Creativity can lead to great fortunes, startling epiphanies, redeemed relationships, richly textured lives, and a world where things function better for the evolution of humankind. It’s an art, a science and a mystery.

Independent correspondent Karen O’Leary speaks with a few among us -- artists, scholars and entrepreneurs -- who revel in the creative process.  

One of the great minds of the Twentieth Century, Milton Friedman, once noted, “The construction of hypotheses is a creative act of inspiration, intuition, invention; its essence is the vision of something new in familiar material.”

   Collaboration, freedom, breaking the rules, paying attention to detail, and looking at old things with fresh perspectives were common themes among the experts and artists I spoke with.

Another important dynamic reported by various artists is the ability to be playful, full of curiosity and wonder, and to eliminate judgment and criticism in the early stages of creation.

   Notably great artists, dancers, filmmakers, physicists and writers, including Frederico Fellini, Isadora Duncan, Richard Feynman, Annie Dillard and Maya Angeou were the subject of Creators on Creating, a book edited by Alfonso Montuori, a consultant and professor at the California Institute of Integral Studies, and Frank Barron, professor emeritus of psychology, who was already conducting groundbreaking research on creativity in the 1950’s at the University of California, Berkeley.


Uncovering the heart—the vital center of the self—and moving toward the unknown to reveal both our vulnerability and strength is one necessary dynamic in the creative process, according to Alfonso Montuori. Having an open mind is another important aspect of the creative process. “The creative mind is both full and empty—it’s not always generative, full of ideas and brilliant new insights. You have to be patient with yourself,” says Montuori who, as a professor and executive consultant, sees a lot of people stifle their own creative fires.

   Other principles of developing creativity that Montuori proposes in his work are the importance of developing mastery in a subject—as opposed to expecting lightning bolts of inspiration. “The creative process involves a tension between opposites, and nowhere is that tension more apparent than in the need to balance freedom and exploration with the disciplined fine tuning of our craft.”


“In times like these when the economy has flattened out, you need something that is going to pull your company out of the pack,” says Tom Kelley, general manager of IDEO, a design consultancy specializing in product development and innovation, and the author of The Art of Innovation.

   If you’re going to come up with the product or service that everyone wants to have, and you’re going to expand your market share, innovation is critical,” says Kelley, who works with the founder of IDEO, his brother David Kelley.

   Headquartered in Palo Alto, IDEO is the product designer of Poloaroid’s I-Zone instant camera, the Palm V, the Squishy tooth-brush for kids, the Crest stand-up toothpaste tube, and hundreds upon hundreds of other products and services that break the mold. For the last ten years, they’ve been reported in Business Week as the top award-winning design team in the country.

   Tom Peters, the noted management guru,was “bowled over by the spirit and sense of playfulness that invaded every aspect of its stellar—wildly creative—work.”

   Because of the eclectic appearance of our office space and the frenetic, sometimes boisterous work and play in process, some people come away from their first visit to our offices with the impression that IDEO is totally chaotic,” says Tom Kelley. “In fact, we have a well-developed and continuously refined methodology.”

“Brainstorming can actually be a skill, an art, more like playing the piano than tying your shoes. You can become a brainstorming virtuoso, says Kelley.”    The method to their madness includes understanding the market, the client, the technology and the perceived constraints on the problem. The next thing they do is observe real people in real situations to find out what makes them tick, what confuses them and what they need.

   On the way to developing the all-in-one fishing kit, the team at IDEO first observed parents with their children shopping for the right fishing equipment. “We observed that there was a huge range of fishing products and the dads could see all the products and they hadn’t fished in decades and they would think, ‘Is this too heavy, too light?’

   “After a minute or so, not wanting to look foolish to the kids, the dad goes somewhere else in the store. Somewhere easy, like the baseball department. So the solution was to solve the problem with the dad—that was the epiphany.” Hence IDEO produced an all-in-one, no-brainer fishing kit and makes heroes out of dads in the process.

   Most of us can quickly spout the wisdom that “there are no bad ideas when you’re brainstorming.” For IDEO, it’s an everyday thing. “It’s funny; people think they brainstorm all the time,” says Kelley. “And then you ask them and it turns out they don’t brainstorm to solve everyday problems. They might brainstorm once a quarter or once a year.”   

Brainstorming is practically a religion at IDEO -- one they practice every day. It is, in fact, the engine of the culture. “Brainstorming can actually be a skill, an art, more like playing the piano than tying your shoes,” says Kelley. “You can become a brainstorming virtuoso.”

Developing creativity does have do’s and don’t’s, too, adds Kelley. One of the stiflers of creativity is forcing ideas to start with top management rather than allowing good ideas to come from any source in the organization. Allowing people autonomy is another thing that stokes the fires of creativity, and bureaucracy, judgment and criticism kill it.
The familiarity factor also works to foster creative juice at work. Being able to poke fun at each other—even the boss—is another boon to the creative organization. A tidy desk policy can stifle creativity and a personalized, though messy desk – to the delight of many artists, writers, scientists and academics – can stimulate it.

