Friedman’s The Lexus and the Olive Tree Discussion
Carol Kaufman-Scarborough, Spring 2003
Listen to Friedman explain various aspects of his book at the audio
sections of this site:
1. Friedman creates a considerable vocabulary throughout the text.
Select two of the terms below and teach it to the class: kleptocracy
(p. 146), DOScapital 0.0 (p.151), Shaper vs. Adapter (p. 200-202), glocalization
(p. 295), or others of your own selection.
2. An olive tree and a Lexus are two very different concepts.
What does Friedman mean by them and why did he choose them?
p. 31 – olive tree – all that identifies us, brings us comfort, who we belong to
p. 32 – Lexus – drive for sustenance, improvement, prosperity, modernization
3. What is a Golden Straitjacket? Friedman outlines what a country
must do to “fit into” one on page 105. Do you agree? Are all
these strategies beneficial for a country? For the people in that country?
Has South Africa done these things?
4. How does Friedman define globalization? Globalution (p. 169)?
Glocalization (p. 295)? How are these terms related? What is
Friedman concerned about in his fear that “something will be lost” (p.
294)? How do these concepts apply to South Africa?
5. Many global corporations, governments, and trade organizations push
for the development of standards. How are such standards crucial
to the development and success of e-commerce? What types of trade standards
has South Africa developed?
6. Why would the owner of manufacturing facility in a foreign
country develop a first class facility rather than a sweatshop? Wouldn’t
a sweatshop be cheaper? (p. 177) Suppose we were going to build
a facility in the townships in South Africa? What would help the people
the most? In the long-term?
7. What are the Nine Habits of Highly Effective Countries (p. 212)?
What do the answers to these questions mean? What can we learn from countries
who perform well on these benchmarks? How would you analyze South Africa’s
development? (NOTE: THIS QUESTION COUNTS FOR THE ENTIRE ASSIGNMENT)
8. Friedman is well known for his “Golden Arches Theory of Conflict
Prevention.” What does he mean? Is it true? Explain and give examples.
What is the underlying logic here? Are there Golden Arches in Iraq?
9. On page 292, Friedman talks about Gujral, who said, “unless you preserve
at least some of your own olive trees in your own backyard, you will never
feel at home in your own house? . . . . the work will be much richer if
the coloration sand diversities are sustained and encouraged with different
cultures.” What does he mean? Is globalization the same as Americanization?
10. On page 299, Friedman quotes Fareed Zakaria, who says, “Because
what globalization does is empower the common man. It empowers common
men and women to have all these choices, and when that happens it is inevitable
that they will make the choices that seem the most attractive . . . they
may want strip malls along every street and Taco Bells on every corner.”
Do you agree?
11. Friedman uses the NBA and especially the Chicago Bulls to
illustrate his “Winners Take All” discussion (p. 306+). He is concerned
with the growing income gap in industrialized countries. On page 313, he
contrasts Michael Jordan’s salary with that paid to Joe Kleine. What’s
going on? Is the discrepancy fair? Does this analogy illustrate his
12. Market researchers! Read page 320! Friedman claims that
“thanks to globalization, market researchers today try to sell teens …
global brands.” Is this what firms try to do? Does the emphasis on global
brands actually disenfranchise those who are not wealthy?
13. On page 333, Friedman complains that “replacing manual repetitive
jobs with machines and requiring more skills to do the jobs that are left”
create more “turtles”. Do you agree? Can you relate this to the change
of Camden, NJ, from a prosperous center of manufacturing leadership to
the Camden of today?
14. What is “Systematic misunderstanding” discussed on page 340? Have
you ever experienced it? Consider the example that Friedman raises of the
contrast between a collective and individualist society. Does this
occur between the peoples of South Africa?
15. On page 355 (bottom), Friedman presents several contrasting views
of globalization. Can it make a difference to the poorest persons in the
world? Can technology combat poverty? Will it encourage the development
of infrastructure? Could it potentially help people in the South African
16. Continuing with creative analogies, Friedman proposes the
“five gas stations” theory of the world on page 379. What does this mean?
Do you agree or disagree? What type(s) of gas stations do you anticipate
exist in South Africa?
17. Ooops! On page 387, Enron is discussed as a good example of
an online marketplace. What can we learn from what Enron attempted
to do? Does their failure mean that the discussion is incorrect?
18. On page 420-421, Friedman discusses “overconnectedness” and
“always being reachable . . . never out.” What does he mean by this?
Is his concern justified?
19. Analyze the diagram on page 438. Describe the different groups
that are discussed on page 439. Which are you? Which should
20. How does this book relate to your trip to South Africa?
What can we learn from it and apply to our study of South Africa? See page
444 for some possible applications. Trapezes, trampolines, and safety nets?