Hurst_David

Speaker, L&D


David K. Hurst

Expert on Strategy, Leadership and Change

David Hurst helps organizations learn from the past, understand the present, and create the future. In his vibrant presentations, Hurst shares his highly innovative ideas about leadership, change management, and the dynamics of organizations that promote creativity and learning.

Hurst is the author of three bestselling books, Crisis & Renewal: Meeting the Challenge of Organizational Change; Learning from the Links: Mastering Management Using Lessons from Golf; and The New Ecology of Leadership: Business Mastery in a Chaotic World, and his opinions and articles are highlighted in publications such as The Financial Times, Harvard Business Review, Strategy and Business, The Globe and Mail, Strategic Management Journal, Organizational Dynamics, Academy of Management Executive, Business Quarterly, and Organization Science.

For ten years, Hurst was executive vice-president of a large North American industrial distributor. With sales of over one billion, the company employed 1,600 people. He holds an MBA from the University of Chicago and a BA from the University of the Witwatersrand. He is an adjunct professor at the University of Regina’s Kenneth Levene Graduate School of Business and adjunct faculty with the Center for Creative Leadership.


The New Ecology of Leadership

What if people were like plants and organizations were like gardens? Would managers and leaders then behave like gardeners? Would they select and plant, water and fertilize, train and prune? Would they realize that they could not grow either people or organizations directly: that they could create only the conditions for growth? Perhaps they would…

This presentation outlines how we can reconfigure the field of management by using an ecological mental model to embrace and contain the current logical, analytical views of business. Ecology turns out to be a powerful “magnetic” metaphor that attracts and aligns many management and leadership concepts. We will see how enterprises are conceived in passion, born in communities of trust, grow through the application of reason and mature in power. Over time, however, as resources become centralized, members of the organization start to swivel inward to face the management hierarchy. As the care and feeding of the bureaucracy starts to outweigh concerns for the customers, they turn their backs to their clients. What was once a productive bureaucracy can change into a byzantine, self-regarding political structure. The original purposes of the institution now play little role in decision-making; the means have run away with the ends. The stage is set for crisis and destruction, but with the possibility of renewal.

Now the gardeners have to change their roles. It’s time to clear away the tangle, to uproot and transplant and to make a bonfire of the debris. If they don’t do that, then eventually nature (power of various kinds) will do it for them, sweeping away old, decadent growth with flood and pestilence, wind and fire. The ash will serve to fertilize new open patches and the ecological cycle of birth, life, death and renewal will be ready to repeat itself. Come to think of it – isn’t that what capitalism itself is all about?

The Creative Organization: The Ecodynamics of Leadership and Creativity

Why are so many organizations innovative and creative when they begin their lives but become hidebound and conservative as they age? This presentation uses a novel conception of the creative process derived from looking at organizations as natural systems. In the numerous modules that make up this presentation, the ‘ecodynamics’ of leadership and creativity become clear. It shows clearly how successful firms can become ‘scale-bound’ as they grow – operating at progressively higher levels of abstraction. Their processes can work well for some time provided the environment does not change! When it does they may find themselves in territories for which they have no strategic maps and facing risks of which they are unaware. Now they have to ‘rescale’ their organizations, getting back to their innovative roots to find the processes of learning and creativity that they can use to renew themselves. Suggestions are made as to how creative tension can be reintroduced into organizations that have lost their ability to learn. The objective is to create small communities of practice, who can immerse themselves in experimentation at the edges of the organization.

Learning from the Links: Mastering Management Using Lessons from Golf

Management was, is, and always will be about getting things done. Yet while today the challenge of implementation remains central, we hardly understand the issue at all. Our pervasive “think-then-act” model of the mind does not match the way in which effective people and successful organizations actually work. The implementation of strategy is no different systemically from an athlete performing a complex action. Conscious intentions formed in the brain have to be transformed into unconscious competencies performed by the body. We know the world through our bodies, yet their role is much neglected in management thought. As these presentations make clear, body movement is a resource to the mind and none makes a better resource than the game of golf. Golf instructs us not through concepts, but through structured experience. It teaches us to think strategically about the complex webs of cause-and-effect that lie between thought and action. Golf reminds us of the importance of execution and the danger of letting one’s plans diverge too far from one’s abilities. Golf also inculcates values for living – those common courtesies and sensitivities that underpin all effective groups, from families to teams to companies. Lastly, golf teaches us to live in the present, to stay in the moment, the only place and time where success and happiness can be found.