Expertise, ironically, is not always a big booster of creativity, according to Kelley, because many self-proclaimed experts talk more than listen. It’s the tinkerers—those who are always tweaking things and ideas and trying to improve their work and themselves—who are great at launching projects.

   The offices of IDEO are a perfect reflection of their philosophy of providing freedom and autonomy in the process of creating an environment that is conducive to creativity. Bicycles are hung from the ceiling; not for decorative reasons, although they look great, but because it saves space and keeps bikes safe.

   Another distinctive property of the IDEO environs is their suspension of large, colorful umbrellas over the workspaces to keep sunlight from blazing into the workspaces from the skylights.


Relationships at work and in the context of the family can be restored and kept positive when innovation, creativity, and an open mind are employed.  

  “It’s often the mistakes or blunders where, if you stay aware and pay attention, you find something new,” says George M. Clark, principle of George M. Clark Consulting, based in Palo Alto. “I also find that routine, order, and preparation can diminish creativity. And stress can either help or hinder creativity. I wonder why."

In his work with executives, insight and innovation often come about by changing the context of how they are viewing their world, says Clark. “People get stuck in their stories or frames that explain why some person or some situation is difficult.”

   “It’s actually amazing how quickly we humans believe completely in our own stories. When you can enlarge the story or offer different possibilities, people see different options and find the energy to act," says Clark.

   Usually people are caught in a dilemma between two equally unappealing options. “They are damned either way and they just can’t see any alternative,” according to Clark. “I do a number of things to get them to both explore their thinking and, in a sense, to think beyond themselves. When they are able to do this, amazing insight often occurs.”

   The innovation of Kitty Margolis, a scat singer who lives in San Francisco (and the wife of Montuori) is everywhere to be found in her music and performances. The reativity of bringing new life out of old is found in her re-harmonizing, her rearranging, and employing new mixing and recording techniques.

  A particularly striking talent is how she sings new life into some old greats, such as songs by Robers, Hammerstein, Hart and Kern. “There’s just something inexplicably great about that period of American music that captures America when jazz was in its prime,” says Margolis. “These songs are part of our collective history and go very deep in our psyche as a people. It’s a common language and a common launching point for the music.” An example of putting a contemporary and poignant spin on an old song is “Wouldn’t It Be Loverly,” from My Fair Lady, which Kitty on occasion sings on behalf of the homeless in San Francisco.

Another artistic soul whose creativity largely involves bringing new life to old or classic things is antique dealer Arlene Klainer of Palo Alto. “The fun thing for me is finding old things that don’t have a use anymore and then creating new uses for them.”

   Among Klainer’s treasures are old factory shoe racks from Canada. Once purely functional and used for gluing and drying parts of shoes, Klainer transforms them into aesthetically fun wine racks. Other items she’s used to display plants, magazines, and firewood are old metal tubs that were once used as bathtubs by cowboys on their own and can also be used as a new venue for plants.

   Klainer has also found various uses for antique crosses from France. “I had one old French cross that a man is now using in his garden as a trellis. Sometimes people use the crosses near a wall or in a garden or just as a thing of beauty. Often, you have to show your clients how to use things in a new way. Displaying them sparks their imagination, says Klainer.”

Indeed. A cultivator blade may just be a discarded piece of farm equipment to one person, but Klainer reintroduces it to the world as a wall hanging and —sure enough—it looks like the sun. Other ancient castaways that Klainer has transformed are window guards that were torn down from old buildings which she uses as decorative iron work, art pieces, trellises, or functional pieces on a garden wall, and old scales to suspend indoor plants.

   For Cynthia Beeger of Beeger Design in Menlo Park, creativity is grounded in comfort and utility. Although the venues she works in—whether beach houses or stately homes—are always elegant, she starts with what works. 

Beeger's goal is that the clients savor the experience and comfort of spending time in the spaces she designs. 
 “For me, it comes out of engagement and relationships,” says Beeger. “I have a very grounded, rational side so my creative process starts with the nuts and bolts of knowing how they’re going to live in the space. It’s all about enjoyment. I need to know as much as I can about them and what they want and then the magic begins!”  

Alfonso Montuori aptly notes, “Creativity is a gift, some say, but not a gift that survives without practice. It’s also important to challenge assumptions and make new connections, and find new ways of viewing the world.”


Photos above include
 Nursing mother in Nepal;
Single hand on wall: "Great is Thy Faithfulness,"
Girl in India looks at an image of herself
in a mirror for the first time,
 Charlene Dorman and Ansel Adams

An Exhibit of Hope

Charlene Dorman's photographs capture light and beauty
in places near and far

by Karen O'Leary

When she was 5 years old, living in Lexington, Mass., Charlene Dorman climbed out onto the roof with her Brownie camera to photograph the tops of trees. Smitten with photography, she has been scouting and capturing images in remote places ever since, albeit with slightly more sophisticated equipment.

