows us the world is flat. With distance virtually eliminated, creating new relationships and connections with suppliers, customers and employees has never been easier.
Surely, the world is flatter today? I can hire just about any service or advice through the click of a button. Sites like elance, guru, freelancer and others make it easy. With massively open online courses (MOOCs eg: Udacity, Coursera, and edX, iversity) I can attend school on nearly any subject. For learning a language or a musical instrument, hiring a teacher through a video conference call, gives me choice to work with native speakers and music masters. All in all these are smooth simple transactions.
With the ease at which Friedman explains the chaotic world, many people continue to believe the internet has flattened the world.
“The World Ain’t Flat. It’s Bumpy”
If the internet is such an all powerful equalizer leveling the playing field, why bother to hold peace talks in person?
Trust is built by sitting at the same table, at the same time†. Creating trust cannot be commoditized. The trust needed in complex business (and personal) dealings is not a simple elance transaction. Humans are social creatures. We need to see, touch, feel, smell, inuit, and taste the situation.
So when making decisions, understand the relationship being created. For simple commodity like transactions, the world is very flat. For complex transactions the world is very very bumpy. If you are competing against a commodity try to make the world bumpier. If you are competing at distance try to make the world flatter. Know how to use each strategy to your advantage.
† There is a fancy word, “propinquity” meaning 1: nearness of blood : kinship; or 2: nearness in place or time : proximity.