1. How long have you been in the industry, and what is your current job title ?
I’ve been studying organizations for almost a decade, most recently in my role as Assistant Professor of Management at Oral Roberts University for the past two years.
2. Did you have a mentor and, if so, who ?
I didn’t have one particular mentor per se. Early in my career, I was introduced to the concept of a personal Board of Advisors. I’ve been building, refining, and consulting my personal board for several years and it’s worked really effectively. I get the benefits of mentors on a smaller scale but across a broader range of fields.
3. Are you by nature an optimist or a pessimist ?
An optimist. There’s a tendency as one gets older to look back nostalgically on the “good old days” and lament about how badly the world has turned out. I take the opposite approach. Looking through history at how far we’ve all come, I think you can’t help but get excited about what the future holds.
4. Which business leader do you most admire and why ?
Milton Hershey. I grew up a few hours from Hershey, Pennsylvania, but it wasn’t until I was older that I learned Milton’s story. Beyond building a successful candy company by persevering through setback after setback, Milton was also one of the first social entrepreneurs. While building up Hershey Foods, he also built a school to house and educate orphans.
Before he retired, he gave his shares in the Hershey Company to a trust that owns the school. The school owns the company; not the other way around. We’re beginning to look at business models that make social good sustainable, but Milton had done that decades ago.
5. What's the biggest lesson you have learned in your career to date ?
Don’t jump right to solutions; find the right problems. In my new book, I talk about the design thinking methodology. Design thinking devotes a considerable amount of time to observing the current state and making sure everyone is focused on the right problems. Too often business leaders jump to solutions that create unintended consequences. It pays to pull back from a problem and make sure it’s the right one to solve before jumping right into implementing solutions.
6. What's your favourite business quotation or life motto ?
I teach all my students the phrase 'Don’t Eat the Marshmallow', after Walter Mischel’s famous marshmallow test. Mischel gave children a choice between eating one marshmallow now or waiting ten minutes and getting two marshmallows. Years later, the children who could delay gratification and wait for two marshmallows were getting better grades, earning more money, happier, and more successful on just about every measure. Learning to delay gratification is a big part of life and business success.
7. What's the best business book you've ever read ?
The next one. I love learning new subjects or going deeper in my domain. I’ve read so many great books about business, organizations, and life in general, but I’m always excited for what the next book has to teach me.
ABOUT THE BOOK
Based on the latest research into how creative individuals and firms succeed, The Myths of Creativity highlights the mistaken ideas that hold us back and shows us how anyone can embrace a practical approach to ideas, projects, processes, and programs.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
David Burkus is a professor of management at Oral Roberts University and the founder and editor of LDRLB, an online think tank that interviews high-profile thought leaders and provides articles, videos, and podcasts to an audience of 60,000 followers.
He is a regular columnist for The Creativity Post. David also writes for SmartBrief on Leadership, The 99u and ChangeThis. He speaks frequently and is represented by Crown Speakers Bureau. David is an 'expert in residence' at Creativity Oklahoma, an organization affiliated with a national network of statewide creativity organizations, organizing conferences and events.