Images of those exotic locations will be on exhibit until Dec. 31 at Stanford University's Bechtel International Center. Entitled "Therefore I have hope," the photographs feature the countries of Nepal, India, Zaire, Italy, France and Israel. The 45 images include children, landscapes, birthing, nursing, dancing and light. They are whimsical and deeply contemplative, much like the photographer herself.

Dorman honed her craft in the early '70s with Ansel Adams at one of his last Yosemite Valley photography workshops.

"The first thing he said when he met me was, 'Are you happy?' Dorman recalls. "From that moment on, I liked him as a person because he treated me like a person. He was like a grandfather--that's how I felt about him. He called me 'honey child.'"

Ansel encouraged his students to pair their art with other interests, as he had done with his love of nature. Consequently, Dorman has always paired her photographs with quotes from Scripture and favorite authors, including G.K. Chesterton, T.S. Eliot, C.S. Lewis and Dostoyevsky.

Dorman's photography is fostered by a strong faith and imagination, a sense of humor and a profound gratitude for her art. With the curiosity and questing energy of an adventuring huntress, she seems to be on a perpetual pursuit of truth and beauty. She looks for it in books, in prayer and through the lens of her ever-primed camera.

"My husband John says there are two things I'll do at the drop of a hat: pray and take a photograph. For me, each contributes to the other," she says.

Despite the richness and balance of Dorman's candid shots, none of them has been planned, staged or digitally altered.

"It really does feel like a dance, in a sense," Dorman says. "The epiphanies are wonderful and those are what the dance part is. But there are a lot of workouts in between. You have to be available for it, to be self-disciplined in both your own spiritual life as well as having the awareness and readiness to go along--that's part of the dance, too."

"Once I was sitting with my Leica on a wall in Bombay when a hand suddenly appeared next to me on the wall," says Dorman of one of the simple, but riveting, images in her collection. "Another time I was with our children at the end of the driveway when my daughter Lydia decided to take her first steps!"

"Consuelo dancing Billie Holliday," a 1973 photo of a dancer, is an image that typifies Dorman's ability to capture both the energy and the stillness of light. "Tibeten Girl Seeing her Likeness for the First Time," a photo of a Nepalese child who had never before seen a picture of herself, exemplifies her skill at anticipating a significant moment in a child's life.

Several formats keep Dorman visually agile. A master of fast-moving candid shots, she also enjoys the meditative, pre-visualization necessary for larger-format work. She likes to take the extra time and trouble to process her work as platinum prints, a 19th century process that takes days, but which Dorman feels is worthwhile for its resulting texture and richness.

"With work that is small format, the meditative qualities come to me in the dark room as the images reveal themselves to me poetically and symbolically," Dorman says.

"In using a larger camera, with a tripod, you have a chance to do still-life and to create something. Because it's a slower process, you can plan a shot for days or weeks. But then the sun will shift a little bit and petals will become more luminous, so there are still surprises. I think of these as gifts from God and as a prize for a small amount of endurance."

"Once we were in Zaire and no sooner had I finished a quick prayer about my work that day than the driver stopped and a man stood under a tree with the mountains in the was a perfect portrait of a man proud of his country."

Dorman's global photographic safaris were inspired by trips she took with her husband, John, a physician at Stanford University, during his sabbaticals.

"John feels that our family has been so blessed that when the children were being raised, he wanted to spend our summers giving back. We chose to take our family to different cultures every three or four years. It formed our children and they're really grateful for it."

"Therefore I have hope" is dedicated to John, who suffered an accident earlier this year that prompted the exhibit's title. One day while gardening, he fell out of a tree and brutally crushed his knee. Charlene had a tough time falling asleep that night, worried that he would permanently lose the use of his leg or be confined to a wheel chair. Then she heard her mind say, simply, "Therefore I have hope." Fortunately, an operation substantially repaired the damaged knee, and John has resumed his active lifestyle.

Also prominent in the exhibit are excerpts from "The Portal of the Mystery of Hope," by French poet Charles Peguyt. Faith, to him, is like a loyal wife, charity is like an ardent mother and hope is like a little sister, swinging between her older sisters' skirts.

"To me, the thing that's so special about this poem is that it points out how tiny, how little, hope is. It doesn't show. You can't exhibit hope as you do faith and love. There's something internal and tiny about it, but hope can bring you to big, big places."

What: "Therefore I have hope," an exhibit featuring the photographs of Charlene Dorman

Where: Stanford University's Bechtel International Center

When: Through Dec. 31. The center is open 8 a.m.-10 p.m. Monday through Friday; 5-10 p.m. Saturday and Sunday

Palo Alto Weekly November 2000

Stanford University - Graduate School of Business

Top Stories

Entrepreneurship Helps Education in
Developing Countries

April 2006

STANFORD GRADUATE SCHOOL OF BUSINESS — Street children in Mexico get small loans to launch innovative businesses. Orphaned children who beg in India are lured to lessons with song, drama, and dance in schools set up on train platforms.

