Jim Harris is one of North America's foremost authors and thinkers on leadership and change, working with Fortune 500 companies, associations and government departments.
Jim's latest book "Blindsided! How to spot the next breakthrough that will change your business" was published in 80 countries worldwide by U.K-based Capstone, an imprint of John Wiley & Sons of New York. "Blindsided!" highlights how decision makers can both identify and respond to the dramatic changes of our fast-paced global business environment.
Jim's first book, "The 100 Best Companies to Work for in Canada", sold over 50.000 copies. His second book, "The Learning Paradox", was nominated for the National Business Book Award in Canada. Both of them are best-sellers.
Association magazine ranked Jim as one of North America's top speakers. He speaks internationally at over 40 conferences a year on leadership, e-learning, future trends, innovation, and creating learning organizations. He also works with executive teams leading strategic planning sessions.
The Learning Paradox
In the past, a secure job came from working for a large, established organization, preferably a monopoly or market leader in a stable industry. The longer your service, stronger your union, higher your rank or the more specialized your knowledge or function, the more secure you were. But in today's world experience may be your worst enemy - everything that used to create security now creates insecurity.
The only way to prepare for the future is to learn how to learn, to become self-corrective and self-reflective. We have moved from a knowledge-based to a learning-based economy. Learning, changing and accepting uncertainty creates security.
Change is the key factor in today's economy. Today's consumers are more knowledgeable and are exercising their freedom of choice in the market. With consumers demanding value, and technology making it possible to serve needs faster and more economically, no wonder everything is in a state of flux. Every sector of our society is being affected by sweeping, dramatic change.
Security for individuals is based on becoming self-reflective and self-correcting. Similarly, security for organizations is based on putting in place processes that guarantee self-reflection and self-correction at organizational levels. Only the dynamic organizations that recognize and embrace change will thrive in this ever-changing world.
Creating a Common Mission
Creating a shared mission/vision is a challenging, yet vitally necessary task for any organization. Would you build your dream home before you had designed the blueprints? Would you build your dream home with a construction crew that had no idea what the house was to look like? Of course not.
In this ever changing world of business it is crucial that your company has a clear mission/vision statement that reflects the company as a whole and serves as a corporate blueprint. While the mission (Why are we in business?) will tend to remain constant, the vision or direction (Where are we going?) will be continually changing over time.
Strategic planning in the past assumed that the future would look essentially the same as now, with an estimated 10 per cent growth rate. However, the rate of change has become so rapid that strategic planning today must recognize that the future will look radically different than the present and the past. In today's dynamic and changing market, strategic planning is like trying to fly plane while building it.
The only way an organization can hope to grow and prepare for the future is by creating it. Companies must learn not to react to change, but to facilitate change, pushing established boundaries into new, unknown areas. Organizations must continuously compete against themselves and reinvent themselves to remain market leaders. What worked in the past does not guarantee success tomorrow.
Paradigms are the way we see the world. Columbus had a different paradigm of the world than the people of his day who belonged to The Flat Earth Society. Columbus' beliefs and actions flowed out of his paradigm. Change your paradigm and you change your world.
With our lives changing so quickly, every organization must be able to look outside the present way of doing things and contemplate different options. It is when we are most successful that we are most at risk of becoming complacent and ignoring potential risks and benefits of paradigm shifts. Boundaries between industries are no longer clear, and companies need to be versatile and confident to compete in today's markets.
Customer Retention and Delight
The key to corporate growth is customer retention. The way to retain clients is to delight them. It costs five times as much to attract a new customer than it costs to keep an existing one. We must define satisfaction from the customers' perspective, measure it, and change the organization to increase it.
With online sales booming and industrial boundaries blurred, can a company feel confident that its client base is secure? Of course not. Companies must fiercely protect its customer base by proactively working to provide the best value possible to its clients. Successful businesses anticipate and exceed the needs of their customers and focus on customer delight.
Effective communication has never been more important for businesses. In an empowered organization everyone has a role to play in creating an exciting and compelling vision of the future. In most organizations, if there is loss of market share, what is the typical response? Downsize. The organization still has the same problem but fewer people to cope with the workload.
Good communication allows companies to maximize their resources, work together to solve problems, create new opportunities, and put all its energy into moving forward and addressing challenges rather than wasting time and stagnating.
Leaders today are paradigm pioneers who must understand the versatility of business and change with it. In the world of shifting paradigms, leadership has become more complex and more necessary. One of the greatest challenges of leadership has become problem-seeing, not problem-solving.
Continually questioning helps individuals and organizations to deepen their understanding of potential market shifts, helping the organization to pioneer new paradigms, and avoid complacency. Security for organizations is based on putting in place processes that guarantee self-reflection and self-correction at the individual and organizational levels.