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Title: Oral History Interview with David DeVries, November 23 and December 2, 1998. Interview S-0010. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007): Electronic Edition.
Author: DeVries, David, interviewee
Interview conducted by Millwood, Elizabeth
Funding from the Institute of Museum and Library Services supported the electronic publication of this interview.
Text encoded by Jennifer Joyner
Sound recordings digitized by Aaron Smithers Southern Folklife Collection
First edition, 2007
Size of electronic edition: 156 Kb
Publisher: The University Library, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
Chapel Hill, North Carolina
2007.
© This work is the property of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. It may be used freely by individuals for research, teaching and personal use as long as this statement of availability is included in the text.
The electronic edition is a part of the UNC-Chapel Hill digital library, Documenting the American South.
Languages used in the text: English
Revision history:
2007-00-00, Celine Noel, Wanda Gunther, and Kristin Martin revised TEIHeader and created catalog record for the electronic edition.
2007-11-07, Jennifer Joyner finished TEI-conformant encoding and final proofing.
Source(s):
Title of recording: Oral History Interview with David DeVries, November 23 and December 2, 1998. Interview S-0010. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007)
Title of series: Series S. Center for Creative Leadership. Southern Oral History Program Collection (S-0010)
Author: Elizabeth Millwood
Title of transcript: Oral History Interview with David DeVries, November 23 and December 2, 1998. Interview S-0010. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007)
Title of series: Series S. Center for Creative Leadership. Southern Oral History Program Collection (S-0010)
Author: David DeVries
Description: 216 Mb
Description: 33 p.
Note: Interview conducted on November 23 and December 2, 1998, by Elizabeth Millwood; recorded in Greensboro, North Carolina.
Note: Transcribed by Tower Associates.
Note: Forms part of: Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007): Series S. Center for Creative Leadership, Manuscripts Department, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.
Note: Original transcript on deposit at the Southern Historical Collection, The Wilson Library, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.
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Interview with David DeVries, November 23, 1998 and December 2, 1998.
Interview S-0010. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007)
DeVries, David, interviewee


Interview Participants

    DAVID DeVRIES, interviewee
    ELIZABETH MILLWOOD, interviewer

[TAPE 1, SIDE A]


Page 1
[START OF TAPE 1, SIDE A]
ELIZABETH MILLWOOD:
This is an interview of David DeVries. It is being conducted in Chapel Hill on the phone. David DeVries is in Greensboro. Today's date is November 23, 1998. Just turned on the machine and I'll start with our basic first question which was when and where were you born?
DAVID DeVRIES:
I was born on August 11, 1943 in Holland, Michigan.
ELIZABETH MILLWOOD:
Holland, Michigan, okay. I know that you received your Ph.D. from the University of Illinois. What about your prior education, your bachelors and master's degree?
DAVID DeVRIES:
I had actually gone from K through 12 through college in a parochial school system in Western Michigan with my undergraduate degree being from Calvin College which is a reformed Calvinist institution. And then I moved from there to the University of Illinois in Champaign-Urbana and got my master's there as well as my Ph.D.
ELIZABETH MILLWOOD:
Okay. What drew you to social psychology? Were there mentors or important teachers that headed you in that direction?
DAVID DeVRIES:
I think as is true with most career decisions, it was formed by a variety of influences. I was the seventh son in a family of seven sons. So you quickly learn, just for your survival's sake, to read the group around you. When you are constantly on the short end of the stick, you better be very tuned to your older brothers and their moods and how generous they were feeling towards you at the time. Those were pure survival skills. I also grew up in an immigrant family. Both my parents immigrated from the Netherlands. And I was in the U.S. culture and yet on the outside looking in on it. That gave me a lot of interest in behavior of groups. So then I did some experimentation in undergraduate school classes that involved social psychological concepts. The research I did during the election for the U.S. presidency – which was the race between Goldwater and Lyndon Johnson, showed that people in Michigan who voted for Goldwater scored significantly higher on personality tests that had to do with authoritarianism, the f scale. That is, people who supported Goldwater had this much more authoritarian personality than those voting for Johnson. All of those things intrigue me.
ELIZABETH MILLWOOD:
Which then ultimately led to your Ph.D.?
DAVID DeVRIES:
My going into the social psychology profession.
ELIZABETH MILLWOOD:
I know you went from John Hopkins to the

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Center For Creative Leadership. Could you go back to say some of your first impressions of the Center, who made the initial contact, when did you first hear about...
DAVID DeVRIES:
Sure, I'd be glad to. It's quite a memorable event. I can still remember it. It was dinner at the Marriott on the Potomac River overlooking the capitol. And David Campbell, who had just joined the Center, had been placed into the operating role and was looking for talent. And he had heard about me and I about him. So we had dinner. I described at some length my work at Johns Hopkins which I was very passionate about at the time. And then he told me why he went to the Center and then he framed the opportunity for me in a very interesting way. He said, "We have about a million dollars a year in the way of operating funds." At this point, 95% of it came from the grant from the Smith Richardson Foundation. "And we really don't quite know how to spend it. Why don't you come down and help us figure out how to spend it?"
ELIZABETH MILLWOOD:
That is an interesting opportunity.
DAVID DeVRIES:
Psychologists don't get many of those in a lifetime. In fact, the profession has had damn few of those much less an individual psychologist. So the way he framed it really intrigued me. This being an organization that had not yet found its purpose and the funding of it would give it some time to do so and some time to make some mistakes in coming up with its purpose. And that plus my being fed up with having to commute to Washington D.C. very regularly in order to defend my research to the federal funders. That got old very quickly and I decided to go to the Center. It was a tough decision because it really felt like I was moving to the South. It wasn't clear to me to what extent the Center was a sort of narrowly-defined kind of Southern institution or whether it really did have a larger vision in terms of leadership and a population of leaders that I really wanted to work with.
ELIZABETH MILLWOOD:
Do you recall any vivid impressions of arriving in Greensboro in 1975? I mean there have been characterizations of the wooded aspect and the fact that the Center was sort of somewhat isolated from the community. Do you recall impressions of the early...
DAVID DeVRIES:
Yeah, I have impressions of the community and the Center. I remember my initial interview. I was being driven into the Hilton Hotel which is in downtown Greensboro by this African-American driver. As we passed Greensboro College, he pointed out that until just a couple of years prior to that

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time, if he and his fellow African-Americans wanted to go to a concert there, they had to sit up in the balcony. That really hit home with me. I realized the tradition of segregation, while a lot of strides had been made, was a very fresh kind of issue in Greensboro. And at the Center, what I was most struck with was a group of really well-meaning, ambitious folks who were looking for a cause and looking for a leader and were remarkably open to my ideas. It was unnerving. I was used to university settings where you had to fight to get air-time. And the first response by your colleagues tended to be intellectually hostile. This [CCL] was a very different culture. It was a very inclusive culture. If you had a good idea, people would build on it. But almost in a way, that made me leave the interview saying, "My God, do they not have an agenda of their own?"
ELIZABETH MILLWOOD:
That they were looking to you so strongly for an agenda.
DAVID DeVRIES:
Yes. But it was both very affirming and a little unnerving. It made me feel very much needed and certainly launched my decision to come.
ELIZABETH MILLWOOD:
Now you've mentioned David Campbell as one of the key players. Were there other key players that you initially interacted with that you have strong memories of?
DAVID DeVRIES:
Interestingly enough, even during the interview and then during my first year when I was in the Center, there were two visiting scholars. The Center had [unclear] the visiting scholars program where they tended to take social scientists that were accomplished, probably in their latter years professionally, and have them live at the Center for a year or two. And there were two folks there. One was Robin Cook who was a great social psychologist. And Robin really helped me understand the potential of the Center. He also challenged me intellectually. That was extremely helpful to me. The other thing that kept me going was that I immediately ran into Morgan McCall. Morgan and I immediately started to collaborate in some ways that really tested me intellectually, really pushed me. And together, we started to do some writing and frame some research projects that very quickly got off the ground. In fact in less than six months of my arrival, David asked us to start a separate research function. When I arrived, there was no such thing as a research function. It was embedded within a larger kind of program. So that created a tremendous momentum early on in my tenure at the Center. It was clear that if you had some interesting ideas, the Center of Creative Leadership was going to provide a way for you to act on those. The other impression I had, a profound

