The plot: Harry returns to Hogwarts one year later to discover that an evil being is turning students into living statues.
Business lesson No. 1: Initiative is rewarded. Sometimes rules do need to be bent or even broken. Caryn Beck-Dudley, a professor of business law and ethics at Utah State University, Logan, observes, "If you kicked the Hogwarts students out every time they made a mistake, you wouldn't be left with a very virtuous organization. And you wouldn't even have Harry Potter."
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Just as entrepreneurs rarely stick to a 9-to-5 regimen, Harry breaks curfew to sneak around school and combat evil. When he flies on his broom against orders, he isn't punished-in fact, he's rewarded with a coveted spot on the Quidditch team. Why? Because he was flying to help a classmate, and he's the best broom-flier the school has seen in ages-to the delight of students, professors and even headmaster Albus Dumbledore. "But if Dumbledore were like many bosses," says Beck-Dudley, "he'd focus on the bad things Harry did. Then, either Harry would leave and take his skills elsewhere, or his creativity would be squashed."
Business lesson No. 4: Create a nurturing work environment. If Harry Potter worked at most companies, he'd have been fired by now, asserts Beck-Dudley. "Sometimes harsh punishment isn't the best remedy," she notes. "Business owners often fire someone because it's the easiest [route], without realizing it creates an environment where people are afraid and unproductive. "Hogwarts includes everybody. You aren't harshly punished if you don't succeed. Poor Neville [one of the students] tries hard but never quite makes it and is still part of the group. The focus is on how he contributes rather than how he doesn't."
Geoff Williams has written for numerous publications, including Entrepreneur, Consumer Reports, LIFE and Entertainment Weekly. He also is the author of Living Well with Bad Credit.