Crisis & Renewal: Meeting the Challenge of Organizational Change

This presentation presents a radical view of how all successful organizations evolve and renew themselves, and what managers need to do to lead the revival. It argues that there are often times when managers must create deliberate crises in acts of “ethical anarchy” in order to break the constraints of success. Organizational renewal involves going back to the founding principles of an organization to reconnect the past with the present and restore the excitement and emotional commitment that are often missing from large enterprises. It is the integration of these renewal activities with conventional management practices that allows managers to lead their organizations to new life.

Boxes and Bubbles: the Management of Change

Based upon my bestselling Harvard Business Review article, this presentation covers the experiences of the management team of a fast growing, acquisition-oriented conglomerate who were themselves taken over in a wildly over-leveraged buyout on the eve of a serious business recession. The presentation deals with management’s reactions to the bewildering world in which they found themselves and how they changed their concepts and their practices to successfully handle the turbulence. The lessons drawn have wide application to all kinds of organizations undergoing rapid, discontinuous change.

Hunters and Herders: The Challenge of Organizational Renewal

The nomadic hunting/foraging band, self-organizing and resilient, was mankind’s original learning organization and an understanding of their dynamics is directly relevant to organizational issues today. In this presentation, the hunter’s egalitarian mode of life is contrasted with that of the herders and their hierarchical structure. The social dynamics and physical contexts which compel hunters to become herders are shown to exist within our modern organizations. The best illustration is that of the venture capital firm, Kleiner, Perkins, Caulfield and Byers in Silicon Valley, who use hunting techniques to ‘manage their luck.’ This leads participants to a new understanding of the requirements for organizational renewal and the difficulties they may encounter on the way.

The Creative Organization and the Architecture of Choice

Duration: Two Full Days
Target Audiences: Senior Executives, Leaders, Managers; can be used with whole organizations – up to 150 people.

Everyone has the potential to be creative but organizational contexts often inhibit that creativity. This is why so many organizations are innovative and creative when they begin their lives but become hidebound and conservative as they age. This seminar uses an ecological mental model to help you understand the dynamics of this change and what you as a leader and manager can do about it. In the numerous modules that make up this learning experience, the ‘ecodynamics’ of leadership and creativity become clear. You will see how successful firms can become ‘scale-bound’ as they grow, with their executives operating at progressively higher levels of abstraction. This can be adaptive – provided that the environment does not change! When it inevitably does they may find themselves in territories for which they have no strategic maps and facing risks of which they are unaware. Now they have to ‘rescale’ their organizations, getting back to their innovative roots to find the processes of learning and creativity that they can use to renew themselves.

One route to this is the emerging field of architecture of choice, an approach that uses findings from disciplines as diverse as behavioural economics, design, evolutionary psychology, lean production and neuroscience to understand how people make decisions and the powerful influence of context on the outcomes. Participants in this two day seminar will come away with:

  • An understanding of the dynamics of organizational change and the critical importance of scale in space and time
  • An appreciation of the powerful influence of context on the behaviour of people and why this is so
  • Four tools that will allow them to design helpful contexts for all their stakeholders: employees, customers, shareholders and communities
  • Feedback on their own personal preferences and comfort levels with each tool

This seminar can help organizations observe better, orientate themselves better, decide better and take action better, largely through allowing them to communicate better. They see “new” things that are usually parts of the situation they had not noticed before. They orientate themselves better because they have navigation tools. They decide and take action better because the program creates new connections and conversations between people and ideas. These opportunities for communication come together under the umbrella of story – the creation and telling of a never-ending narrative that deals with where the organization has come from, where it is now and where it is going.