The entrepreneurial spirit is vital to education in developing countries, and innovative programs are yielding dividends for the future of children and youth, said participants in Stanford’s fifth annual international development conference, hosted April 15 by the Graduate School of Business International Development Club and the Stanford Association for International Development.

The program included a keynote address by Cream Wright, UNICEF’s chief of education, and two panels of experts from diverse backgrounds, including the World Bank, the United Nations, and the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation. At a career fair held during lunch, students explored job, volunteer, and internship opportunities, and interacted with local nongovernmental organizations.

This year’s program, “Delivering Education in Developing Countries: Challenges and Priorities,” focused on education because of its critical importance to all aspects of development, said program co-chair Peter DeYoung, the president of the Business School International Development Club.

Diverse Conflicts Thwart the Education of Children  

Ensuring that children everywhere complete a full course of primary school education and eliminating gender disparity in both primary and secondary education are two of the 2015 U.N. Millennium Development Goals, Wright said.

“We are a children’s agency concerned with children’s rights and plights. Children have a right to be educated,” he said, but an estimated 115 million children were out of school in 2002.

Education is particularly difficult in countries prone to civil conflict, economic decline, political unrest, rights violations, and natural disasters, he said. Other challenges involve geographic and gender disparities.

Fewer girls than boys are educated at both primary and secondary schools in developing nations, and rural children are less likely to be educated than are urban children. Orphaned children and those whose mothers were not educated also fare worse.

False Dichotomies Hide Complex Needs

Asked which is more important—increasing the quantity of students or enhancing the quality of education—Wright said the question creates a false dichotomy.

“What good is access to school if the quality of the education is so bad that they don’t learn?” he asked.

Though schools in developing countries don’t always have running water or buildings that keep bad weather at bay, they often become the center for supplying most all of the needs of children. Beyond education, children need environments for play, nourishment, health care, safety, and protection, Wright said.

Support from outside of a country must be aligned and harmonized with the needs and goals of the country itself rather than driven by the donor. “Development is not something you do to a country; it’s something a country achieves,” he said.

Most developing countries devalue girls and women, Wright said. Achieving gender parity in education is impossible in the foreseeable future because it requires radical change in societies’ attitudes and beliefs. Developing nations may be out of sync with U.S. attitudes toward women, but by incorporating an entrepreneurial spirit into their attitudes toward the poor and homeless, they may seem relatively progressive, he said.

Thinking Big Expands Lives

Maya Ajmera, the founder and president of the grant-making organization Global Fund for Children, said schools geared only to enabling students to be gainfully employed aren’t thinking big enough. Children and youth can be more than beneficiaries of programs; they can be agents of change. Boys between 14 and 22 often drop out of school when they believe it isn’t relevant to their limited futures, but they have a lot of entrepreneurial energy and can become entrepreneurs and employers by launching micro-enterprises funded by micro-credit.

“We can help them build real businesses with real products and real revenue,” Ajmera said. “Street children in Mexico are in business making and distributing goat cheese. They sell it to all the embassies in the country.”

Trickle-Down Funding Doesn't Always Flow

Budd Mackenzie, the founder of Trust in Education, advocated investing directly in programs at the bottom rung of the ladder. His educational fund does that for women and children in Lalander, a village in Afghanistan.

“The trickle-down theory does not work,” Mackenzie said. “NGOs can mean ‘not going out.’ The money often goes to those at the top who are planning for large-scale programs. I’m a real advocate for the ‘just do it!’ approach. Let’s get to the villages.”

His fund invested in pencils, paper, and books for children who did not have them. “For 120 kids, at 50 cents a kid, we invested $60 and created a school. It takes so little money to have a major impact.”

He was also hopeful about changes in attitudes about women. Where he works “the village voted in a woman shura [town council member], which was revolutionary. And that can be replicated in other villages. Progress is doable.”

A contrasting approach to MacKenzie’s was presented by Chris Bradford, a member of the Stanford MBA Class of ’05, who founded the African Leadership Academy based in South Africa. He is developing a secondary school to draw and educate Africa’s top students, train them as leaders and entrepreneurs, and prepare them for entry into top universities.

“Bill Gates was 19 when he started Microsoft. We need to inspire youth to create businesses and become entrepreneurs,” Bradford said. Creating a curriculum that supports entrepreneurial activities is one of the goals of the academy.
“People talk about ‘the problem of youth,’” said Bradford. “I see the potential of youth. I believe inspired young people can change the world.”

— Karen O’Leary


The complete article on Douglas Engelbart and other inventors, "Masterminds,"is in the process of being digitized and will be available on-line soon. 

Douglas Engelbart
David Geffen Says Good Instincts Play Better for Him Than Good Plans



STANFORD GRADUATE SCHOOL OF BUSINESS — Entertainment industry mogul David Geffen created wealth for his clients and investors without depending on long-range plans and strategies.

