Careers: Interviews
Dr. William F. Miller, World Premier Authority and Visionary on Business Strategy, Innovation, Technology, and International Thought Leadership

This week, Stephen Ibaraki, FCIPS, I.S.P., ITCP, MVP, DF/NPA, CNP has an exclusive interview with Dr. William F. Miller.

  • Herbert Hoover Professor of Public and Private Management Emeritus
    and Professor of Computer Science Emeritus, Former Provost
    Stanford University
  • President and CEO Emeritus, SRI International
  • Chairman Emeritus, Borland Software Corporation
  • Chairman/Founder, Nanostellar, Inc.
  • Chairman/Founder, Lumiette, Inc.
  • Managing Partner, Actium Ventures
  • University Professor and Honorary Dean
    William F. Miller School of Management of Technology
    Konkuk University, Seoul, Korea
  • ....

Dr. William F. MillerDr. William F. Miller has spent about half of his professional life in business and about half in academia. Dr. Miller came to Silicon Valley from a position as Director of the Applied Mathematics Division at the Argonne National Laboratory where he worked after receiving his PhD in Physics from Purdue University in 1956. At the Argonne National Laboratory Dr. Miller conducted research in basic atomic physics and in computer science. He and his colleagues began early work in what is now called computational science.

Dr. Miller was the last faculty member recruited to Stanford University by the legendary Frederick Terman who was then Vice President and Provost of Stanford. He was recruited to help form the Computer Science Department at Stanford and to direct the Computation Group at the Stanford Linear Accelerator Center (SLAC). He led the computerization of SLAC, and later as Associate Provost for Computing he led the computerization of the Stanford Campus. He carried out research in computer science and computer systems and directed the research of many graduate students.

As Vice President for Research and later as Vice President and Provost, Miller championed the establishment of the Office of Technology Licensing which has become the model for such activities at other universities here and abroad. He actively facilitated the establishment of a number of interdisciplinary programs such as the Human Biology Program, the International Security and Arms Control Program, and the Values Technology and Society Program. In 1978 he negotiated and brought to Stanford the first students from the Peoples Republic of China. In 1979 he was named the Herbert Hoover Professor of Public and Private Management.

In 1968 Dr. Miller also played a role in the founding of the first Mayfield Fund (venture capital) as a special limited partner and advisor to the general partners.

As President and CEO of SRI International, Miller opened SRI to the Pacific Region, he established the spin-out and commercialization program at SRI, and established the David Sarnoff Research Center (now the Sarnoff Corporation) as a for-profit subsidiary of SRI. He became the Chairman and CEO of the David Sarnoff Research Center.

In 1997 at the 10th anniversary of the founding of the David Sarnoff Research Center, Dr. Miller along with Jack Welsh, Myron DuBain, and James Tietjen received the Sarnoff Founders Medal.

In 1982 Miller was appointed to the National Science Board; additionally, he served on the Computer Science and Telecommunications Board of the National Research Council. He has served on the board of directors of several major companies such as Signetics, Fireman's Fund America, Wells Fargo Bank, Pacific Gas and Electric Company, Varian Associates, and Borland Software, Corp.

In 1990 Dr. Miller retired from SRI International and returned to Stanford half time where he taught technology related courses and carried out research on the IT industry and on the characteristics of entrepreneurial regions. He also spent about half of his time working with start-ups and non-profits in Silicon Valley. He helped organize Joint Venture Silicon Valley Network and served on the board of directors for three years. He co-founded and served as Vice Chairman of SmartValley, Inc. Additionally, he aided the formation of CommerceNet and served on the board of directors. Dr. Miller was a founding director and served as Vice Chairman of the Center for Excellence in Non-profits, and was a Founding Member and Chair of the Campaign Cabinet (1992-1994) of the Alexis de Tocqueville Society of Santa Clara. He currently serves as Chairman of the Board of Sentius Corp, Nanostellar, Inc., and Lumiette, Inc. and is a Partner in Actium Ventures(Venture Capital).

