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Medtronic, “Accounting Fiction” and Irish Performatives

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How do you say “Fridley” in Irish?

To those who live as if words are worthless and refuse to see the role of systems in building wealth, let us now gaze on Medtronic’s deal to buy Covidien. What does $42.9 billion get you these days, besides a cohesive portfolio of medical devices and a bunch of intelligent workers and systems? Smart people are speculating it also buys freedom to spend foreign profits without worrying about more taxes, which may amount to a roughly $20 billion future spending spree.

Of course corporations will seek the best deal for making money—that is the project of corporations—and will surprise no one. Do Minnesotans worry a beloved company born and bred in Minnesota is growing up and leaving home? Of course. But the significant investment Medtronic has made in their operations in the state should cause worriers to back off a bit. A quick driving tour through Fridley and Mounds View reveal a rather permanent corporate presence.

How do you control chaos and churn?

How can you control chaos and churn?

But then—of course—stuff happens and things change. Which produces anxiety in hard-working people.

What I find interesting is that while the deal involves a significant exchange of money, it also changes a key definition that then dodges a set of tax requirements. Note this: becoming an Irish company is mostly in name only. The StarTribune quotes Eric Toder of the Urban-Brookings Tax Center as describing the newly formed Irish company an “accounting fiction.” So while Medtronic will always be a Minnesota company, it will become an Irish company. And there is money to be saved in being an Irish company. By cutting this deal—by pronouncing these words in international legal documents—a new thing happens at Medtronic that will please shareholders and worry local workers. JL Austin might call that corporate speech-act a performative. And there is no question that performative will change things in the real world.


[Full disclosure: The author has worked for Medtronic and continues to consult for Medtronic.] [At least the author did until posting this.]



Image credit: Kirk Livingston

Written by kirkistan

June 17, 2014 at 9:56 am

Medtech Using Social Media #5: Winning the Lottery

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Our conversations help individuals lead groups forward.

Our conversations help individuals lead groups forward.

Working on a client’s factory floor yesterday, I heard a guy describe how his troubles would be over if only he won the lottery. It’s a common enough thing to say and I’m sure we all think it from time to time. I happen to think winning the lottery would be more like trading one set of problems for another. Without the life disciplines that build on any skill (including making money), without a bit of thankfulness, suddenly receiving lots of money may not change all that much about a person’s life. Maybe for the moment more expensive toys enter the picture. But without discipline, the money eventually runs out and even larger debts take their place.

In marketing communication, just like in every other area of life, we search for the perfect tool that will solve everything. The perfect strategy of engagement. The perfect ad or the perfect media buy. The perfect social media tool. But deep-down we all know that perfect tools don’t exist. Or perhaps the perfect tool for the job does exist, but it gets corrupted when interacting with us.

The vision for engagement using these new social media tools is a vision for engaged contact with a group of people who believe in what you are talking about because you are talking about what they believe in. The vision is precisely not sharpening the perfect tool for the perfect kill (that is, the perfect sale, or the perfect implantation of our message in some consumer’s brain along with the instruction to “Buy!”). And even though lots of folks are—for the moment—listening to the social media channels, with Twitter and Facebook making headline news daily, newer channels will arise and suck away attention. The enduring lesson is that we all do better when we talk things through—no matter what technology enables that talk.

The equivalent to winning the lottery for a medical device firm using social media is a group of committed friends, colleagues and fellow-travelers making a journey together. It is a group where questions are shared as freely as answers. It is a collection of conversations where your brand is given legs and flesh as the brand promise works its way out through conversation after conversation. Winning the lottery is about building a fierce loyalty along the way.


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