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impression, was that the place was living day to day and it was perilously close to being in debt, in that its life was about to end. I did not realize that when I accepted the job and moved my family. I had three young children, so my wife and my three young children joined me down here in what felt like was really a foreign country almost. My wife had not been eager to move to the South. And then the moment I got on board, it was clear to me and communicated to me by people beginning with David Campbell, that the board of governors really had to be convinced that we had enough good ideas that it was worth prolonging the existence of the place. And then we even had another visiting fellow who was of "the sky is falling, the sky is falling" mentality. And before every board meeting, he would talk to each of us about how dire the prospects looked. I remember these spikes of anxiety before every single board meeting. And Morgan and I, from the time I arrived, would be called in to present to the Board. We were the group that Bill Friday quickly called the "young turks." The "young turks" that the Board looked to to say, "Do you have any ideas that are really worth keeping this place around?" And that was a very vivid part of my early memories of the Center. And for me, it took about three years before I was convinced that the board wasn't going to pull the plug.
ELIZABETH MILLWOOD:
Because of their skepticism as you heard it each time they met?
DAVID DeVRIES:
Yeah, exactly. Fortunately, not only did we then kick off a research program during those years, '75 to '78, but the leadership development program got finally coalesced and really got going as well in those years. So you had a one, two punch. You had LDP which now has evolved into the most visible management development program in the world. And then also simultaneously, a research program.
ELIZABETH MILLWOOD:
When you mentioned a minute or so ago that David Campbell asked you to set up a separate research function which was a first for the Center, how did you go about sort of separating that out from the strands of other activities going on there in terms of how did you decide what research to pursue and how did you bring together the people to do it there?
DAVID DeVRIES:
By the way, let me correct one mis-impression I must have created. There, in fact, had been research programs in prior years but in 1973 or '74, the board of governors terminated a lot of people including those research programs. So no research program survived that purge.
ELIZABETH MILLWOOD:
Okay.

Page 5
DAVID DeVRIES:
In fact, there was a lot of skepticism for the next couple of years about whether research that had any meaning that could be applied that could be done independently at the Center or whether it had to be imbedded within more applied projects, projects that might actually focus on a training program.
ELIZABETH MILLWOOD:
And then you'd look to the output.
DAVID DeVRIES:
Right. So go back to your question.
ELIZABETH MILLWOOD:
As you were starting then essentially then the second phase of a research program, how did you pull together the resources from within the Center? I have an impression at that time that the Center was more fluidly organized than it was in later years.
DAVID DeVRIES:
Several ways. One is that David Campbell gave us some cover. He took Morgan and me and he put us out administratively into a separate group. We had a half-time assistant. And then I reported directly to David and not any longer to Bob Dorn who was in charge of the major training programs. That was one way. The more interesting answer to that is that what we did is we just started to deliver some goods and then every time we created opportunities, including some externally funded work, we could go back and capture existing but underutilized resources. So we had people like Mike Lombardo who had become an anomaly in the place. People didn't really know what to do with Mike and gave him a more creative role.
ELIZABETH MILLWOOD:
In what way? In the sense that he had talents that could be used in a variety of areas or he was best being a devil's advocate everywhere?
DAVID DeVRIES:
Yes. You know, creative people often have rough edges around them. Creative people like having some influence over the parameters of their work. And Mike was only being partially used. The same thing was true with Ann Morrison. Ann was not well managed and was getting frustrated and the Center was getting frustrated with her. So I said to David, "Let me see. I think here's what we could have them do with us and work on with us." And of course, both Ann and Mike proved to be remarkable contributors. Part of it was picking people around the Center whose work was not all that meaningful in terms of the group they were in but picking very carefully, because we only selected people that had some original ideas. So it was a boot straps kind of approach. It was generating some outside monies and then taking those

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monies and going to the Center and saying we can pay for at least half of this position, why don't you throw in the other half? Also we created a newsletter which gave us a wonderful internal and external constituency, a newsletter that had researchers and other contributors. Typically this newsletter would have a lead article by a researcher. And that gave us tremendous support very quickly from people on the board, from clients out there, from psychologists who read it and would comment to David Campbell or whatever. So we did some pretty good marketing of the function really early on. We got some sophisticated high prestige clients. We got IBM as a client early on. That gave us a lot of cache in the place. This would have been comparable to having Microsoft as a client. IBM back then was seen as the best management in the world. So the best managed company in the world came to us and said, "We need your help, Morgan and David." That really gave us a lot of leeway which we used. So we ratcheted ourselves up over the years from a two person operation to a five and then ten. You also asked the question about how were research agendas shaped. Opportunistically, is what I would say. Frankly, that's the best way to shape research agendas. But also with some real feedback throughout the phases of each of these projects. Because again, we were put up every two or three months in front of the Board of Governors and we were asked to brief them about what we are doing, what's the most recent stuff we're doing. If our research ideas had little applied value, if they had little conceptual value, we got immediate feedback on them. The Board, by the way, was one of the most absurd realities of the Center back then, the board has about as many members on it as the whole staff of the Center For Creative Leadership.
ELIZABETH MILLWOOD:
I'd noticed that, yes.
DAVID DeVRIES:
It was really absurd. So we'd walk in to 18 to 20 of the brightest minds in the U.S. coming from corporate America, psychologists and academia, just the full range. Military leaders, each of whom ran budgets of tens of millions of dollars and we were a 25 person organization. And they'd come in with these outrageous hopes and expectations for this fledgling place. And one of the challenges we had back then was how to take their ambitions for us and make them feel like we were moving meaningfully toward keeping those ambitions. When it was a fledgling staff and an organization that really didn't quite know what it was about and whether it could achieve. And that was part of the wonderful craziness of the Center in the 1970's. You also had and this was really a fascinating kind of dynamic story, I remember sitting many a time at the end of the table giving a briefing and to my left would inevitably be sitting next to me at the end of the table

Page 7
Smith Richardson, Jr., who would walk in with about three inches of in-basket material from his briefcase. He would place his in-basket material on the table. We would start to talk and he would take the first memo at the top, read it, write a response, throw it on the floor, which was his out-basket. That was one of the more unnerving things.
ELIZABETH MILLWOOD:
Yeah. You wondered when you had risen to his radar screen, I imagine.
DAVID DeVRIES:
Right, exactly. Anyway, that was part of the feeling. But the research agenda came from David Campbell. He dictated some of it, a small part of it. He got us into the whole issue of performance appraisal in which we did some work that was pretty good. The agenda also came from us in terms of our interest in simulations as a method to better understand leadership. And out of that came very interesting simulations which set a whole new field, the behavioral simulation. This is called Looking Glass. You know, out of it came some very interesting questions about how leaders really do develop and what is the relationship between training programs with on-the-job learning. How do you maximize that? That evolved into a whole series of reports with the centerpiece being the lessons of experience as a training program tool for developing executives. And that, interestingly enough, that topic came not from us as researchers. It came out of a series of conversations that we had with a group of people called the Research Sponsors. We started out with four firms that paid us $25,000 a year to have the privilege of coming into the Center and suggest interesting research projects, projects that they and their corporations would like the answers to. So you would have your human resource people be participants in that and we would create dialogues with this group. And out of those dialogues, came, I think, some of the more interesting ideas for research. That was an unheard of mechanism for researchers setting up agendas. And it was a mechanism that was absolutely appropriate for the Center For Creative Leadership.
ELIZABETH MILLWOOD:
Because you were dealing with the people that were on the street and in the field if you were dealing with senior H.R. people.
DAVID DeVRIES:
Exactly. So it reduced somewhat the risk of the researchers framing questions that might intellectually be interesting to them but to which the consumer of this research would respond with, "Why the hell would you ever ask that question?"

