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Wilfrid Laurier University Lazaridis School of Business & Economics
January 24, 2017
Canadian Excellence

Jim Balsillie speaks to Laurier students.
Jim Balsillie speaks to Laurier students.

Headlines (Campus Updates)

Lazaridis School of Business & Economics

RIM’s Jim Balsillie receives Laurier’s Outstanding Business Leader Award

BlackBerry executive tells students to follow their own ‘personal narrative’

Communications, Public Affairs & Marketing

Jan 22/09

For a self-described “quant-jock” who excels at math and business strategy, Jim Balsillie struck a literary note Thursday to convey some personal and career wisdom to a packed room of Laurier business students.

“It is very, very, very important, I believe, to shape your personal narrative —this is who I am, this is how I see myself, this is why I am, and how I’m going to be who I’m going to be,” he told the mid-morning gathering in the university’s Senate and Board Chamber.

Balsillie, the billionaire co-chief executive officer of BlackBerry-maker Research In Motion (RIM), spent an hour with the students prior to receiving Laurier’s Outstanding Business Leader Award at a luncheon ceremony.

Rather than a conventional speech about business, Balsillie spoke informally to the students about the importance of knowing who you are and the value of perseverance and keeping a positive attitude.

Knowing yourself — your “personal narrative,” as he put it — enables you to ride out the challenges in life and take advantage of the opportunities that come your way.

“You create this frame, this way of seeing things, and it manifests in everything you do,” he said.

Balsillie cited former prime minister Jean Chretien as an example. “He called himself the ‘little guy from Shawinigan,' and it shaped everything he did,” he said.

Sharing his own personal narrative, Balsillie told the students that he was a tradesman’s son from Peterborough, Ontario, who excelled at math, had big ambitions and always persevered.

“I’m the quant-jock from Peterborough who never quits,” he said. “That’s how I see myself; that’s my personal narrative.

“Whenever you meet opportunities … more particularly, whenever you meet challenges in life, you go back to that narrative and that narrative will lead you through…. It will be your anchor in the storm.”

After his chat with students, Balsillie was honoured at the Waterloo Inn where more than 200 people filled the Viennese Ballroom to see him receive the 21st Laurier Outstanding Business Leader Award from business dean Ginny Dybenko.

Balsillie was chosen for the award this year in recognition of his significant achievements in the global wireless communications industry, including the huge success of the BlackBerry device, and his far-reaching and generous community involvement.

In his acceptance speech, Balsillie addressed the issue of global economic integration and the urgent need for an improved and innovative approach to global political governance.

The world is changing rapidly, he said, but while there is more and more economic integration, there continues to be political division and conflict as nations remain isolated and international laws and global institutions fail to meet the challenge of an increasingly global world.

“One lesson to draw from these changes is that we need investment and innovation in governance, domestic, regional and global, to create the institutions and the structures, and the rules and laws that support the inevitable globalization of trade but also address the pressing issues of our time,” he said.

“Many of the most pressing problems are global in scope and require global solutions. But the policy authority and resources for tackling these problems remains vested in states — that is the case for climate change and terrorism. And, there is a disconnect between the distribution of authority in existing international institutions and the distribution of military and economic power in the world.”

Balsillie has personally invested millions of dollars to create the Centre for International Governance Innovation and the Balsillie School of International Affairs, both of which are located in Waterloo and are affiliated with Laurier and the University of Waterloo.

“These are the reasons I am committed to developing Waterloo into a unique centre of excellence in policy-oriented education, research and evidence-based policy advice for addressing today’s most critical global challenges.”

“Make no mistake: ideas matter,” he said.
“Getting it right will require that Canadians, our governments, our universities, business and NGO’s raise both the profile of foreign policy and Canada's global role, and the creative and intellectual content and form of that policy. Foreign policy is not a luxury; it is an absolutely fundamental expression of our national interests.

“I encourage you all to join me in building Waterloo Region as a globally renowned centre for addressing the true issues of our time.”


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