Dr. Miller co-directs an international research project called the Stanford Program on Regions on Innovation and Entrepreneurship, and he co-directs an Executive Education program on Strategic Uses of Information Technology.

Additionally, Dr. Miller worked with foreign countries helping them establish their technology policies and practices, notably Singapore, Malaysia, Japan, and Korea. He served on the International Panel of the Singapore Science and Technology Board, and currently serves on the International Advisory Panel for the Multimedia Super Corridor in Malaysia.

Dr. Miller has received a number of awards and honors:

  • Life Member of the National Academy of Engineering , 1987
  • Life Fellow IEEE, 1999
  • Fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Science, 1980
  • Fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, 1987
  • Stanford Computing Pioneer by the AFIPS History of Computing Committee, 1987
  • Frederic B. Whitman Award, United Way of the Bay Area, 1982
  • Technology 100 (International Technology Leaders), Technology Magazine, 1981
  • Tau Beta Pi Eminent Engineer, 1989
  • Sarnoff Founders Medal, 1997
  • David Packard Civic Entrepreneur Team Award, 1998
  • Robert K. Jaedicke Silver Apple Award (Stanford Business School Alumni), 1998
  • The Order of Civil Merit (Dongbaeg Medal) by the Republic of Korea, 2000
  • The Okawa Prize 2000, The Okawa Foundation, Tokyo, Japan
  • The Silicon Valley Engineering Hall of Fame, 2001
  • Junior Achievement Business Hall of Fame, 2002
  • Commendation for Service, Japan External Trade Organization (JETRO, 2002)
  • "Most Mentoring Angel" Award. International Angel Investors, 2002
  • Honorary Professor, Zhejiang University, Hangzhou China, 2004
  • Lifetime Achievement Award, Borland Software Corp, 2005
  • Trustee/Charter member Asian American Multitechnology Association, 2007
  • David Packard Civic Entrepreneur Award, 2008
  • New Silk Road Award, California Asia Business Council, 2008
  • University Professor and Honorary Dean
    William F. Miller School of Management of Technology
    Konkuk University, Seoul, Korea, 2009
  • Dr. Miller is elected as founding Director for the IP3 Global Industry Council (IP3-GIC, 2010).
    Quoted from IP3: "Global Industry Council Directors are specially nominated and invited to serve within the UNESCO-sanctioned body as internationally recognized luminary executives, thought leaders, and visionaries and for their strong history of providing substantive contributions to global business, industry, society, education, and governments."

Dr. Miller received the BS (1949), MS (1951), PhD (1956) and Honorary DSC (1972) from Purdue University.

Dr. Miller works with the Cheetah Conservation Fund Namibia which is dedicated to preserving cheetahs in the wild in Namibia. He is a member of the Advisory Board of the Wildlife Conservation Network.

To listen to the interview, click on this MP3 file link

The latest blog on the interview can be found in the IT Managers Connection (IMC) forum where you can provide your comments in an interactive dialogue.


Interview Time Index (MM:SS) and Topic

:01:08: Can you profile your work on industrial development with special interest in local and regional industrial development, the evolution of regions of innovation and entrepreneurship, the "habitat" for entrepreneurship, and the globalization of R&D? What are your predications?
"....There are basically three ways of getting economic growth. One is by improving the factor inputs....Second is through trade and comparative advantage, specialization. Third is through innovation and entrepreneurship. For developed countries and in rapidly developing countries the latter becomes very important...."

:02:47: What can you say about the future of each of these countries: Japan, Korea, China, Taiwan, and Malaysia?
"....In trying to move up the value-added scale, as all of them are trying to do, one of the most essential things is the quality of their educational institutions.....I think they are making the right progress but it takes a long time to make a strong institution and the structure of it has a lot to do with it. The faculty and the administrators need a lot freedom of action...."