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ELIZABETH MILLWOOD:
Yeah, or who cares when you give the answer.
DAVID DeVRIES:
So that was another wonderful kind of innovation that was going on in the late 70's and early 80's out of the research group. And that model has spun off and is now used in the field of behavioral science by other organizations as well.
ELIZABETH MILLWOOD:
Where they invite corporate responders to come in and feed to them?
DAVID DeVRIES:
Yeah, research consortia. And then out of the discussions with the consortium emerges agendas for action research agendas.
ELIZABETH MILLWOOD:
In I believe it was 1979, you became director of research. I was curious about how you made the transition from researcher to administrator and what it had meant to you.
DAVID DeVRIES:
Actually, I was in charge of research much sooner than that. But in '79 I got put in charge of more than simply research. I was put in charge of some other functions, too. But how did I make the transition?
ELIZABETH MILLWOOD:
Because I may not have the dates right. I know at one point then you became executive vice president. So essentially, you were transitioning more and more to administration.
DAVID DeVRIES:
Exactly, yes. I did it in two ways. One is I had been in such a role at Johns Hopkins before I came to the Center, because I was in charge of a large contract from the federal government to do research. So I had a team of researchers working with me. So I had gotten into some of that administration prior to that. Beyond that at the Center, what I realized was that we had accumulated some people around me who were superb researchers but were uninterested in administration and as a result, not very good at it. And I've always believed that researchers are very much of a threatened species. Maybe not vanishing but threatened species and are typically largely misunderstood my senior management in whatever organization they operate in. So I've always felt a particular kind of responsibility for protecting the interest of research. That's one reason I was willing to go down that road and again, over time, I spent more and more time doing less and less research.
ELIZABETH MILLWOOD:
But you saw your role as more coordinating the efforts of others and allowing their research to shine in some respects because you could keep them sort of focused and

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heading towards—I mean researchers, I think of it as what is the expression, trying to herd cats?
DAVID DeVRIES:
Right, exactly. It's a delicate job of matching the organization's needs with the passions of the individual researchers. That's a very delicate role and it can't be unilateral in either direction. And it's a subtle kind of influence process. And I also think the reason I wanted to go more into administration is I started to realize once we got past that first phase establishing the legitimacy of the place, and that was not only a challenge for the board of governors, it was a challenge professionally within the profession. I remember within two months after arriving at the Center, I attended the annual meeting of psychologists in Chicago. I did not want to wear my name-tag because it had the Center For Creative Leadership on it. And I took it off because people laughed. Back in the mid-70's, people found that phrase, "creative leadership," so presumptuous that they laughed. And then I had to explain where it was in Greensboro, North Carolina, and it was too arduous. I just took the thing off. And that shows where we began. But after about two or three years, I started to realize that we did have a unique role. There weren't any other places like the Center. I really got to believe in the mission of the place and the uniqueness of the mission. And then I realized that as the training programs were starting to become successful, that we had to have an equally strong advocate for the research function and that's what I took on.
ELIZABETH MILLWOOD:
Okay. How, when you look over the research trajectory under your tenure, what are some of your perceptions of that trajectory, high points, low points?
DAVID DeVRIES:
The high points had to do with establishing a legitimacy of the function in the first place through some specific research programs and the results of those programs. The high points to me are Looking Glass, the simulation and the research generated by that. Another high point is the whole work on how executives grow and develop which resulted in a variety of outcomes including "Lessons of Experience." High points are the work we did funded by IBM on a methodology that was just starting then as a way of spurring the learning by executives in how they lead. And that has to do with what's now called the "360-degree feedback" where you get people who work with the individual executive, subordinates, peers, more senior people in the organization to fill out a leadership questionnaire on the individual. And those summed ratings are shared with the individual as a stimulus for growth. We did some pioneering work on that to help the individual to understand the value of that as a methodology

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which the instruments out there were more or less useful. The work of performance appraisal did make some impact on the field. And again, in all of those projects, every one of those projects, the research always had a dual impact on both the research community—researchers were reading the stuff and we were getting awards in the research community—and then equally important was the response by the practitioner community. In fact, one of the most interesting receptions we ever got for one of our innovations was to Looking Glass the simulation. We got the Office of Naval Research to fund that for three years, the development of that and the validation of it, almost completely because of its value as a research tool. Early on, once we developed it, we validated it by having actual managers go through it. The training community just picked up on it and ran with it in a way the research community never quite did. And that was one of those classic cases where even with the greatest of foresight, you just can't imagine exactly what's going to happen with one of your research products. In this case, it was such a powerful training tool that a lot of our energy quickly turned to using it with real executives as a stimulus to their own growth and learning. There were some defeats during the 70's and 80's as well. And I would say the biggest disappointment for me was the fact that we really didn't draw in the second generation of researchers who could match the first generation in terms of level of creativity and innovation. We brought in people to work for the original group. That next generation never really, in terms of achievement, never reached the level that we'd expected. And so in some sense, if you look from the late 80's on into the 90's, that the trajectory at best leveled off and I think it's actually going south. And you can hold all of who were there in the 70's and 80's accountable for that because that was our opportunity. We brought in people in the 80's, young people, a variety of people and that group has never really taken off in the same way. I can't site a similar set of achievements from the next generation that were of that groundbreaking in nature.
ELIZABETH MILLWOOD:
Well, I would imagine it is somewhat organizationally difficult to focus both on your research and recruiting the next wave, the next generation. But to offer to them what I think of as a different opportunity than was offered to you and your wave of researchers when you think about so much had already been accomplished.
DAVID DeVRIES:
Yeah. But I think you're being kind to us. I could argue the opposite as well. I think what happened was we weren't as open to their perspectives as we should have been. I think we tended to hire more people who would support our vision rather than people who would come in with their own

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vision. Now I think it was made more difficult by the fact that real visionaries love to come into situations where there is a lot of ambiguity. And that's what we inherited in the mid-70's, absolute ambiguity. And we were starting from scratch intellectually and organizationally as well. The people we brought in came into some well-established research programs and were more and more asked to fit into certain niches and that didn't encourage expansive thinking. And it may also have come from the criteria we used for who joined us. I don't know. Whatever the reason is, we failed at that. And I hold myself and my colleagues very much responsible for that. I don't give myself ten lashes every night over it, but that's part of the history of the research at the Center For Creative Leadership.
ELIZABETH MILLWOOD:
I don't know if there is an ideal research facility. But if you had a vision for one, how close do you think the Center For Creative Leadership came to being the ideal research facility?
DAVID DeVRIES:
If what drives you as a researcher is a desire to explore ideas that have some reasonable chance of efficacy, I think the Center has been and remains the ideal. I just don't think you have out there in the world an institution that provides as many pieces of the puzzle as the Center does. Now, if as a researcher I'm really driven to understand the kind of neurological factors in decision-making, then no, the Center is not where you'd go. You'd get more if you were in a typical kind of academic environment. But if you're concerned about not only establishing models of leadership but then making those models influence the way people actually lead, there is no better place in the world than the Center for Creative Leadership. And I say that without qualification. And why? Because there's a wonderful intellectual history there now. There's a legitimacy to the function. There's a critical mass of researchers. Most importantly, it's a crossroads for interesting thinkers from around the world. There was a time I remember last few years I was at the Center, there was this one intersection at the Center For Creative Leadership, where if you just stood there with a cup of coffee on any given day, you could stand there for a couple of hours and meet some of the most interesting minds in the world in leadership. You could just stand at that one intersection and have a day of conversations and it was that stimulating. And CCL had become that central. And then people from all over the world were coming to the Center to find out what people were thinking. So that, to me, that's great fertile ground for any researcher. CCL also has thousands of executives coming through those doors who come into the Center in a reflective mode and love nothing more

