Harry Potter And . . .

Book Three: Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban

The plot: Our hero returns to Hogwarts, hoping to stay out of the way of the infamous murderer Sirius Black.

Business lesson No. 5: Networking works. This theme runs throughout the series but seems best illustrated in this installment. Harry and Hermione are good at making contacts that pay off. Before the book begins, Hermione has arranged with one of the teachers to take three classes at once (via time travel) and get further ahead academically. But Harry is the networking king. In Chamber of Secrets, he meets Dobby, a house-elf who later saves his life with advice in Goblet of Fire. In Azkaban, Fred and George Weasley (Ron's brothers and Harry's classmates) provide Harry with a map of Hogwarts that shows where individuals are at any given time. In Goblet, Harry assists his opponent, Cedric Diggory, during the Triwizard Tournament; later, Cedric returns the favor. If not for his contacts, Harry would likely have been done for long ago.

Need to brush up on your networking skills? Make The Connectioncan tell you just what you need to know to meet and greet with the best of them.

Business lesson No. 6: When necessary, abandon your business plan. Little goes as Harry expects, but he learns to be flexible in this book. (If you haven't read this one and want to, consider skipping this section.) After hearing he can't visit the magical village of Hogsmeade with his fellow students, Harry plans to spend the day reading. But when he gets a secret map of the school, he discovers a tunnel to Hogsmeade-which later helps him reveal the villains. And though many heroes (entrepreneurs) could be forgiven for not wanting to team up with somebody who was once the competition, Harry befriends Sirius, who becomes one of his closest allies.

Harry's willingness to quickly change directions impresses Blackman. "The choices you make influence your future," he explains. "Do you choose to innovate, imitate or vegetate? If the last, you might as well abdicate. So much of Harry Potter deals with innovation-thinking creatively from a unique perspective." Dumbledore muses, "The consequences of our actions are always so complicated, so diverse, that predicting the future is a very difficult business indeed." You can make predictions for your company, but you can't count on them.

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.

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This article was originally published in the February 2001 print edition of Entrepreneur with the headline: Harry Potter And . . ..

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