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Life Arts    H4'ed 10/24/15

A Stroll Through the Mind of a Genius

By Ken Brower  Posted by Daniel Geery (about the submitter)       (Page 4 of 4 pages) Become a premium member to see this article and all articles as one long page.   2 comments
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Which is another area where Dave had influence. I learned a lot of my hiring philosophy from Dave. He would hire largely on intuition, based on aptitudes and attributes, as opposed to the normal HR procedure of looking at the resume and hiring on the basis of achievements and qualifications. That's how he got Jim Harding, who ended up doing decades of important work on electric utility policy. That hiring philosophy is a perpetual and healthy source of tension at Rocky Mountain Institute. Because I have very much the Brower philosophy. I've kept it because it has served us so well.

Occasionally Dave's intuition was wrong about someone. Sometimes mine is, too. I've hired several people who didn't work out. And then you have to recognize it and get gracefully out of it as soon as you can. But most of them have worked extremely well. The test that I keep challenging our HR director with is: If a young Amory showed up at your door, would you hire him? Based on your present criteria, probably not, because he doesn't have any degrees. It would be the same if the young Dave Brower showed up. No degree. Dropped out as a sophomore to go climb mountains. But made up for it with things he learned up there, didn't he?

Dave was a very smart guy. And not at all shy about learning new things. He delighted in continuous learning. He reminded me of that Confucian analect, "Learn as if you're chasing after somebody you can never quite catch up with." Nothing got past him. And your mother was like that, too. Absolutely nothing got past Anne. Very sharp.

I came out of experimental physics and a bunch of other mathematical disciplines, and I was always impressed and astonished that Dave would get the numbers right. If you didn't get the numbers right, he would spot it right away, doing the math in his head. You know, he's kind of like these financial guys who can glance at a spreadsheet and instantly know what's going on in the company. You don't normally think of him as a quant. But he had a very keen mind for numbers, which does not normally go with all of the right-brain genius. As long as I wrote clearly what the numbers were about, he would have a very good idea of what they were supposed to be. In the rare event of my making an arithmetic mistake, he would generally spot it before I did. That was impressive.

I think Dave's predilection for action over study really rubbed off on me in a big way. I've spent decades studying a lot of things, but I tend to learn them better by doing them. Dave would never have been effective in a think tank. He was very much a learn-by-doing guy. Occasionally I would ask him if he thought something was on the right track. He might say yes or no, and he might have a few sentences of koan-like encouragement. But he was very good about not telling me too much about how to do something. Because if I figured it out, then I'd really own it and I'd really get it.

He did have a way of attracting talent and inspiring action that was unique in my experience. I've had some treasured mentors over the years, but he was by far the greatest influence, especially in his leadership, his style of being and doing, and his ability to cause vast and lasting change.

I don't know if he was ever much exposed to Taoists. But he would have liked Taoism. He would have very much resonated with a lot of Zen. I was just reading Huston Smith the other night, the great theologian who was here at Esalen a few weeks ago. Huston Smith describes his last conversation with Goto, a great Zen roshi in Japan. The roshi said, "Zen is simple. Simple! So simple: Infinite gratitude to the past, infinite service to the present, infinite responsibility for the future." That could have been a Dave Brower line.

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In my run for U.S. Senate against Utah's Orrin Hatch, I posted many progressive ideas and principles that I internalized over the years. I'm leaving that site up indefinitely, since it describes what I believe most members of our species truly (more...)

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