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than to talk to you about their own leadership experiences, their own emergent models of leadership. My God, it's just the opportunities for if you've got a good idea, to run into a senior H.R. person and if you share the idea with them, that person might say, "Come into my organization and I'll provide 300 managers who can work with you on that." CCL provides a phenomenal number of opportunities.
ELIZABETH MILLWOOD:
At least some people have said that research in the past few years has become institutionalized, a little more set into an academic model of research. I know you've been gone from the Center for eight years now and that may not be close to your experience, but is that a valid statement from your perception?
DAVID DeVRIES:
I don't know about putting it that way. To me, the research has become uninteresting. More and more I respond with "so what?" And it's research that doesn't leverage the opportunities researchers have being there because they're surrounded by some really bright practitioners. They have the opportunity to really ask the $64,000 questions, the ones that even before you can get an answer to the question people say "Yeah, that's it. If you could get your hands around that issue, my, God, what a difference that would make." I'm not sure why that's the case, but it is. I think that's my biggest concern right now.
ELIZABETH MILLWOOD:
Okay. I have a question changing the subject slightly about intellectual property and the concept of the researcher coming up with the eureka or ultimately the product that is a brilliant thing that can be used by a variety of companies. I was curious if you had seen in your tenure at the Center issues around intellectual property or changes in the view of intellectual property while you were there.
DAVID DeVRIES:
I'm not sure I understand the question. You're talking about intellectual property from sort of a legal sense of who owns it?
ELIZABETH MILLWOOD:
Yes. I mean and certainly the Center owns that which is created by its researchers. But what I was curious about specifically was if you have a bright researcher who can then create while he or she is working for the Center a wonderful product and then could conceivably take it and change a module in it and become an independent with that product.
DAVID DeVRIES:
That's a wonderful question because there's a lot of mythology that goes around that topic at the Center for Creative Leadership. I remember sitting in these early board

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meetings in the 70's and the board defining a very interesting model about how the individual should relate to the Center. They had this notion you bring in some very bright people from the profession relatively early in their career. You bring them in for three to five years. They generate some creative work at the Center and then they go on. They leave the Center and go on into other settings. And that was the way it should work. What happened in the 70's and 80's was a very different relationship between the individual creator and the Center which is the creators got stuck at the Center, not because they had no options but because they chose to. Then when eventually they started to leave in the late 80's, the leaving became problematic and risky. And the leaving involved all kinds of questions around who owns what and who's competing with the Center and what right do they have to compete with the Center, etc. And it's really unfortunate and I would say that people such as myself and my colleagues were very much a part of this problem because we ended up spending so much time at the Center, getting so linked to the Center, having the Center think that it owned our minds almost and the products of our minds that when we finally did leave, it was very sticky. I believe the original model that the Center's board of governors had was one in which there was much more tolerance of people leaving the Center and taking with them enough that they could go off on their own and make a living. But coupled with that has been a very interesting attitude on the part of the Center which I find disturbing. As the Center gets stronger and stronger in terms of its impact on the field, in terms of its economic viability, it positions itself as more and more vulnerable. I find that paradoxical.
ELIZABETH MILLWOOD:
Now how do you define vulnerability?
DAVID DeVRIES:
Well, vulnerability in the sense that if Dave DeVries leaves the Center and uses some of the models, some of the concepts, some of the methodology that he helped develop at the Center on his own that David becomes such a powerful competitive force that the Center will be threatened, and that's a bunch of hokum, quite frankly. But I have found that there's enough support for that at the Center that it does influence decision-making. I find that really discouraging, because one of the things that the Center For Creative Leadership can do now is leverage its great reputation and strength. But if it looks at its role in the field now and in the future from that position of vulnerability and weakness, it's going to act like a 300-pound weakling. But I just find it paradoxical.
ELIZABETH MILLWOOD:
I understand it and the way you characterize it does highlight it. I hadn't thought of that as an end

Page 14
result. But certainly if you begin to be driven by how the lawyers will resolve the issue, it does become sort of a 300 pound paranoid in some respects.
DAVID DeVRIES:
Right. It really is. Plus, there are times that specific questions of ownership of actual instrumentation are legitimate issues and have to be dealt with using the best legal minds there are within the guidelines set by our country's laws and by our professional understandings. The American Psychological Association has a well-defined set of ethical guidelines. But that's not really the issue.
[END OF TAPE 1, SIDE A]

[TAPE 1, SIDE B]

[START OF TAPE 1, SIDE B]
ELIZABETH MILLWOOD:
I think we're past the leader, so this is side 2 with an interview of David DeVries. You were talking just a moment ago about intellectual property.
DAVID DeVRIES:
Right. And so just let me finish by saying that I think the Center needs to embrace people who have left the Center, that the Center could benefit from that. And that for every client that I might take away from the Center, I will give them two, particularly if the Center and I as an ex-employee keep a constructive relationship. And that's true for all the people that have come through the Center and gone off on their own or to another institution, whatever. And that notion of people coming and going is central to the long-term viability of the Center. And again, I would say that if anything, I stayed too long at the Center for not only my own sake but for the Center's sake. And I would suggest that my generation of the Center, that that was true for a lot of us.
ELIZABETH MILLWOOD:
That 15 years was too long?
DAVID DeVRIES:
It was too long in terms of what we could really contribute to the Center. I think the first five to ten years we made some big contributions and then it tapered off. I think the original model of the Center is ultimately the more viable one. Bring in young, bright, ambitious, energetic researchers, trainers and have them contribute to the Center's efforts, learn from the Center, build contacts around the world and then move on. You get this constant influx of new ideas at the Center. The custom of the "lifer" at the Center is just absolutely inappropriate.
ELIZABETH MILLWOOD:
Yes, it's somewhat antithetical to what the Center is about.

Page 15
DAVID DeVRIES:
Exactly.
ELIZABETH MILLWOOD:
In the early 80's at some point you became executive vice president. Several people have mentioned that you were qualified to be president. Did you ever aspire to be president? Was that something that interested you?
DAVID DeVRIES:
I didn't really aspire to be president. I aspired to shape some of the decisions that the president had access to that was in his or her purview. I felt some frustration about some of the limits that I particularly saw the vision for the place. But no, the presidential role in that organization is an incredibly complex one that involves keeping a wide array of constituencies pleased and satisfied. This goes back to the point I made earlier which is the Center For Creative Leadership has a ridiculously ambitious agenda for itself. Which is to say it should somehow impact the quality of leadership as it's practiced around the world. I mean it's absurd that that organization could sort of single-handedly make any kind of noticeable impact. But that doesn't prevent the mission from being held out in front of the staff on an ongoing basis nor do I do think it should. But the person who really feels the pressure of that huge goal or huge mission coming into conflict with the day to day realities is the president of the Center for Creative Leadership.
ELIZABETH MILLWOOD:
Because he's moving between the board and the people that work there and the external public.
DAVID DeVRIES:
Exactly. It's not just the board, it's the whole group of outside people who think they know best what the Center should be about and feel that they, one way or another, have got themselves in a position where they have a right not only to express an opinion but to stay around to see if anything happens as a result of their opinions being expressed.
ELIZABETH MILLWOOD:
Yes.
DAVID DeVRIES:
I think the late H. Smith Richardson must have been a genius because he set up the mandate for that place in a way that positioned it to potentially do great things, to position it to be a one of a kind institution. And it's a wonderfully simple mission that you can understand in about ten seconds and at least for me, it never left my mind. We used various ways of describing it but the metaphor of the bridge is a very good one. It's a bridge between the world of ideas and action. And it's two way traffic on that bridge. And I don't

Page 16
know of any other institution in the field of leadership that quite comes even close to that mission. And that mission has never changed and never will change, I hope. Now the way it's been acted out, that mission lately, has given me great pause. And there have been times that I felt that it needed some leadership at the top that would get that commerce going much more freely along that bridge in both directions, ideas and actions.
ELIZABETH MILLWOOD:
When you say in the way it was acted out, then your concern was, your desire was to see the commerce back and forth across that bridge.
DAVID DeVRIES:
Right. I have found in the last few years in particular, the place has gotten conservative, at a time when it could be even more expansive. When I got there in 1975, it was ridiculously expansive. I was telling you that. This brilliant group of 20 governors would come in every several months and expect us to have sort of materially changed the quality of leadership in the U.S. and there was somewhere around 25 of us. So back then, one reason we did some interesting things was we were given such a hugely expansive agenda. Now in 1998, the place actually now has such credibility among the world in the field of executive help that it virtually could do [unclear] things. And yet as it's gotten all the reputation, all this access to organizations around the world, is extremely well healed in terms of funding, its vision has contracted not expanded. That's what disturbs me profoundly. And I don't know how long an organization like that goes on with a very narrow vision without it deteriorating on a kind of permanent basis. I think organizations like the Center are fragile in that if you lose a certain kind of vitality, regaining it is damn difficult if not impossible.
ELIZABETH MILLWOOD:
When you speak of sort of the stage that it's in now, could we also back up a bit to the 80's and the period when during your tenure there a great deal of growth took place? In particular, I was curious about the San Diego and Brussels decisions, how those evolved, the plan to expand from one site to two sites, then three and four.
DAVID DeVRIES:
Right. Well, you can cut that many different ways. And again, even decisions like that are opportunistic decisions. But let me give you the one for public consumption, all right?
ELIZABETH MILLWOOD:
Okay.
DAVID DeVRIES:
Colorado Springs was there because David Campbell

