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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 >>

The importance of self-criticism

DeVries believes that CCL's personnel have made some mistakes over the years, and that they continue to do so. He believes in the importance of self-criticism.

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

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 DE VRIES:
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.
ELIZABETH MILLWOOD:
It's a vulnerability.
DAVID DE VRIES:
It is. It really makes you almost being blind-sighted. So that's a question I wish you'd asked me.