A self-made billionaire, Geffen told Graduate School of Business students that he relies instead on his instincts, his keen eye for talent, honesty, and a knack for surrounding himself with smart people.

The legendary film and record producer spoke June 1 as the final speaker in the student-sponsored View from the Top speaker series. Geffen is the founder of Asylum Records and Geffen Records and cofounder of Dreamworks SKG (with Steven Spielberg and Jeffrey Katzenberg).

Wearing a T-shirt and jeans and arriving without a prepared speech or notes of any kind, Geffen was banking on the intelligence, curiosity, and collaborative spirit of his audience, along with his well-honed ability to wing it. He opened with a few lines to dispel the myth that he had always dreamed of a career in show business.

“I just needed a job,” he said. “Before being hired as an usher at the CBS Theatre, I didn’t even know there was a show business!” Witnessing performances by Barbara Streisand, Judy Garland, and Ethel Merman imparted the vision.

“Now, if you have any questions…” Students in the audience thought he was kidding, but—eager to learn the secrets of his legendary success—they quickly got into the spirit of it and fired one question after another. Asked to comment on the leadership challenges related to working with creative people, the renowned master of Hollywood spin and relentless deal-making responded with, “I didn’t have a clue!” He said that a lot.

“I wish I could give you a better answer. I didn’t have a clue about managing business. I never went to business school. I was just bumbling through a lot of my life,” said Geffen. “I was like the guy behind the curtain in The Wizard of Oz.

Throughout his 30-year career, Geffen was an agent, a manager, and a record and movie producer. He struck high-stakes deals with John Lennon, Elton John, Bob Dylan, Joni Mitchell, Jackson Browne, the Eagles, Guns ’n Roses, and Crosby, Stills, Nash, & Young.

As a theatrical producer, Geffen brought the musicals Cats and Dreamgirls to Broadway. His film production companies financed Risky Business, Oh God, Little Shop of Horrors, American Beauty, Gladiator, Saving Private Ryan, A Beautiful Mind, and more.

The companies that Geffen founded ultimately sold for millions—if not billions —of dollars. In 1972, Geffen sold Asylum, his first record company, to Warner Communications for $7 million. In 1980, he founded Geffen Records and 10 years later sold it to MCA for $550 million. Dreamworks SKG was sold to Viacom’s Paramount Pictures for $1.6 billion.

Born in Brooklyn in 1943, Geffen was thought by his mother to be a miracle child. She called him “King David” throughout most of his young life. “I was a terrible student. I had dyslexia when there wasn’t even a word for it. We were just dumb!” said Geffen.

After his father died, Geffen attended the University of Texas in Austin, where his brother was a student. He dropped out long before earning a degree. His first real job in show business was in the mail room at the William Morris Agency. He was a full-fledged agent in no time.

“In order to get a job at the William Morris Agency, I said I graduated from UCLA. I had gone to another agency first and the guy looked at me and said, ‘Are you kidding?! We only hire college graduates, and you’ve been fired from seven different jobs!’”

Geffen has had an affection for UCLA ever since. Thirty years later, he established a $200 million endowment at what is now the “Geffen Medical Center at UCLA,” the largest financial gift of its kind for a medical center in the United States. He also donated $5 million to the UCLA-affiliated Westwood Theatre, which is now The Geffen Playhouse.

Launching his first company, Asylum Records, wasn’t originally Geffen’s idea. As Jackson Browne’s manager, Geffen tried to talk the head of Atlantic Records into signing him to his label. “I said, ‘You should produce his records! He could make you a lot of money!’”

“And he said, ‘I have a lot of money! You start a record company and produce his records and make a lot of money!’ So I did.”

That was the beginning of Geffen’s career as a big-time producer. Linda Rondstadt, Joni Mitchell, and Laura Nyro followed.

A few years after selling Asylum, Geffen was misdiagnosed with cancer.

“I thought ‘Here I am, I’ve got all this money. I’ve worked [hard], and now I’ve got cancer! It was a very sobering experience. So I decided to go to New York and get high and have some fun.”

Geffen spent most nights at the legendary Studio 54, mingling with other luminaries.

Three years later, when Geffen learned that he did not have cancer, he returned to Los Angeles and founded Geffen Records and, subsequently, Geffen Film Company. When Jeffrey Katzenberg was fired as the CEO of Disney by Michael Eisner, Geffen joined Spielberg and Katzenberg to launch Dreamworks SKG.

“I did it for a friend; I did it for the sheer joy of helping out a friend,” said Geffen, who raised $2 billion from investors in several days based on the reputation of the three founders. “I was committed to seeing that our investors got their money back. I couldn’t deal with the thought that these people who trusted us wouldn’t get their money back. I told them that we wouldn’t take one penny in salary or bonuses or anything until they got a return. And we didn’t.”