Page 17
loved that part of the country and established some kind of residency out there. And he wanted to do some programs out there and it was a neat place. People didn't mind going there for programs and on and on and on and on. And then we found this extremely intelligent manager, Jodi Taylor, whom we handed it to, the administration of it, the rest is history. Jodi Taylor is one of the real entrepreneurs in the Center for Creative Leadership and we give her a lot of leeway. Along with that, though, came a definition of some kind of strategy for why we should expand. We wanted to expand because of two reasons. One is that the demand for the Center's programs was growing by leaps and bounds and the board of governors really supported meeting that demand. Because the board's rationale was this, if you really are as good as you say you are—and they would say also that in parentheses "we're not yet fully convinced that you are"—we will see your services being even more and more in demand. So that was the logic. So that subtle but constant pressure was matched by the fact of an increasing demand for our services. And we decided that we did not want the Center operation to grow by leaps and bounds because back then, the Center's research function was imbedded in Greensboro. And we wanted to not go past a staff size. We felt if it got too large, we'd lose some of the important parts of the culture. So we wanted to keep Greensboro at a reasonable level and then push this growth out in other locations. We also felt secondly that if we created some other locations and gave these places some variation in terms of mandate, gave them some uniqueness, that we could use that as a way to spark innovation around the Center for Creative Leadership more broadly. So to go back to your initial question why did we pick San Diego, we picked San Diego because we wanted to have some presence on the West Coast. A presence that would access a very different leadership situation where a spirit of entrepreneurship rang more true. Our work up to that point had basically been with East Coast Fortune 500 companies. We were starting to see that there were some very interesting alternative models of leadership going on in the West Coast particularly in the beginnings of the Silicon Valley. And we felt that a California-based branch would open not only that market but more importantly, would bring in some new ideas about leadership. So that's why we established that branch.
ELIZABETH MILLWOOD:
So it was a decision-making process where you looked at the West Coast and said do we want Portland, do we want San Francisco, I mean...
DAVID DeVRIES:
We were really looking in the southwest part of the country because that's the only place that was attractive year round to participants from across the U.S. So we looked at

Page 18
San Antonio, Texas and Austin, Texas and then San Diego area. And of those three, the LaJolla just north of San Diego was by far superior.
ELIZABETH MILLWOOD:
Okay. Now I've read there were some early connections for the Center in London. How did it end up in Brussels? Was that a similar decision-making process?
DAVID DeVRIES:
The reason we ended up in Europe at all was that again, in the 80's, early 80's, it was clear that our economies were becoming much more international in scope, that leaders in corporate America had to understand they were just going to have to deal with people from other cultures and that we wanted to be sure in our own development of leadership models that we got some exposure to leaders in other cultures. We were also starting to get demand from Europe. We set up the licensee in the early 1980's outside London, Asheridge Management Center. They took our principle training program and started to run it and got huge response to it, just wonderful response. It was clear that CCL's approach to executive development was really unique in Europe. No one was doing it, period, no one. They weren't even coming close to it. And we discovered the European managers although they were about 10 or 15 years behind the U.S. in terms of their openness to this kind of personal feedback, that the future was only going to be a bright one for this kind of leadership training. So we decided to no longer let the Asheridge Management College be the principle purveyor of this program in Europe. We developed a few other licensees and decided to have our own presence there as well. Brussels was selected for pragmatic reasons, just beginning with the fact that already then it was the center of the EEC.
ELIZABETH MILLWOOD:
EEC?
DAVID DeVRIES:
European Economic Community. And it was a reasonably cheap place to do business. It was on the continent. We explored several other cities like Paris and Amsterdam and Frankfurt. But that's why a European presence was created for the Center.
ELIZABETH MILLWOOD:
Okay. I'm looking at my watch and realizing we're beginning to run out of time and I have probably another 20 minutes or a half an hour that I think I have and it may be a tad more than that. So I was wondering should we just call it quits for today?
DAVID DeVRIES:
I think that would be a good idea.
ELIZABETH MILLWOOD:
Then should I call Lynn and schedule with her?

Page 19
DAVID DeVRIES:
Yeah, why don't you do that. In fact, if you'll hold on, I'll get Lynn on the phone right now.
ELIZABETH MILLWOOD:
Okay and I can schedule. That would be wonderful.
DAVID DeVRIES:
Well, I enjoyed this very much. You're asking good questions. I find them interesting questions.
ELIZABETH MILLWOOD:
Well, thank you, and I truly appreciate your time because I know this takes quite a chunk out of your day but I think it's been very valuable at the same time.
DAVID DeVRIES:
I enjoy it because as you can tell, I still believe deeply in the place.
ELIZABETH MILLWOOD:
Yes, yes. But thanks so much.
DAVID DeVRIES:
Okay. You have a good holiday.
ELIZABETH MILLWOOD:
You too.
[END OF TAPE 1, SIDE B]

[TAPE 2, SIDE A]

[START OF TAPE 2, SIDE A]
ELIZABETH MILLWOOD:
This is a telephone interview with David DeVries conducted by Beth Millwood on December 2, 1998. Dr. DeVries is in Greensboro and I am in Chapel Hill, North Carolina. [unclear] Where we were in our interview last week. And I think we sort of stopped somewhere in the 80's. One of my next questions related to long range plans. Tom Bridgers mentioned that you had been one of his principal mentors during the early 80's and he also mentioned that you had been involved in a great many long range plans together. Were there any particularly memorable long range plans?
DAVID DeVRIES:
You mean in terms of the vision or the process itself?
ELIZABETH MILLWOOD:
Well, I'm curious about how the process worked there as it was evolving in the early 80's and, secondly, if there are ones that you can point to and say, yes, we set a vision and followed it.
DAVID DeVRIES:
Wonderful question. Remember, you're talking to a 55-year-old. A few years ago—I wish had some of those documents in front of me. I mean yeah, there was a really significant one when we were the first time asked to do

Page 20
anything like a strategic plan. And that was a laborious, traumatic process. The kind of initial effort that yielded a predictable response from the board which was, once we showed it to them, they said, "No, that's not it, that's not a strategic plan." And so we went back to the drawing board. And it evolved over three or four years before we got some sense of what we really wanted to be besides surviving. In a sense, that was the initial strategic plan. I think it was in '79 or '78. That initial plan was difficult because it was hard to think beyond tomorrow. It really was just a matter of making it through the week, the month. Also there was a culture at the time in which it had become the ultimate grassroots organization. That made the concept of a strategic plan for the institution an anomaly because the real planning that went on was at the individual level, maybe small team level. At the level of every professional staff person. That's what we called ourselves back then—we divided people into professional staff and then non-exempt staff. But basically, every professional person was expected to have his own strategic plan.
ELIZABETH MILLWOOD:
And were those sort of reviewed or integrated or it was...
DAVID DeVRIES:
No. The initial CCL-wide plan was an aggregation of those individual visions and maybe looking at some themes across those. That's one reason the planning process was so awkward initially. The Center, when it hired you, said in effect, "you will be expected to generate your own work plans." And that's one reason it was such an anomaly for the Center to do an institution-wide kind of plan. I think what evolved in the 80's in terms of the strategic planning was that—you asked if there was anything that's memorable or interesting about it. I think what it forced us to do was to draw up a bit as an institution in the sense that it forced us to start to say "no" to at least a few things. That was a very difficult thing to do throughout the 70's and 80's if a professional staff person had a bright idea, to say, "Well, it's an interesting idea but we can't fund it." And one of the things that the strategic planning process allowed us to do was to say, "Here are some areas where we're going to focus, here are some other areas where we're not. And it's not that that work isn't of value but it's not where we, as an institution, want to focus." It helped out some, on that. I can't say it made those decisions totally easy, those decisions of saying to a staff person, "Well, that project you proposed is interesting but we just can't sponsor you." The planning process also got the research function to grow up in that it helped define the role of the research in the Center and defined some of the links between the research and the

