You just landed a huge new job as the head of an office for Ogilvy & Mather — one of the most respected advertising agencies in the world.
Walking into your new office for the first time you see a Russian nesting doll sitting on your empty desk.
Undoubtably, you are curious enough to open up the doll, and the next doll, and the next…
Inside the smallest doll is a note printed on a small piece of paper just like a fortune cookie.
The note reads:
Your fortune at Ogilvy & Mather depends on how well you are able to execute on that advice.
Those who enjoyed long careers working with David Ogilvy would have heard him constantly re-enforcing the belief that the only way to survive as a company is to hire and promote great people.
The Hidden Challenge in Ogilvy’s Message
Ogilvy’s message contains a truth that can be overlooked: you actually have to land the ‘giants’.
I bet there were a lot of people that worked at Ogilvy & Mather that tried as hard as they could to hire people that were better than they were but failed to get those people to accept the job.
Even Ogilvy didn’t always succeed in recruiting top talent. In his book, he mentions by name, art directors and copywriters that turned down his job offers and went on to have amazing careers at other companies.
Hiring people better than you is a noble goal, but actually bringing great people onto your team is another challenge completely.
There is No Blueprint for Landing Great Talent
For all his great advice, Ogilvy had some opinions on how to go about hiring great people that might leave you scratching your head. He sheepishly admitted to the belief that analyzing someone’s handwriting was a legitimate way to judge someone’s character.
Unfortunately, wanting to hire great people isn’t enough and the nuances of building a great team won’t fit on a tiny piece of paper.
But, Ogilvy’s Russian nesting doll exercise is powerful because it so clearly illustrates one of the universal truths of business: hire the best people you possibly can.
More details about Ogilvy and the Russian nesting dolls can be found on page 46–47 of “Ogilvy on Advertising”.