Ten years after Dreamworks was founded, the creators sold the company to Viacom’s Paramount Pictures for $1.6 billion, despite the fact that the company had lost $150 million the previous year.

“The record and film industries have changed dramatically,” said Geffen.

“The opportunity for an entrepreneur to start a [record or film] company from scratch today is abysmal,” he said, citing the expense of making movies, the diminishing quality of film scripts, the poor response of record companies to anticipate the impact of digital downloads, and the improvement of home viewing.

“When you close your eyes and dream about the future, what do you think about?” asked a student at the end of the hour. “I would like to own the Los Angeles Times,” said Geffen. Los Angeles is his home, and he believes it deserves a great paper. He said he wants to transform it, and he has enough money not to have to worry about taking a loss in the process.

“Happy is harder than money,” Geffen said. “Anybody who thinks money will make you happy hasn’t got money. If you think your life is different if you have many millions or billions, it doesn’t change at all; it has no value at all—other than bragging rights.”

Expensive Mistakes Become Pearls of Wisdom
for Flash Technology Magnate Eli Harari

October 2006

“Fortunately, my wife set me straight,” the flash memory magnate told amused GSB students at the student-run View from the Top speech on October 26. Harari is an international expert and early developer of flash memory technology and the founder, president, and CEO of SanDisk, the top supplier of flash memory data storage products used in MP3 players, digital cameras, mobile phones, and handhelds.

“How many people on the earth know what you know about physics and semi-conductors?” asked his wife after several failed attempts at inventing a newfangled, retractable fishing rod.

“Maybe 100,” Harari admitted.

“Why don’t you focus on your core competency?!” she urged.

Focusing on one thing and doing it well turned out to be critical wisdom that influenced the trajectory of Harari’s career. He would learn the lesson more than once.

With his exceptional appreciation of the inviolate laws of physics, Harari helped to usher in flash memory technology long before early adopters, industry giants, and prominent venture capitalists were on board. His recognition of the physical principles at work in flash technology—similar to those in space radiation technology—helped fuel Harari’s drive to see it through to commercial success.

Originally from Israel, Harari came to the United States in 1969 with a fellowship to do research. He had $1,000 in his pocket.

“It was a golden era—1969—the year that Neil Armstrong touched the moon,” said the sanguine CEO. “It was the golden age of microelectronics and space travel; a very exciting time!”

“Stick to your convictions, no matter how painful” was the bottom-line of Harari’s talk and a prominent theme of his story. Turning down VC funding and walking away from lucrative partnerships when they were tied to conditions that conflicted with what he knew to be true were among the challenges.

Harari’s first job was with Hughes Aircraft where he was able to work on anything he wanted. But, because it was government funded, he was prevented from commercializing his discoveries. He left and went to Intel.

“Their spirit was incredible,” said Harari about the chiefs of that legendary company, Gordon Moore, Bob Noyce, and Andy Grove. But as Intel grew to 20,000 employees, it would not invest in Harari’s technology.

Harari left and founded his first company, WSI, where he learned how to run a business the hard way: by how not to run one. Mistakes included out-of-control spending and an out-of-sync board. The company was also trying to do too many things, Harari reflected.

“You do one thing and you do it well. If your chances of success are one in ten, you don’t double your chances of success by doing two things. You reduce your chances of success.”

The board of directors insisted that Harari—though an excellent technologist—put someone else at the helm to run the business. Eventually, Harari was fired.

“I was 43 and I had to start over again. But I'm challenged by adversity. It was those mistakes that have come in very handy,” Harari said. “Mistakes are very valuable. If you are pushing the envelope, you will make mistakes.”

“I’ve learned you need to have very good people who share your strategy and your goals.” Harari picked a highly successful team of three to found and run SanDisk. They have remained with the company for 18 years.

Even in the early days of—when a megabyte of memory was $50 rather than 2 cents—SanDisk beat Intel and IBM. But ushering in a new technology was tough. Harari learned with many other CEOs that after early adopters provide hope that an industry will take off, growth comes to a standstill.

“‘When you’re deep in a hole, stop digging and start climbing’ was very good advice,” said Harari of those early struggling stages.

It was the internet that changed life for digital cameras and—more important to Harari—for the tiny removable memory card business, the stuff of flash.

“I didn't have the internet in my business plan!” said Harari. It was a welcome force behind SanDisk’s success. Partnerships, particularly the one SanDisk has with Toshiba, have flowered and the two now share a $15 billion market.

Harari listed other lessons: Be honest. Don’t lie. Take calculated risks. Fix things when they need fixing. And “the harder you work, the luckier you get!”

“You are in a golden era,” Harari told the students. The stakes are high. A new multi-billion-dollar market is opening up. “The world is becoming very complex and brutally competitive,” said Harari.

The time is ripe for business models that can handle that complexity and competition.

“You were born at the right time, and you’re in the right place!”

