How to Manage in a Flat World

Increasingly, people are asked to be members of a virtual team or multiple teams. But as this book asks, how well suited are human beings to working in teams that stretch across a dozen time zones?

"How to Manage in a Flat World" makes the controversial claim that in business we are far slower at building on research into how people work, than we are at developing information technology.

It asserts: 'There are really two internets: the electronic one, and the human one. The first advances like a bullet train; the second, at the pace of a mule. It only took a couple of generations to go from the clunky first computer to open-source software, artificial intelligence and the web.

"Progress on the human internet, by contrast, has been slow. Since before the computer was invented, we have known what makes for effective co-operation. Elton Mayo, in studies at the Hawthorne factory in Chicago, USA in the 1930s, discovered that the most significant element in determining a group of people's effectiveness was the way in which they are treated and respected. And yet, 75 years on, the lesson is only fitfully implemented. The very subject is absent from many a Board meeting, and is only touched upon in companies' annual reports."

How to Manage in a Flat World contains practical advice for the busy manager on how to maintain teamwork in a world of relentless information, tight deadlines, diverse markets and demanding consumers. It advises on:

  • How often to meet colleagues in person and how to use precious face-to-face time,
  • How to understand different cultures, but acknowledge that 'culture' is multi-faceted, covering profession, generation, gender and organization as well as nationality,
  • How to maintain a semblance of work-life balance: the key is often to concentrate on managing relationships, rather than managing time.

There are 25 in-depth interviews with leading executives, including Miles Flint, President Sony Ericsson; Cynthia McCague, Senior VP Coca Cola; Leslie Van de Walle, President Shell Global Retail (now CEO Rexam); Concetta Lanciaux, Executive VP, LVMH; Andy Warrender, Leader Fabrics Division, WL Gore; and Girish Paranjpe, President Finance Solutions, of Wipro Technologies.