The Drucker and McLuhan Worlds Come Together in Toronto
October 19th, 2011
On October 13 I was privileged to give a presentation for the University of Toronto’s Rotman School of Management Getting it Done Expert Speakers Series. My topic, “How Peter Drucker’s Wisdom Can Transform Your Life,” was based on my book, and fit in well with Professor Brendan Calder’s course for second year MBA students, GettingItDone®, which prominently features Drucker’s work. Brendan invited me to speak not just to the class, but to alumni and other members of the Toronto business and nonprofit communities. The great venue (the Fleck Atrium), the size of the audience and the sophisticated engagement demonstrated by their questions made this an event I’ll never forget.
Then something truly extraordinary happened. Brendan had been invited to a special dinner, across the street, at the iSchool of the University of Toronto, honoring the first McLuhan Centenary Visiting Fellows. This is the 100th anniversary of Marshall McLuhan’s birth, and the school has created a fellowship program for a select group of scholars to spend between three and twelve months in residence in the McLuhan Program in Culture and Technology at the Faculty of Information. I was able to attend as Brendan’s guest; and it was an honor to spend a few hours at the center of the McLuhan world.
McLuhan, who gave us the ideas of the “the medium is the message” and the “global village,” became famous in the 1960s, when he was teaching at the University of Toronto, but he was a friend of Drucker’s long before that. Their relationship is described in a chapter (“The Prophets: Buckminster Fuller and Marshall McLuhan”) of Drucker’s 1978 memoir, Adventures of a Bystander. McLuhan co-authored a brief tribute to Drucker, “The Man Who Came to Listen,” in 1970’s Peter Drucker: Contributions to Business Enterprise. They were nearly the same age. Drucker, who died at 95 in 2005, had his centenary marked in 2009, with major events held worldwide for a year. There are also a number of events marking McLuhan’s 100th, including several this week as part of Toronto’s International Festival of Authors. For a closer look at McLuhan’s time at the university, read Alec Scott’s “Marshall’s Laws” in UofT Magazine.
I’d like to think that Drucker would have been pleased that I could, even if only unofficially, bring together the Drucker and McLuhan worlds in Toronto on October 13. And I can’t even guess what McLuhan would think!