Nothing like selling cable TV door-to-door up and down the East Coast to teach you a little bit about people, and overcome any possible fear of putting yourself and your ideas on the line. Mike Duke, vp IT innovation product development at Wachovia, honed his people skills, learned to listen, and when not to knock on a door, while putting himself through college.

Take that kind of initiative, and combine it with a MacGyver-like ability to solve problems-ask him about the time he and colleagues fashioned from spare parts a device that could remotely reboot servers in Tokyo-and you have a born champion of innovation. Duke has a 20-plus year career in information technology, including the last 11 at Wachovia. But he credits his innovation inspiration to the team he worked with at Lotus Development Corp. years before Excel was born. "I was inspired by some truly creative folks who could really pull resources together; those are the folks I gravitate towards," Duke says.

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