Get to Know Our CEO: 5 Questions for Doug Shipman

Since 1995, BrightHouse has helped businesses think about their larger role in the world. This week marks another milestone as we welcome our new CEO who embodies business savvy and soulful excellence. Doug Shipman comes to us with degrees from Harvard Divinity and Harvard Kennedy Schools, global leadership experience with The Boston Consulting Group’s offices in New York, Atlanta, and Mumbai, and most recently, he served as the founding CEO of the National Center for Civil and Human Rights here in Atlanta. So let’s get to know a little more about him, shall we?


1. We’ve noticed you’re active and engaged on social media. What excites you about the voices in these social communities? And who are three people you’d recommend we follow on Twitter?

I love the way an “anonymous” company or organization can become real and how individuals can directly connect with people and companies that seem distant. Customer service, feedback and reaction have all fundamentally changed via social media. I also find a lot of divergent ideas via online channels.

Three folks I love following on Twitter include:
Maria Popova, @brainpicker: Lots of great ideas and references.
Michael Skolnick, @michaelskolnick: On the front lines of today’s social issues.
Pro Publica, @propublica: In depth, award-winning long-form journalism.

2. We have a saying at BrightHouse that speaks to the power of our beginnings to shape our future – “The fruits are in the roots.” How have your roots shaped you, and how has Atlanta drawn you in, or perhaps changed your perspective?

In many ways I’m still a small-town guy who grew up in a very rural community in Northern Arkansas. However—from the first days of my college experience at Emory in Atlanta, I’ve been deeply immersed in issues of “identity” and social movements via academic and social pursuits. Atlanta’s deep African-American culture, Civil Rights Movement history and explosive growth and change have deeply shaped how I view the world and the ways in which we are challenged to build community across lines of difference.

Additionally, Atlanta’s unique business culture wherein companies and their leaders are expected to contribute has also impacted my thinking. As one business CEO told me, “In other cities, you just sit on civic and nonprofit boards. In Atlanta you are expected to actually do something.”

3. Drawing from your range of experiences, who are some of your biggest influences personally and professionally?

I’ve been fortunate to study with and work with phenomenal leaders who understand how to work across various sectors. Former Morehouse President Robert Franklin and former Atlanta Mayor Shirley Franklin have shaped the way I see what is possible and how to make what seems distant a reality. My Harvard professor Dean Williams and his colleague Ron Heifetz (and their great books on leadership including Ron Heifetz’s Leadership Without Easy Answers) continue to remind me that leadership and authority are not the same. Finally, collaborating with the 2-time Tony award winner George C. Wolfe on the design of the National Center for Civil and Human Rights showed me the power of detailed design to achieve incredible overall storytelling.

4. How will your new role at BrightHouse feed that part of you that is so passionate about civil and human rights?

My passion for civil and human rights is both specific and more general. The general interest is trying to help create a world in which everyone can authentically be themselves. When you take the notion of “everyone” seriously, an authentic community becomes very tough since we don’t agree with everyone, like everyone, know everyone. BrightHouse powerfully and uniquely helps organizations and individuals within those organizations create a new way to be in the world and thus a new reality. I’m thrilled to be able to play a role in helping BrightHouse reach more organizations, in more places, and more deeply.

5. What are you looking forward to most about leading BrightHouse?

The work BrightHouse does everyday unleashes incredibly powerful and positive energy. I’m looking forward to being a part of that energy everyday and surrounded by smart, engaged, creative and fun people.

And just because we were still a little curious, let’s do a Lighting Speed Bonus Round.
(Rest assured, he answered these questions really, really fast.)

Will you recommend a summer read or movie?

I just finished Nina MacLaughlin’s Hammer Head. She is a former journalist who took up carpentry as a profession a few years ago. Her personal journey and incredible writing make for an entertaining and surprisingly deep read.

You’re out on a hot summer day in Atlanta. Name a frozen treat you’re likely to grab on the way home.

King of Pops for sure. I live very close to the original stand at Buddy’s gas station (North and Highland Ave) so I love stopping by and eating it in the car…the best.

Sure, you’ve just started, but when you have a day off in Atlanta, how do you like to spend it?

I love to get up early and have breakfast at Folk Art in Inman Park, then a ride or walk on the Beltline. In the afternoon, taking in a museum (maybe the Center for Civil and Human Rights or the High Museum of Art), and then a quick dinner (perhaps Serpas in Old Fourth Ward) and a late set at Churchill Grounds (jazz in a small room near The Fox Theatre). Full day—good day.

Look for more from Doug and all of us BrightHouse on the blog coming this fall. Stay up-to-date by subscribing to our blog. And be sure to follow us on Twitter and LinkedIn for the latest insights on purpose. 

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