Had the merchant bank been called Lehman Sisters, it would probably never have gone bankrupt in 2008, precipitating one of the world's biggest financial crises ever recorded.
This was just one of the hypotheses (albeit not entirely original) posited by business consultant Dr Kjell Nordström, author of the international best-seller Funky Business: Talent makes capital dance, at last month's global summit, organised by The Consumer Goods Forum in London.
Nordström likes to entertain and shock his audience in equal measure with his radical views on what makes a successful business. After three days of the great and the good of the consumer goods sector competing in their pledges to work towards a more sustainable world, a little bit of rampant capitalism – or as Nordström preferred to call it "innovism" (innovation that fuels the system) – came as a reality check; and some welcome light relief.
At an event awash with the world’s business behemoths, it was ironic to hear about the economic theory of 'creative destruction' – radical innovation that destroys that which came before it. But then, many of these firms are probably among Nordström's clients, striving to be the equivalent of the next Apple rather than IBM.
While it would be easy to dismiss Nordström's views as the ramblings of a free marketer who sees corporate power taking over from the nation state, elements of his treatise ring true. In particular, the need to reward failure rather than success alone. Tomorrow's best ideas will not come from those who play it safe.
Following this logic for the food and drink sector, it is likely that winners will come from agile – probably small – businesses prepared to think the unthinkable.