— Karen O’Leary


Rocking at Crosstown

Putting a creative spin on the maxim "engage with the community,"
members of the Alameda CRC have transformed a dark, abandoned
Victorian hotel into the vibrant, light-infused Crosstown Community
Center, a dynamic space for bringing new art, music and friendships to

Open mic nights, concerts, mother and toddler groups, knitting groups,
book groups and impromptu jam sessions are among the activities that
spark creativity and friendship among neighbors who otherwise would
remain strangers.

Three years in the making, Crosstown was launched last August as an
independent venture by Dave Nederhood, the pastor of Alameda CRC.

In an era when communities don't really "commune," and proliferating
on every street corner are franchised coffee businesses built on a
financial model that speeds customers in and out, Crosstown was
designed to encourage customers to sip their coffee at a leisurely
pace and linger for as long as they like; even play the piano or sing
if there's an available mic.

"Conversation and creativity are two powerful chemicals in any
community," says Dave. "In our case, coffee is just the catalyst that
causes a great reaction between the two."

As an upper middle class area in Silicon Valley, Alameda is vulnerable
to the inhospitality that wealthy communities can breed, says Dave.

"In rural areas, you don't get that same fortress-like mentality,"
says Dave. "Our competition isn't Starbucks. It's television – which
is what keeps people in their homes. There's a huge need for
friendships and dialogue. The community presented that need. Neighbors
weren't talking to each other."

Reaching a post-modern world with a pre-modern faith is central for
Dave, and operating as an independent non-profit is critical to
Crosstown's success. Dave wants to be able to say with integrity that
it's not an outreach program but a true collaboration with the

While he and others in Silicon Valley are convinced that Christianity
needs re-presenting, relationships formed at Crosstown are based on
authentic connections born of heart-to-heart conversing. Pre-packaged
messages are as verboten as pre-packaged coffee.

"Shared stories help focus the work that the Holy Spirit is doing in
people's lives. Crosstown's tagline, 'It's about life and then some,'
indicates the process through which spiritual dialogue grows naturally
out of life's discussions."

Crosstown is a place for community members to find their voice, to
create and to connect. Responsive to the emerging visions of the
community, it's always adding new programs to the mix. "If you've got
a passion for it, we'll find a way to do it!" says Dave.

An example of a local talent connecting with a ready audience is
"Cowboy Jared," who walked into Crosstown one day for a cup of coffee
and found the place was teeming with mothers and toddlers. After a few
impromptu performances, he now packs the place on a regular basis.
Toddlers depend on it.

Besides recognizing the need to create a sense of community for
Alameda residents, Dave has also longed for years to provide a place
for young musical artists to be mentored, hone their craft and build
up their reputation as artists.

"Conceptually, Crosstown originated as a vision for a teen center and
music venue where ministry to and with young people would happen in
the context of the arts," said Dave. He believes young artists and
musicians are vital to the life of the church and – like more
traditional artists and missionaries – they should be respected and
supported in tangible ways rather than marginalized.

Artists don't get the nurturing they deserve if their art form doesn't
conform to conventional "high-arts" pursuits, says Dave, such as
playing the pipe organ, singing in the choir or crafting stained glass

"Crosstown is helping bring about a better practice of good theology
at the street level," says Dave.

Suzannne Martin-Smith, the community center director, collaborated on
the Crosstown vision when she recognized the need to provide mothers
and toddlers with a place to connect and flourish in a coffeehouse

"A woman came in with two young girls," Suzanne reported. "She said,
'Oh my gosh! This is so great! I just met a friend in Starbucks and
people were rushing us out the door, giving us dirty looks!'"

"Here, kids are encouraged to play and not be 'shushed,'" said
Suzanne, who orchestrates a stories and crafts program for kids.

Serving half-caf, no fat, low-foam latte's. And hold the flustered.

The sweet, cheery-face and affectionate energy of Faith Rusca, the
manager of Crosstown, is another of the many reflections of the "home
sweet home" atmosphere of the place. Faith and Deb Nederhood, chief
barista and wife of Pastor Dave, not only know their customers' coffee
preferences. They also learn what's happening with the kids and how
the medical tests went.

"Sometimes Deb will come home and say 'Gee, John looked ten years
older today. I think he's really stressed. I'm going to pray for him,"
says Dave.

Besides prayer, church members and friends have contributed funding,
volunteer time and expertise to make Crosstown happen.

Bryan Gower, president of the board of directors, reported that
community members emerged with experience in non-profit management,
coffeehouse management, book keeping, networking, city planning, legal
services, construction, music promotion, children's program
development and fund raising.

A strong advocate of Asset Based Community Development (ABCD), which
was formed at Northwestern University's Kellogg School of Management,
George Montoya recognized that the model of collaboration versus
needs-based outreach was already in operation at Crosstown.

"ABCD was a Godsend," said Dave who hadn't had a language or a
structure for their method of tapping into the community's dreams,
desires and resources.