:06:34: Now can you contrast this with countries in the EU?
"....The European Union is going through a lot of change and right now they are wracked with the difficulties of their heavy debt....The European countries have to solve that problem but at the same time there has been a movement toward reforming their universities, making them stronger and with an emphasis on innovation and entrepreneurship (again there are structural issues which is why it is more difficult in Europe than I think it is in Asia)....."

:10:24: What do you see for the future of North America?
"....I think the North America economy will still be a very big economy for a very long time. A lot of our progress will depend upon new activities and there has been a huge amount of research support and stimulus in the area of green technologies. I think that clean tech or green technologies offer a great deal of opportunities because almost anybody can play some role in the green economy..."

:11:56: Can you talk about your work as Co-Director Stanford Program on Regions of Innovation and Entrepreneurship (SPRIE)?
"....We've studied a lot of local regions around the world. We started with Silicon Valley because we had so many people asking about Silicon Valley and how it worked and we still have that....We produced a book called The Silicon Valley Edge (published in 2000). Since that time we've had three other publications - one of which was 'Making IT: The Rise of Asia in High Tech'...."

:16:06: Do you see other regions with the same kind of capability or the same kind of maturity as Silicon Valley anywhere else in the world?
"....We've looked at a lot and I don't see any that have all of these features....But Silicon Valley has most or all of these features...."

:17:24: You indicated that you have a number of visitors that come to this program to have a look. Are they governments or are they regions, etc.?
"....We have people from all aspects. We have people from government (usually local governments); we have people from universities, business, etc...."

:18:42: Can you talk further about your work as Co-Director Stanford Executive Education program on Strategic Uses of Information Technology and the Stanford Program on Regions of Innovation and Entrepreneurship (SPRIE)?
"....Those are two different programs. The Stanford Executive Education program on Strategic Uses of Information Technology which we ran for about twelve years has now terminated. It focused on how companies used technology as part of their growth strategy and was aimed towards the middle level executive....On the Program on Regions of Innovation and Entrepreneurship we have some new initiatives....We are taking new initiatives to expand in different areas from the ones that we've studied in the past...."

:22:05: Who would you say are the main consumers of all of this research?
"....Mostly it is government people, academics, planners, university people, venture capital associations...."

:22:32: Tell us more about your work as Chairman/Founder of Nanostellar, Inc. What do you hope to achieve?
"....Nanostellar is a materials design company and our first line of products is the catalyst for catalytic converters and we are focusing on catalytic converters for diesel engines....We are also working on some other areas....I think what we have been able to demonstrate is the value of our rational design process...."

:25:35: What can you tell us about your work as Chairman/Founder of Lumiette, Inc.? What are you targeting to achieve?
"....Lumiette is a lighting company. We have an older technology that was designed for another purpose which we've now redesigned its use for general lighting....It has the about the same efficacy as LEDs, but we're a lot cheaper than LEDs and it is also dimmable. We see this as providing a lower cost alternative to the LEDs for both commercial and residential...."

:28:04: Dr. Miller can you profile your past history with US Presidents? What are your views on the current political situation?
"....I think there are certain things that make good leaders and the role of President is becoming increasingly more demanding....One of the great features of leadership is understanding those world events over which you may not have much control and how to deal with them...."

:31:57: Please share your history in China and with China's leaders?
"....I met a large number of leaders. It was a very interesting time for me to see their changes and I thought a lot of the transitions were peaceful transitions which is a great credit to the country...."

:35:27: Please share your experiences at the Shanghai World Expo?
"....First I went to Changsha (capital of Hunan province), where I spoke with high school students about college education (particularly college education in the United States). That was very interesting and independent of the Expo. I went from there to Wuxi where there were some forums being held that were connected to the Expo.....I didn't have a lot of time at the Expo but I went to couple of the pavilions...."

