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How to avoid getting blindsided

The inability of some companies to recognize and adapt to change can cripple them.

That’s the message of Jim Harris — a Toronto-based business author, public speaker and former leader of the Green Party of Canada — and his best seller Blindsided! He will be the first speaker at Red Deer College’s Donald School of Business’ new distinguished speaker series, on March 5.

“It is quite an honour to be the inaugural speaker for this distinguished speaking series,” said Harris.

“And the topic is one that is quite exciting for business leaders, in my opinion.”

He pointed to the creation of the music file-sharing system Napster and how it impacted the music industry.

“I love talking about how an 18-year-old kid decimated the profitability of a $40-billion industry,” said Harris. “Shawn Fanning changed music distribution forever.”

Another example was how Netflix, video streaming software, blindsided Blockbuster, a video rental chain.

Blockbuster is now bankrupt and Netflix accounts for 25 per cent of total Internet bandwidth in the U.S. in the evenings.

“The list goes on,” said Harris.

Harris also said some companies can react to the disruptive innovation and maintain their market share. He pointed to Netscape, the now defunct Internet browser, which was once the dominant Internet application. Microsoft poured resources into developing Internet Explorer, which overtook Netscape’s market share and became the dominant Internet browser in North America.

Harris will be giving three presentations on March 5 in Red Deer, two of which will be for Red Deer College students, and they differ from his discussion at night for business leaders and the general public.

“For students the issues are finding a job and how to thrive going forward in their career,” said Harris.

When Harris returned to Canada after travelling the world for four years he didn’t have a job, but he swore he would have one within a week. He did, but it wasn’t a job he particularly liked. He worked as a telemarketer to pay his travelling debts and focus on a job search for something more to his interests. He applied to about 300 places. From those applications, he got 12 interviews. And from there, he got six offers, only three were of interest, and he picked the best one.

“The result is I became the co-author of a book that was a national bestseller,” said Harris of The 100 best companies to work for in Canada. “So I had a national bestseller before I was 30.

“Some people say I’ve had a very fortunate career and I’d agree with them. But I believe we can co-create our luck.”

While Harris is also the former leader of the Green Party, he finds what surprises people is that he used to be a Progressive Conservative.

“I talk about the economic benefit of going green,” said Harris. “Many people will talk about the cost of going green, saying it’s not profitable.”

Harris used his car as an example. He purchased a Toyota Prius and estimates he has saved $18,000 in fuel since he bought the car and believes he will have earned out the entire capital cost in fuel savings.

“Can you show me where this is a bad economic decision?” said Harris.

The event will be held at City Centre Stage, at 4922 49th St. in Red Deer, starting at 4:30 p.m., with Harris speaking at 5:30 p.m. Tickets cost $50, which includes both the presentation and refreshments, and are available through the Black Knight Inn Ticket Centre, or by calling 403-755-6626.



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