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Book Excerpt

Creativity Dividends

In December 1981, as I commuted daily to work at Tandem Computers’ facility in Cupertino, California, I relished the companionship of my daughter Kim (three and a half ) and son Lance (nearly five) to their school near my office.

They knew I liked to learn, and the commute to school was about thirty-five to forty-five minutes. They welcomed the opportunity to share with me their interests and observations from the backseat of our vehicle, Brown Olds Adventure Mobile.

Our creative games fueled and infl uenced our leadership values and practices. Because the games were fun and the kids earned creativity dividends, they ignited their own enthusiasm.

I was working in Silicon Valley where workplace volatility seems to be perpetual. My previous employer, Applied Materials, located in Santa Clara, was going through layoffs. I joined Tandem Computers in Cupertino, my third “Fortune 500 company” in the computer industry (IBM and GE were the other two).

Before the separation and divorce, I had taken Lance and Kim to Play and Learn Childcare, a preschool and day care facility near our home. However, I wanted the stability of a school that would provide some academics, and the kids would already be at the new school when their mom moved to Sacramento, a hundred and thirty miles away. These were major transitions. (I had no relatives within hundreds of miles.)

When I told the kids about the new school in December 1981, I added an element of “funobtainium” (way of having fun) by saying we would carpool.

Kim asked, “Daddy, what does ‘carpool’ mean?”

My answer to Kim’s question was “Love, ‘carpool’ means you’ll decide the route and I’ll drive.” Had I not listened and responded fully and respectfully, there would be no color-coded commute routes. What an opportunity missed that would have been for us.

I wanted the word “carpool” to make sense to her. I took two American Automobile Association (Triple A) maps, of South San Jose and North San Jose, and the kids and I got on the floor and taped them together. With colored pens, I drew several routes from our home in South San Jose to their school near Cupertino.

I explained what the lines meant on the map and assured them we would understand them all and have fun. I said the “zipper lines” were railroad tracks, the broad lines were expressways, and we would see all of them. I showed them on the map where we lived and where their school was located. I recorded many of our commute explorations and conversations.