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Excerpt from Oral History Interview with David DeVries, November 23 and December 2, 1998. Interview S-0010. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007) See Entire Interview >>

Concerns that the CCL's output is declining in quality

DeVries describes the Center for Creative Leadership as the ideal research institution. He believes that the Center brings together researchers interested in changing their communities and influencing leadership. DeVries worries, however, that the quality of the Center's research has declined. "More and more I respond with 'so what?'" he says.

Citing this Excerpt

Oral History Interview with David DeVries, November 23 and December 2, 1998. Interview S-0010. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007) in the Southern Oral History Program Collection, Southern Historical Collection, Wilson Library, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

Full Text of the Excerpt

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?
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 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.
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?
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.