Page 21
other sides of the operation, getting with the educational training side. In fact, it even led to an experiment which we initiated in the late 80's in which we took the research function and physically moved various researchers into different training groups as a way of bridging, facilitating the bridging of their activities.
ELIZABETH MILLWOOD:
And you said this occurred when in the 80's?
DAVID DeVRIES:
I think mid-80's. I think it was 1986-87, I think somewhere in that time. The experiment didn't last long. But that restructuring came in part, I think, out of that strategic planning process.
ELIZABETH MILLWOOD:
In terms of how it worked, I know Tom Bridgers just mentioned that there were many, and so your sense of it when you say it was a grassroots effort across the Center, what structure was set up to do long range plans? Were there sort of representatives called in from each sort of area or team or did they use a variety of different structures depending on what the plan was in that two or three year period?
DAVID DeVRIES:
It was—I'm trying to remember.
The typical process as it played out in the 70's and 80's was that the strategic planning, which again, when we say long range, what does long mean? It tended to be one and three years kinds of efforts, with the one year plan being in some detail, three years being more broad brush. And it was launched annually in conjunction with the annual budgeting process. It wasn't driven by the budgeting process. In fact, again, one change we made was we experimented with that and kept this process, I believe, as long as I was there. We said, "Don't start with what you think you need in the way of money. Start with what you want to do." We'll start with the scope of work, we'll review that, and then we'll come back and then we'll look at the issue of the budget that's needed to do that. That would tend, that effort again, would play out and it would be done principally within a group, with input from other groups that were one way or another linked into their work. One impact that the planning process really had in the late 70's and early 80's. It really introduced some accountability – some much needed accountability – into the whole planning process into the management of the place. I think it was in 1979 that we had generated some really ridiculous, ambitious plans. We spent money in '79 based on those and then ended up as the year went on, very short of income. That led to our having to let go of 10% of the people. We had 70 people then and we had to let go of seven people. It was pretty traumatic for the organization. And that was a watershed event in the

Page 22
management of the place in that it really pointed out that the numbers we were creating, we were attaching numbers to ideas, really did matter a great deal. This wasn't just some silly exercise to satisfy the board. These numbers, when acted on, would have real consequences. So if you'd say, "Give me $100,000 because I've developed this new program and the new program will generate $50,000 in revenue," but at the end of the year, it yielded $5,000 in revenue, that had huge implications.
ELIZABETH MILLWOOD:
On the bottom line, right.
DAVID DeVRIES:
Yeah. That was not needed in the early to mid 70's because at that time revenue was relatively irrelevant. Revenue from the staff's efforts themselves comprised about 10% of total revenues. Over 90% of the revenues came from the foundation. All you had to do was to show up at 8:00 and stay until 5:00 and keep your nose clean. So as we moved into the late 70's and as the foundation's support grew smaller in proportion to the total budget, we had to develop some real discipline. We had to define more clearly what we were going to be doing and what that would cost and also what revenues that would generate. And we had to do that with some reasonable degree of accuracy. And it was the shock of 1979 that really awakened us to the importance of that.
ELIZABETH MILLWOOD:
When I look at the organization in the 80's, one of the sort of interesting benchmarks is the arrival of Walt Ulmer in the mid 80's and, about a year later, a reorganization that changed some structures within, changed the sort of way the Center was structured as I understand it. And I was curious what role you played in that reorganization and your feelings on how you agreed or disagreed with it.
DAVID DeVRIES:
Gosh. I wish I could remember this in more detail. I was fully part of that decision-making process. I think Walt felt very strongly about it but I was also part of it.
ELIZABETH MILLWOOD:
Okay. I wondered if that was part of the reorganization.
DAVID DeVRIES:
That was part of the reorganization.
ELIZABETH MILLWOOD:
Now that only held for a brief while then and then research was...
DAVID DeVRIES:
I think it held until '91 or '92 or '93. It held while I was there. I was still trying to implement it when I was there. It was a wonderful shotgun marriage of researchers and trainers. And if it was going to work at all, it was

Page 23
going to take a while. Walt and I did a lot of work on that together. So I think I shared in the planning of that with Walt. And of course, it was my job to help execute that.
ELIZABETH MILLWOOD:
Do you have any strong impressions of that period, I mean in terms of people at the Center that said this has been long needed or people at the Center that said we're not particularly fond of this idea?
DAVID DeVRIES:
Well, there was a lot of tension in the Center at that time and Walt became the focus of that tension, part because he was an outsider, part because he was a retired three star Army general and part because of the way he dealt with dissension. He had a limited tolerance for having dissension. He was a very open-minded guy but he had spent a couple of decades in an organization where dissension was more narrowly defined. And he walked into an organization where 80% of the professional staff felt like they individually ran the place. So he walked into a remarkably different culture. And there were times he was very good at being in dialogue around those issues. There were times when he would cut short the dialogue and that would really offend people. And it was a time of tensions also around the centralization of some functions and priorities. There were also some consequences of the place having grown a great deal in the late 70's and growth continued through the time Walt came. The place kept growing 15 to 20% a year in terms of not only revenue but in significant growth in people and the place was starting to become a complex organization. And so we were experiencing some real tension about that issue. Walt became a focal point for it. It was less easy for people to get angry with me. I was one of them. And they couldn't imagine that I could be part of these dastardly thoughts. My goal was not to make Walt the culprit. In fact, I really started to communicate to the staff when I agreed with Walt why I felt his positions were reasonable. I think that was part of the tension of the late 80's. But the tension went way beyond Walt Ulmer and his being a three star general and the way he dealt with the Center.
I think there were tensions that were building in the organization.
ELIZABETH MILLWOOD:
And they were coming from what, growth?
DAVID DeVRIES:
I think from growth, increasing complexity of the organization. I think in part, the organization was facing a time when there was a kind of a maturation of a lot of programs and people and some of the initial excitement that had been there in the late 70's and early 80's was diminishing. For example, the major program, the leadership development program, had by that point in time, been running

Page 24
for over a decade. It had been run several hundred times and it moved into the kind of production mode of just running one more LDP after another. We began to look at it not so much as an innovative intervention, rather as in looking at it from sort of a more profit point of view, wondering how we could squeeze a little bit more profit out of each of these programs. So it had become a wonderful cash cow subsidizing a lot of other efforts. As an example, and those kind of issues, given the people that were at the Center, those are not very interesting issues. And some staff tended to feel like, "I have to address these kind of issues, why don't I go to the for-profit consulting work?"
ELIZABETH MILLWOOD:
It's a poor use of their creative talent.
DAVID DeVRIES:
Right. And we were not able—I think it would have been more fun for all of us if we had had more really interesting things in the pipeline, new ideas, new programs, new research efforts. The research program was going. There was one powerful research program going at the time. But on the training side, there just wasn't a lot of innovation going on. And that led to some of the frustration, too. There was also an interesting tension built in by the mandate that the board gave to Walt Ulmer which in my sense was to come in and clean us up, clean up this operation.
ELIZABETH MILLWOOD:
To bring some order to it?
DAVID DeVRIES:
Yeah, exactly. And that did not come from the staff, that particular mandate. Very few of the staff saw that as a need or issue. They saw that effort as an infringement on their independence and creativity and all of that. After all, they would regularly remind us this is the Center for Creative Leadership. That effort (to rationalize the place) felt anything but like creativity.
ELIZABETH MILLWOOD:
Do you recall, I mean as I'm hearing the different phases of the Center, it's clear that it was an organization that was going through a maturational process, and I was curious if at any point there was within the Center staff, time taken out to reflect on all right, this is where we are as an organization. I know it's difficult to reflect when you're in the heat of it, but any attempt made to sort of look at the Center as an organization going through a maturation, some maturity difficulties? Was any of that ever done?
DAVID DeVRIES:
Yeah, we did. I launched when I finally got into the role of being in charge of a variety of functions, training and research, annual off-site discussions. I think

