Chris Flink stands in front of one of artist Theo Jansen’s enormous sculptures, which is part of a current exhibition at the Exploratorium.
As a partner at IDEO as well as a founding faculty member of Stanford’s Hasso Plattner Institute of Design (aka, d.school), Chris Flink is well-versed at working within pioneering organizations. “I’ve learned that leading institutions must keep innovating relentlessly,” he says. “They need to press forward in new ways or risk getting mired in their own success and mythology.” In late June, Flink brought his experience, leadership and vision to the Exploratorium—San Francisco’s hands-on museum that melds art, science and learning—in his role as its new executive director.
A New York native, Flink earned degrees from Stanford’s School of Engineering and Graduate School of Business, and has taught at both. He continues to dwell “in the heart of Stanford’s campus with my wife, daughters, dog and over 100 undergraduate sophomores,” he says, noting that he and his wife are faculty Resident Fellows who live adjoining an undergraduate dorm.
Flink’s arrival at the Exploratorium coincides with its exhibition Strandbeest: The Dream Machines of Theo Jansen, which features large-scale kinetic sculptures. (Strandbeests is Dutch for “beach animals.”) The show runs through Sept. 5 and marks the North American debut of the creations. Jansen, a physicist turned artist, constructed them from PVC tubing, zip ties and string; wind power brings them to life. “Like Theo Jansen’s imaginative strandbeests,” says Flink, “I believe the Exploratorium itself is poised to catch fresh winds; to make gutsy strides forward; and to evolve in exciting, unexpected ways.”
Tickets: $19.95–$29.95, free for children 3 and under, Pier 15 (Embarcadero at Green Street), San Francisco, 415.528.4444.
Originally published in the July issue of Silicon Valley