Bryan, Suzanne and Dave attended training in ABCD and they were off
and running. If not financially solid yet, Crosstown has already had a
powerful influence on the community at large.

"Three years ago when we started, there were few if any places in
Alameda where kids or teens could just hang out or where families
could come and enjoy music," says Bryan. Now family-friendly and
community-building places are germinating throughout the community.

"I can't say that we were the cause of that, but I do like to think
that we tuned into what Alameda needed and wanted and we facilitated
people in building community spaces," Bryan said.

"Once in awhile, I stand back and take it all in," says Faith who puts
in about 60 hours a week at Crosstown.

"Everything that we set out to do at Crosstown has flourished. It's a
home-away-from-home, a place where you can meet like-minded
individuals and form incredible relationships that create beautiful

San Francisco Chronicle Article that led to my becoming Admiral Stockdale's Press Secretary in the 1992 U.S. Presidential Campaign

Care of the dying: Doctors say there are compassionate alternatives to euthanasia



Death may be inevitable, but the pain and suffering that often accompanies the last stages of a terminal illness is not, according to a number of physicians who are working toward improving the care of the dying.

When the problem of pain and suffering is properly addressed, the demand for doctor-assisted suicide lessens, according to Dr. Katherine Foley, a neurologist at Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center in New York and director of the Project on Death in America.

But in recent years, the focus of public discussions about death has been on the politically charged issue of physician-aided dying and euthanasia. Dr. Foley's interest lies, instead, in generating solutions to the problem of pain -- solutions that can be supplied by family, friends and health-care professionals who care for the dying.

Discussion of the care of the dying must be broadened to address what Americans value, what kind of society we are, and how we alleviate the pain and suffering of the terminally ill, Dr. Foley said in a presentation, "Transforming the Culture of Death in America," given at Stanford University last month.


Affirming life


Control of pain and of the psychological, social and spiritual problems of the dying through palliative care is paramount, said Dr. Foley, who also serves as chief of the Pain Service at Sloan-Kettering. The goal of palliative care is achievement of the best possible quality of life for patients and their families.

Palliative care affirms life, and regards dying as a normal process. It doesn't hasten or postpone death; it provides relief from pain and other distressing symptoms; integrates the psychological and spiritual aspects of patient care; offers a support system to help patients live as actively as possible until death; and offers a support system to help the family cope during the patient's illness and their own bereavement.

Programs of palliative care stress that illness should not be regarded as an isolated aberration in physiology, but be considered in terms of the suffering it causes and the impact that it has on the patient's family. The unit of care is the family, rather than the patient alone.

In addressing the need to improve the care of the dying, the medical community must increase its understanding of the dying experience for patients and their families and identify barriers to appropriate end-of-life care, Dr. Foley said.

"In my clinical practice, I have been asked by suffering patients to aid them in death because of severe pain," said Dr. Foley. "I have had the opportunity to see these requests for aid in death fade with adequate pain control, psychological support, provision of family support, and with the promise that their symptoms would be controlled throughout the dying process," she said.

Physician and author Dr. Leon Kass attacks doctor-assisted suicide as an alternative to palliative care. "Physicians should focus on easing and enhancing the lives of those who are dying, rather than serving as a 'hired syringe' when medical treatment fails to restore health and wholeness," he said.

Dr. Kass, a physician at the University of Chicago and the author of "Toward a More Natural Science: Biology and Human Affairs," said appropriate amounts of analgesia, such as morphine, can be given to patients to relieve their pain. This is proper, he said, even when the amount of the drug given hastens death, as long as the intention is to treat the pain and not to end life.


More work to be done


While physicians like Dr. Foley and Dr. Kass are helping to lead a national discussion on palliative care for the dying, some members of the medical community apparently have a long way to go before terminally ill patients can be assured of such care. Severe, unrelenting pain interferes with the patients' quality of life, including their activities of daily living, their sleep, and their social interactions, said Dr. Foley.

Seventy to 90 percent of patients in the advanced stages of cancer have significant pain that requires the use of opium-based drugs, she said.

Eighty percent of elderly patients have chronic pain; and 66 percent have pain in the last month of life. Caregivers in a survey of deaths of 1,227 elderly people reported that 33 percent were in pain during the 24 hours before death, according to Dr. Foley.

Psychiatric problems occur in more than 60 percent of patients with advanced cancer, with adjustment disorders, depression, anxiety and delirium being the most prominent and well-described, Dr. Foley said. However, she said, studies show that psychiatric symptoms can be resolved with adequate pain relief.

Links to newspaper and magazine articles, including some that are printed on this site:

U.S. Secretary of Commerce speaks to Stanford GSB on global competition:

The problem of pain at the end of life, and physicians on physician-aided dying:

Photographic Art: A  profile of photographer Charlene Dorman of "Therefore I Have Hope:"

Arts & Entertainment Profile of Cabaret Singer at Piaf's in San Francisco:

 Reinventing the Process of Budgeting: Interviews with CIO's