Richard Branson: a modern day Willy Wonka?

Blogger Rob (I can’t find his surname) writes: "I had a mental picture of Richard Branson going into the Virgin board room one July afternoon and saying, ‘Ladies and gentlemen, as you know I am getting old now and I need to think about the future of this company. I have built it up over many years and I am very proud of it. I have therefore come up with a great idea. A marvellous idea. An astounding idea. I am going to put five golden tickets in five Virgin products, and then take the five people out there that find them, who will all (by an extraordinary coincidence), be children. I will take them on a tour around a Virgin factory with appalling levels of health and safety, until they have all had unpleasant but completely avoidable accidents apart from the one who survives, to whom I will then gift the entire business…"

Hilariously, Real Business can imagine this actually happening and the video appearing on Youtube, breaking all records for viral advertising. Such is the marketing genius of Branson. And the imagination of Roald Dahl, of course.

Rob continues, speaking as the Virgin entrepreneur himself: "Then, each time one of them has an accident, my low paid immigrant workers with appear en masse and mock their misfortune. I’m confident that my lawyers will be able to get round the lawsuits from the four families for their children being sucked up chocolate pipes or having experimental foodstuffs trialled on them. Then the one remaining child will inherit the lot and I can retire a happy man. Any questions?”

Admit it, you’re picturing the scene aren’t you? Richard Branson, decked out in that purple velvet jacket, a la Gene Hackman. (We don’t mention the Johnny Depp remake of the timeless classic).

But, silliness aside, Rob here may have a point. Willy Wonka was an entrepreneurial wonder, despite his fictional status. And, as Rob himself concludes: "As a way of designing for succession within organisations, it may have a few obvious flaws, but perhaps if Lehmann Brothers had tried it, it may actually have brought the kind of fresh thinking into the organisation that their survival depended on? Just a thought."

Want to read the whole thing? Visit the Transition Culture website.

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