Page 25
we started this in '81. I remember going down for two very rainy days down to Southern Pines and us being hold up as a staff for two days. There were probably 12 or 13 of us. And we asked these basic questions, "Where have we come, where do we want to go, what are the tensions in the organization?" And that became a richer kind of experience over the years. I believe it became an annual experience. But that was one opportunity to do that. And it was meant to be inclusive, so over the years, the group got larger. And some years, it was an honest discussion that yielded very specific kinds of ideas about where we wanted to take the organization. And other times, it was more of a celebratory kind of effort and one in which there was more focus on the individual achievements or challenges within given units. But yeah, that's one form. And then of course, the board of governors regularly asked us as staff to tell them where we saw ourselves going, doing retrospectives, whether it was the last year or whatever, where had we come as an organization and where were we going. And we always matched this against this very challenging mandate.
ELIZABETH MILLWOOD:
So that was somewhat of an annualized process with the board of governors, too?
DAVID DeVRIES:
Right, exactly. And of course, that's a function a board should serve and the board did serve that quite well. There's always been some very bright thinkers on that board who liked—the mandate, the mission of the Center For Creative Leadership, so they really enjoyed the intellectual exercise of saying what is your mandate, how far have you come, where do you need to go? And so that was helpful. Neither the board nor us, the staff, really had a very good sense of the impact the continued high growth would have on the place. And also, we did not have a good sense of the impact of the increasing complexity of the place would have on the organization, on its ability to be creative. I don't think we were very reflective on that score. And I'm not sure why not. But we didn't, and I think that's where we stumbled into some really unfortunate side effects that we were not very conversive with and consequently didn't really manage very well.
ELIZABETH MILLWOOD:
Are there examples that come to mind of that where you were sort of blind-sighted by the growth?
DAVID DeVRIES:
Yeah. I think that one reason we got very little innovation out of the groups that were in the business of training was that we counted on them year after year to generate 20 plus percent in added revenues. And as a result, they just became rather totally focused on revenue generation.

Page 26
And it's not just revenues, it was also—they don't use this word, but it was profit. If you're going to generate more in the way of revenues, but whatever you do, don't let it cost 25% more to generate. So keep your profit margin at the higher rate from the prior year. So what happened is on the one hand we were looking to these folks for new ideas, new programs, and they weren't forthcoming. And that they weren't forthcoming had less to do with whether these individuals were creative, whether they were willing to work hard. It had more to do with the fact that they were on this rather rapid growth trajectory in terms of revenue, that's where their focus was. And as a result, you look at the portfolio of programs in 1998 and rather than having most of those bring new novel kinds of programs, the majority of them remain in the programs that were there in place 20 years ago.
ELIZABETH MILLWOOD:
We were talking about the board a minute ago and one of the questions that comes to mind for me is a comment made by someone else about the Center For Creative Leadership as a Southern institution. Another staffer made that reference and I'm not a Southerner, but I was somewhat struck by the statement. And this individual was referring in part to somewhat the mind-set and the habits of the board. But they felt that this carried over into some direction as it came down from the board. What's your reaction to the Center For Creative Leadership as a Southern institution, does it resonate at all?
DAVID DeVRIES:
Are you willing to define that a little bit more? I'm still a damn Yankee. I've been here for 24 years, but I'm reminded regularly of my origins.
ELIZABETH MILLWOOD:
Right. I'm one of those, too.
But I think of it as some conservatism in terms of not necessarily politics but in somewhat trying to stay with the status quo. I think of it as the jest that is often used that a Southerner will be polite to you until he has to kill you. But the reliance on civility and keeping things in a status situation is I think one of the ways I would characterize a Southern institution. I certainly would characterize the UNC-Chapel Hill as a Southern institution.
DAVID DeVRIES:
I think of it not so much as a Southern institution but it is clearly, and has been from day one, a strong conservative influence on that institution driven by the fact that its principal benefactors represent a family that is one of the great industrial families of the U.S. And also, a family that has sparked conservative thinking in the economic and political domains over the decades. The Richardson Foundation, if you look at who it's funded. All you have to

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do is look at who got money from the Smith Richardson Foundation over the years. And Irving Crystal I don't know if you're acquainted with his work, but they sponsored work by people like Irving Crystal in the 70's and 80's that led, that that was the intellectual bedrock of the Reagan administration. So the research and the conservative thinking and the political and economic domain in the 70's and 80's in part is due to the Richardson family. So whenever we would go in front of the board, those assumptions just played out in the evaluations they made of the work of the Center. Had we gone out early on and not focused on corporate America, the board would have been disappointed. One of the big coups, I remember one of the huge coups with the board was a project in which we were supported by IBM. Three of us got IBM in the late 70's to sponsor a research program. And my God, just taking that to the board, that gave us at least a couple years breathing space as an institution. So that was what they valued. They valued us being connected with the mainline American corporations being seen as legitimate and being able to be of use to those people. That was a value set that was inculcated in us very early on. So if that's Southern, I don't think it's so much Southern, but it is conservative in the sense that our job is to promote the existing institutions, particularly in the private sector. To prolong them and make these important institutions even more effective. And I felt that pressure regularly. Beyond that, you've got the reality that these were basically, 95% of the people around us were white males and that carried with it its own set of assumptions and prejudices and all of that. So yeah, I mean, I doubt I could have been in the role I was in had I been a female or an African-American, that's clear. We were called by Bill Friday "the young turks." And that had its own specific kind of image in their minds.
ELIZABETH MILLWOOD:
Right. I think now we're getting into some of the easier questions, not that any of these other questions have been tough at all.
DAVID DeVRIES:
It's been fun.
ELIZABETH MILLWOOD:
Good.
Are there any people at the Center that may have made a particularly deep impression on you? Any stories of some of your favorite people at the Center?
DAVID DeVRIES:
Well, yeah, of course I mean you have an hour to respond. What the place is and always been is it's attracted interesting people, I think. Very interesting people. I'm going to be seeing one this afternoon and that's Jodi Taylor who is still there until the end of the year. She's leaving. And Jodi is one of these rare psychologists who is an

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entrepreneur who is driven to achieve excellence and driven to build and do it in a way in which not for her own glory but the greater good. And there aren't many people at all in our profession like Jodi Taylor. She's one of a kind. And it's working with people like that and just as we would do, when she worked for me, she reported to me for a few years, we would just get together in a room and just start dreaming dreams. And the amazing thing was that as outrageous and ambitious as these dreams might be, if I could find the resources for her, she would achieve them time after time after time. It was just phenomenal. She would turn these dreams into reality and out of that came the Center For Creative Leadership in Colorado Springs in its current form. So there's a person. There are also people who I grew up with there in the research function – Morgan McCall, Ann Morrison, Mike Lombardo, Bob Kaplan – there's a whole set of them who have always done what outstanding researchers do which is ask the tough questions, ask the questions to which there are no obvious answers, ask questions which we really don't even know how to get the answers to. But not be afraid of the question. Not to allow your current methods to dictate your questions because then what will happen is the questions will get narrow. In our field, the industrial psychology field, it has been terribly conservative in that sense. You want to speak about Southern conservatives, there's a whole profession that's extremely conservative. In fact, the Center became in the profession, through its research group particular, we became the outrageous fringe group within IO psychology. It was wonderful. We'd go to these annual conferences and scare the bejeezes out of people. And the amazing thing is they'd come and listen to us and even clap at the end of the two hours and come back next year for more. Those folks are just I'll never forget the conversations with those. And not only conversations, but the research projects that came out of that. Those are times that when you look back over a career, those are absolute highlights. I think of people like Bill Friday and his wisdom about the place and his wisdom about how to gently move aboard in the direction of supporting what seemed at times like some crazy ideas and wild-eyed young folks. And he did a huge amount in his own wonderfully quiet and powerful way, of bridging our world with that of the Richardson family. And he did it year after year after year. And I know he had conversations that to him must have felt like the broken record with the family year after year. But he did it with a kind of dedication and patience. And these are the kind of conversations that very few people know about. These are the quiet, behind the scenes conversations that make a huge difference. And that's a form of leadership that I really learned to respect and Bill taught me a lot about that leadership. You know, there's the David Campbell

