Outsourcing Tycoon and Flat-World Pioneer Competes With Own Imagination, Loses

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Friedman and Raju, chin buddies. Photo: Getty Images

When news broke yesterday that Ramalinga Raju, the head of India's largest outsourcing company, Satyam Computer Services, had admitted to massive and long-running fraud on the company's balance sheets, our first thought was: Now who are we going to call when we need someone to exasperatedly tell us to try turning our monitor off and then on again? Our second was: Wow, I bet Thomas Friedman used this guy to make an inane point about the new, flat world. We were not disappointed. A Google search instantly scoured the flat globe and found this in a February 2008 exchange between Friedman and one Daniel Pink, education guru and author of A Whole New Mind.

Friedman: If we live in a flat world where whatever can be done will be done, guess who's going to win? People who get the signals first, who do it before it's done to them.

Pink: Okay. Integration. Right-brain thinking. Getting signals first. What else should schools be thinking about?

Friedman: I've added something I got from my friend Ramalinga Raju from Satyam, the Indian company. We decided that the greatest economic competition in the world going forward is not going to be between countries and countries. And it's not going to be between companies and companies. The greatest economic competition going forward is going to be between you and your own imagination. Your ability to act on your imagination is going to be so decisive in driving your future and the standard of living in your country. So the school, the state, the country that empowers, nurtures, enables imagination among its students and citizens, that's who's going to be the winner.

Competition between you and your own imagination? The old, round head boggles. Maybe it's something like imagining that you have 53.6 billion rupees in assets when you actually have 3.2 billion, an experience Raju (who could teach Friedman a thing or two about metaphors that actually make sense) describes as "like riding a tiger, not knowing how to get off without being eaten."