Title: Oral History Interview with David DeVries, November 23 and December 2, 1998. Interview S-0010.
Interviewer: Millwood, Elizabeth
Interviewee: DeVries, David
Abstract: David DeVries earned a Ph.D. in psychology, motivated by a childhood in an immigrant family that positioned him as an outsider. He soon applied his expertise at the Center for Creative Leadership (CCL), an institution dedicated to leadership education and research. DeVries spent fifteen years at the Center, eventually rising to the position of executive vice president. In this interview, he gives an organizational history of CCL, tracing it from its beginnings as a loosely organized think tank to its arrival as an influential player in private sector leadership. The story of CCL seems to be one of competing impulses: researchers' creativity clashed with the need for streamlined business practices, the conservatism of CCL's funders sometimes stood in contrast with CCL's style, and even the success of certain ideas might stifle the drive to find new ones. But as creative and unrestrained as industrial psychologists like David Campbell were, the organization's leaders, including William C. Friday, who served as honorary chairman from 1976 to 1996, were able to corral that creativity and build a successful organization. This interview offers a portrait of a unique organization and the ways in which business leaders resolve the tensions between creativity, profitability, and personality.