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  • One of the last times I worked with Michael Cronan before he lost his battle to cancer, we were hashing out a plan for a panel at the SOCAP11 conference. We were sitting on his porch overlooking the UC Berkeley campus, the city of Berkeley, the bay bridge and San Francisco beyond. It's one hell of a view from high up in the Berkeley hills. Michael and his wife/partner Karin are namers. They name things. Like the Amazon Kindle. Tivo. Kno. But I named their house – Eucalyptus Perch. I know, I'm bragging, but it gives me a lot of pleasure to have named the house of the namers. Eucalyptus trees tower around the sprawling ranch house, and their scent is everywhere. Eucalyptus Perch has been the site of many a festive gathering at which people may or may not have been very, very drunk and well fed. On this particular afternoon we were gathered for work.

    At the upcoming conference Michael, Karin, Maria Giudice and I would be talking about searching for and gleaning insights. Each of them knew all about insights and how to translate them into products and services that people love. Michael and Karin had been married for over 30 years, raised two sons and built a company together. Maria had built and run her own show – Hot Studio – for 15 years. Our conversation dove into the depths of what it means to be a designer working with partners who have a cherished notion they want to bring into the world.

    Michael had a particularly philosophical perspective on the matter. His brilliance was a masterful combination of wild idea generation and deep listening. He and Karin developed a process for taking their partners through deep psychological journeys that transformed mindsets and ideas of what's possible. Michael had a gift for getting to the essence of things quickly and consisely. What he wanted to us to emphasize in our panel talk, is that above all, we must treat people as we would want to be treated. We must support them, nurture them, respect their ideas and hold their dreams with care. That we must follow that lesson we were all taught in grade school, the golden rule.

    Our panel went great. He was so sick, and negotiating a packed schedule of chemo and clients and family. But he made time for the panel because he knew it was important to me. And he generously shared his wisdom. Afterwards we went to dinner and I snapped a photo of Michael and Karin. It's probably the last one I have of the two of them together, before he passed. I didn't realize it at the time, but it was one of the last times I would be able to work with him.
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