1. How long have you been in the industry, and what is your current job title ?
Until its recent acquisition by IBM, I was executive chairman of Vivisimo – a business software company – and before that its CEO and co-founder. Now I'm an author, advisor and board director to others, and also looking at starting something new.
2. Did you have a mentor and, if so, who ?
Herbert A. Simon, '78 Nobel Laureate in Economics, was my doctoral advisor in computer science. He was also one of the founders of the field of Artificial Intelligence. I wrote about his teachings in an MIT
Press memorial collection about him: "Personal Recollections from 15 Years of Monthly Meetings". He was unparalleled.
3. Are you by nature an optimist or a pessimist ?
An optimist expects good outcomes and a pessimist bad ones. I was taught that human beings are bad predictors of the future. So I don't try to predict it, just to influence it in good directions.
4. Which business leader do you most admire and why ?
No single one. I most admire leaders who have gone the whole cycle: got an idea, took risks, founded a company, made it successful, and turned over an enduring company to others that will move it forward.
Certainly Bill Gates and Steve Jobs come to mind, and others.
5. What's the biggest lesson you have learned in your career to date ?
No matter how smart you are, somebody else is smarter than you, with very few exceptions. And that person may even be down the hall. So try to build upon others' smarts.
6. What's your favorite business quotation or life motto ?
Try to see things from others' viewpoint. I was a devoted competitive chess player, and if you can't foresee what the other side will do, you're not in the game.
7. What's the best business book you've ever read ?
The various books on business strategy by Harvard Business School professor Clayton Christensen, as well as his book on the history of U.S. universities written in the light of his ideas on disruptive innovation.