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Thinking ahead…Mad King Ludwig!

How far beyond the current thinking of an organisation should a chairman venture? I assert that a chairman should keep his mind as open as he possibly can. That doesn’t mean he has to share every seemingly outlandish idea with his CEO or fellow directors.

Here’s an anecdote from Dan Cruikshank’s excellent BBC programme about the palaces of King Ludwig shown on 2nd July…..

So-called mad King Ludwig the second of Bavaria was a social recluse, widely regarded at the time as mad, was hopelessly extravagant in his spending on a series of ever larger palaces, culminating in a building to rival Versailles, with a hall of mirrors even longer than the 90 metre original.

Because of his extravagance, his councillors had him locked up as insane; ┬áhe died under mysterious circumstances with debts of 3.5 billion euros in today’s money.

What happened next? Within six months all his palaces were opened to the public, and have enjoyed massive visitor numbers for the last 120 years with receipts paying their cost many times over. He is now a German national hero, regarded as an important visionary who refused to be constrained by the Teutonic conservatism of his day.

So against the advice of others, he did what he enjoyed doing, and much to everyone’s surprise it all worked out well in the end (although sadly not for him personally).

I see other instances of people having surprising levels of success, financial as well as of personal satisfaction, from doing what they love rather than what they think they ought. A farmer who died recently spent most of his last thirty years creating a magnificent 15 acre garden which has probably added more value to his farm than the hard work he and his family put in to agriculture and food production over a longer period.

So what’s my advice? When you think you “ought” to do something or ought not to, think carefully about what will bring pleasure to yourself and others. That is what may well endure as your legacy.

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