In Memoriam: John Hammond


Written by Steve Blue, CEO Miller Ingenuity

It was with great sadness I recently learned of John’s passing. He was a good friend, a trusted advisor, and one of the greatest business minds of our time.

After a 10-year stint as a Harvard professor, John went on for the next 40 years to his true calling, that of a business consultant, specializing in strategic planning and high stakes negotiations. Along the way he co-authored several critically acclaimed books including the award-winning Smart Choices: A Practical Guide To Making Better Business Decisions, which was translated into 15 languages.

To say he was brilliant would be an understatement. To say he was a terrific business consultant wouldn’t do justice to the huge impact he had on hundreds of businesses, including two of mine.

John guided me through the most complex and bet-the-company decisions of my career. Everything I know about strategic planning and high-stakes negotiations I learned from him. Everything. John also had an amazing talent for looking at a problem or opportunity in a way no one else could.

But here is the business lesson in this. When you have bet-the-company decisions to make, or huge strategic opportunities to exploit, hire an expert. Hire the best there is. Are they expensive? If they are any good, they are. John was very expensive-and worth every nickel of his advice.

There is a bonus in hiring the best in the world. If you’re smart, you learn from them. Soak it all in. You will use the wisdom they teach you a thousand different ways and a thousand situations.

Your company can never rise above its own level of competence if you aren’t constantly bringing in outside talent that can raise the company’s IQ.

But beware. Your organization won’t want you to bring a guy like John in. They will most likely feel threatened by an outsider, who is probably smarter than they are. But here is the thing: I always bring people in that are smarter than I am. And you should too.

Let your team know it is okay that they aren’t the smartest people around. Show them by example that you aren’t threatened by a smart outsider. And not only encourage them to accept smart outsiders but expect and demand that they do.

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