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``An accomplished generalist,'' reads the citation for the Swiss Prix de Talloires, which Harlan Cleveland won in 1981. ``He's a man who can't really hold a job,'' jests his friend and coauthor Lincoln P. Bloomfield, professor of political science at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and former member of the National Security Council in the Carter administration.

Judging from Dr. Cleveland's formidable list of accomplishments, both appear to be right. When he retired in 1987 as dean of the Hubert H. Humphrey Institute of Public Affairs at the University of Minnesota, his jobs included:

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assistant secretary of state for International Organization Affairs in the Kennedy and Johnson administrations;

ambassador to NATO;

director of the United Nations Relief and Rehabilitation Administration;

director of the program on international affairs for the Aspen Institute;

president of the University of Hawaii at Honolulu.

Drawing on that experience, Cleveland in 1985 wrote ``The Knowledge Executive: Leadership in an Information Society,'' in which he pointed out that ```Information-rich' does not mean affluent; it is quite as likely to mean swamped.''

How does he keep from being swamped himself?

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``He has what I would call `over-the-horizon vision,''' says Prof. Bloomfield. ``His intuition is a very powerful instrument.''

``One of Harlan's great strengths is that he dares to think differently,'' says G. Edward Schuh, who replaced Cleveland as dean of the Humphrey Institute.

``He's a prophet in the best sense of the word,'' adds Dr. Schuh. ``...he says these preposterous things that make you go back and think about what you have been assuming.''

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