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stories. David is larger than life in the whole field of psychology. He remains larger than life and he came to the Center at a time—David made it possible for the Center to still be here today. It had gone through a hugely traumatic experience. The Board didn't know what to do with it and he was willing to give a shot at leading it. And his approach which was managerially a limited approach, but exactly what was needed was just to say, "I'm not going to manage this place to death. I'm just going to find the right people out there and bring them in and let them do their thing. And then I'm going to demand some accountability." And that's what he did. And more importantly, he also modeled for us all creativity day in an day out. So David, if we were worried about doing outrageous things, we didn't have to worry long, because whenever we would go into meetings with David, he would beat us to the punch. He would do even more outrageous things, some of which cannot be put in any kind of record.
ELIZABETH MILLWOOD:
Not your typical business meeting, right?
DAVID DeVRIES:
But I mean his creativity and his outrageousness would inevitably take you into the really uncomfortable zone where you would say, "Enough, David." But he didn't know limits and so he taught us that, "This is not a place where you have to worry about limits. Just do what you want to do." And there are darn few psychologists in the world who have ability to embody that. Your job is to figure out what it is that really drives you as a psychologist. Figure out what it is and do what you've got to do to make it happen. David Campbell is as huge today. He remains a larger than life figure. Flawed, but most very talented people are. And his leadership style got us into real trouble late in the 70's. That's when we had to make that 10% cutback. That's when Ken Clark, his boss moved aside nicely and brought the rest of us in to keep the creativity but make it a little bit more sane.
ELIZABETH MILLWOOD:
More accountable?
DAVID DeVRIES:
Yeah. And also what happened then was David announced to the board that we had opened a branch in London, England and the board said what? You don't know how to manage your operation in Greensboro, North Carolina, you think you're running a branch in London, England? I don't know if you've heard that story. [Recorder is turned off and then back on.]
DAVID DeVRIES:
So you asked a simple question and I've got to stop, because I could go on and on

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because the place does—still does today and always has attracted some very interesting people. I think a saint over the years in all of this was John Red. Now you talk about Southern institution? I assume you've interviewed John.
ELIZABETH MILLWOOD:
He has been interviewed, yes. I did not. Joe Mosnier interviewed him. He's the other interviewer on this project.
DAVID DeVRIES:
I mean John embodies to me the Southern gentleman. And he brings conservatism to his life. He also brings a tremendous dedication to human beings and he embodies that kind of integrity. And he also is an ex-CEO who for some reason believed over the years in what we can contribute as a field, psychology. And I worked for him for many years. I reported to him directly or he was at some point a peer of mine. And I just had a lot of good conversations with John Red in which conversations not only would I try to educate John about what we were doing but I also really valued his pragmatic take on what we were doing. Very pragmatic. Conservative. It was always nice because it gave me a sense of what might be the most conservative approach we could take on an issue. And then we might move away from that but it was always very useful. And John's impact on that place has been a quiet one but it was profound.
ELIZABETH MILLWOOD:
Okay. You've named some very interesting characters. Where do you see the Center in ten years?
DAVID DeVRIES:
Ten years from now? Either two of very different places. I couldn't give you probability as to which one it would end up. One is it could be basically where it's at now except it would be bigger. It's impact would be greater on the field. But basically doing what it's doing right now. It really could feel very much like the same place. I guess actually what I would say at this point is I would assign a 70% probability to that quite frankly. I think it's more likely that it's going to end up there. Now it may be it will do what it's doing with more people around the globe in perhaps more places with some slight varied adaptations to specific leadership constituencies but basically doing what it's doing and being successful at that. Another option would be that it in ten years has redefined itself to be a organization that generates new ideas, develops prototypes, and then spins them off into a variety of other organizations for the full scale kind of dissemination of it. Those organizations might in ten years from now be software organizations so they create let us say the medium that is used to disseminate this is anything but stand-up trainers. Rather it's a variety of interactive software programs. The

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Center would be a collection of ad hoc multi-disciplinary teams focused on specific challenging issues within the field of leadership such as, "How can you create leadership in a leaderless group? What's the best kind of leadership in a leaderless group in which no one person is given the formal role of leader? How can you, as leaders, regularly reinvent...?"
[END OF TAPE 2, SIDE A]

[TAPE 2, SIDE B]

[START OF TAPE 2, SIDE B]
ELIZABETH MILLWOOD:
This is an interview with David DeVries on December 2 and we were talking about where the Center may be in ten years.
DAVID DeVRIES:
Right. I was on the second of two examples or issues that these ad hoc new idea kind of development, whatever you call them, teams would be working on. Just how do individual executives, leaders reinvent themselves in a way that keeps them fresh, keeps them growing, keeps them being up to the interesting new challenges, basically, versus a more static model of leadership? Those are two. You could create a long list. But these would be very specific kinds of efforts which might go on three to five to ten years with real accountability in terms of what gets generated and how it's used. And then working all along to be sure that whatever products come out of those efforts and they do get disseminated widely, that the Center does not get—is not the principle agency for that dissemination.
ELIZABETH MILLWOOD:
So sort of creating them and then setting them free.
DAVID DeVRIES:
Exactly. Anyway, that obviously returns income to them and adds to their own visibility but doesn't drag them into the day to day kind of carrying out of that dissemination. That's the last thing that the Center really should be doing and unfortunately, it's really gotten caught up in that over the years. And now does that role get in the way of really new idea generation? It remains a fact that the Center is not nearly as good as doing that dissemination as its for-profit competitors for a variety of reasons. The Center never has been as good at and never will be as good at. That, by the way, that second model is more of a virtual organization model. These ad hoc teams could be drawn from the best and the brightest around the world. These do not have to be full-time permanent staff. In fact, God forbid that it would be. A portion of them could be but I could even see the majority of them not being. These are people to whom

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the Center can say, "We'll pay you to be part of this team because you've done some interesting work in this field. And we want your time and energy but you don't have to move to Greensboro, North Carolina. You may be living in London or San Diego or wherever but we're going to find ways for you to be part of the team."
ELIZABETH MILLWOOD:
Fascinating concept, it truly is.
DAVID DeVRIES:
I think the Center should have been playing with that a long time ago. It's really disappointing. I work with a variety of corporations around the country and they already are at that point. And one of the sad things about the Center is that it has not modeled innovative approaches to the whole field of new idea generation, new products creation. It's sad because the Center knows about these models. It convenes organizations around the world that are using these models but it doesn't apply these models themselves. That has always baffled me in the last ten years.
ELIZABETH MILLWOOD:
I'm down to my last question, I think, which is to simply ask you if there is anything you wish I had asked you?
DAVID DeVRIES:
Well, you asked some very interesting questions. I think you might have asked a question which I tend to ask of people in organizations which has to do with where, take an example of where the Center had in its history a big mistake. What was the mistake, why did it make it, and what if any lessons did it learn from that mistake? That to me is a very telling question to ask of people in an organization. First of all, they say we never made any, suggesting a certain delusional state. Another response might be yes, we made some, but are sweeping them under the rug. By the way, I think of that as a "Southern response." And more importantly, as we found of executives, it's wonderful if you can get someone to say, "Yes, let me tell you, I can tell you some big mistakes I've made," and they own up to it and then talk about what they learned from that. I'm not sure the Center has yet figured out what its big mistakes have been and there have been big ones and what the implications are then for the future. I think we made some in the 80's, big ones. And I think they're making some big ones right now. I don't have the sense of the place, that there is a healthy self-awareness by the leadership of the place in spite of the fact that it has hundreds of people like me sitting on the outside taking pot shots at it. I don't think it's learning from its mistakes. It really scares me. It baffles me first of all then scares me. Because I think that's an ominous sign for an organization.

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ELIZABETH MILLWOOD:
It's a vulnerability.
DAVID DeVRIES:
It is. It really makes you almost being blind-sighted. So that's a question I wish you'd asked me.
ELIZABETH MILLWOOD:
Well, I have truly enjoyed this interview and I thank you for the time that you've given me.
END OF INTERVIEW