:37:37: In your speaking engagements to the students was there one particular question that stood out?
"....For these young people (high school students), their concern was could they adjust, (not could they adjust academically but could they adjust socially)...."

:41:35: What is your assessment of India?
"....I'm less informed about India. I was going to India in the early 90's and I've not been back for more than ten years now. I think India is very dynamic as is China...All the external parameters indicate that they are doing very well and will continue to do well in this high tech economy...."

:42:25: Dr. Miller comments and shares his experiences on the presentations which he makes worldwide.
"....I do a lot of presentations in different parts of the world. What I find interesting from my viewpoint, is there are certain commonalities of attitudes and there are differences, and to try to understand the distinction between those which are very common and those which are different...."

:44:50: Tell us more about your David Packard Civic Entrepreneur Award in 2008.
"....That's an award given by the Joint Venture: Silicon Valley network and the Packard Family Foundation, to recognize people who carry on the spirit of David Packard. It's for work in civic entrepreneurship (sometimes referred to as social entrepreneurship)...."

:47:34: You mentioned non-profit organizations and a real challenge for non-profits is funding, so what are your recommendations on that front?
"....I've always had that feeling that whether you are a 'for profit' organization and you take people's investment money or a 'non-profit' organization and you take people's charitable contributions, you have an obligation to those people to use that money well. I think that once non-profits understand that then they can develop a plan in which people have confidence and they can do better with their fundraising...."

:51:05: Dr. Miller explains what led to Konkuk University in Seoul Korea opening up the William F. Miller School of Management of Technology with him as Honorary Dean in 2009.
"....I didn't invent the idea of management technology but I did put a name on it. I think sometimes putting a name on it gives you more credit than you deserve but it gives you that recognition...."

:55:10: What is a key lesson that you wish to pass on from all of your roles?
"....Dealing with the unexpected...."

:56:23: What do you consider to be your top contributions?
"....Understanding the processes of technology development comes to the core of technology management. I made something of a specialty of understanding breadth....I often make the point that leadership and management are not separable....If you have management without leadership it is sterile, but if you have leadership without management it's impotent (nothing gets done)...."

:59:28: In your prior roles, what were the three most difficult challenges that you were not able to overcome at that time? What would you do differently now?
"....I had the ambition to do more things than I could do. Having to prioritize those was always painful because I wanted to do them all...."

:01:00:43: You choose the areas--provide your top predictions of future trends and their implications/opportunities?
"....All the emphasis on mobility of information....How rapidly the value point in the supply chain shifts....We will see big concerns about what that means socially....In terms of global trends: China is a major player in the world and it is changing a lot of the economic dynamics in Asia...."

:01:05:00: With the proliferation of information, which are your top recommended resources and why?
"....Books....Aggregators and the sorters and people who play the role that editors of newspapers used to play will become important now...."

:01:06:29: Please share stories (something surprising, unexpected, amazing, or humorous) from your work?
"....My surprising and more amusing things have been in my wildlife work. I've been active in wildlife conservation for many years...."

:01:09:02: I have a unique opportunity to drill into the accumulated wisdom from an accomplished international executive, innovator, researcher, and thought leader. If you could sum up your life experiences with career tips for the ICT professional, what would be your tips and the reasons behind them?
"....Get some breadth of understanding, not to focus too narrowly....Perseverance....Hard work....Be prepared for the unexpected...."

:01:10:24: What are your thoughts on computing as a recognized profession like medicine and law, with demonstrated professional development, adherence to a code of ethics, and recognized credentials?
"....I think the majority of the people understand that there is a responsibility to the people you are working with. Computing is a profession that lets you go in many different directions. There are so many areas and the applications are increasing and it is a wonderful profession from that viewpoint...."

:01:11:16: Dr. Miller talks about who had the greatest impact on his life.

:01:14:23: If you were doing this interview, what questions would you ask and then what would be your answers?
"....Questions about leadership...."

[Note: See another podcast interview with Dr. William F. Miller.]


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