Mark Federman -- How to Determine the Business You're Really in: Applying McLuhan's Thinking Tools to Business Design

Mark Federman, McLuhan Program in Culture and Technology, June 4, 2004, 11:15 a.m.

These participant's notes were created in real-time during the meeting, based on the speaker's presentation(s) and comments from the audience. These should not be viewed as official transcripts of the meeting, but only as an interpretation by a single individual. Lapses, grammatical errors, and typing mistakes may not have been corrected. Questions about content should be directed to the originator. These notes have been contributed by David Ing ( at the IBM Advanced Business Institute (

Introduction by Roger Martin

[Mark Federman]

What sort of business are you in?

How many people are measured or evaluated by a financial measure?

Answers were normal answers

First step:  what haven't you notice recently?

Hard to notice, when we're in a comfortable situation:  like a fish in water.

One way to create anti-environment is to wait.

Reveal one of the secrets of McLuhan of predicting the future by foretelling the present.

The laws of media:

1.  What does the media extend, enhance, accelerate or enable?

2.  When pressed, the media will reverse.  What will the media reverse?

3.  Something else will be displaced.  What is obsolesced by the new medium?

4.  What does the new medium bring from the past?

When McLuhan said medium is the message, we know the medium by the effects (the message).

How do successful companies become successful?

Bumper stickers?

What haven't you noticed recently?

Look at

Grocery Gateway .com

Reversing conventional thinking, tied to language.

Define innovation, and how to create an innovative culture

What haven't you noticed recently about innovation?


A cup of coffee:  choose mostly be services

Buying the Ikea experience; Nike experience.

Design speaks directly to creating experience

Intel puts much into the public domain:  the power of reversal.

How overvalued is intellectual property?

Internet was created from free intellectual property

We're now 200 years from the beginning of the industrial age


Comparison to Integrated Thinking Program?

Rule #3 was if one feature is enhanced, another is diminshed?  Is this zero-sum?

Read cases on experience and Starbucks, but personal work?

Dichotomy:  take laws, distill them into a recipe, but then will not notice something else.

Liedtka discussion on working with people in the organization.  Play shops with executives, different people?


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