``I'm here to originate, to stimulate new ideas and programs, and not just to adjudicate arguments,'' said Robert S. McNamara when, in 1961, he joined the Kennedy administration as secretary of defense. ``You've got to do things differently or else you're not improving them.'' Mr. McNamara's whole career, in fact, bears witness to his desire to ``do things differently.'' A straight-A high school student in California, he majored in economics and philosophy at University of California at Berkeley, where he was elected to Phi Beta Kappa after his sophomore year. After studying at the Graduate School of Business Administration at Harvard University, McNamara joined the faculty there in 1940, leaving within several years to join the Eighth Air Force in Britain.
After the war he joined the Ford Motor Company - becoming, in 1960, the first president of that company not from the Ford family. It was, however, a short-lived honor: Within weeks he had left for Washington, where he would remain in the Cabinet in both the Kennedy and Johnson administrations.
In 1968 McNamara became president of the World Bank, a position he held for 13 years. Since 1981, he has served on a number of corporate boards and worked with nonprofit organizations on such issues as nuclear arms, population and development, world hunger, and East-West relations. He is the author of several books, including ``Blundering into Disaster: Surviving the First Century of the Nuclear Age,'' published in October. -R.M.K.