John Wells

Professor of Management Practice, Harvard Business School
Author, Strategic IQ

Building Smarter Companies.

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Dr. John Wells is Professor of Management Practice at Harvard Business School. Within industry, he was the CFO of PepsiCo's European division, CEO of Wedel in Poland, and CFO of Frito-Lay International. Previously, he was also a member of the executive board of Thomson Travel Group, the UK's largest holiday company, and the Managing Director of Monitor Company Europe.

The ability to adapt to change is a measure of intelligence; so why do so many companies demonstrate low Strategic IQ? Wells’ work in this field focuses on the diagnosis and treatment of strategic failure, structural impediments to change, and human inertia. His recently published book, Strategic IQ: Creating Smarter Corporations, examines why once-successful companies fail. A successful company develops a kind of inertia that can take various forms — strategic, structural, or personal — and executives often fail to diagnose this effectively. More importantly, John shows how to avoid the common quick fixes that only aggravate these problems, and lays out a road map for executives to develop their strategic intelligence to keep ahead of their competitors.

"Wells brings his famously sharp mind and uncompromising approach to a brilliant new book…you will enjoy the read, but flinch at the implications."
— Dan Cobley, Managing Director, Google UK

John Wells has written over 50 cases on strategy and innovation and speaks regularly on the subject around the world. His wide ranging interests include strategic business model innovation, social strategy, responsible leadership, relevant learning and family capitalism.

Prior to his current role at HBS, John was President of IMD (International Institute for Management Development), in Switzerland, one of Europe’s leading business schools. Dr. Wells invests in and advises a number of start-ups, and in early 2002, joined Archie Norman, the ex-Chairman of ASDA in the UK, in a $1.3 billion management buy-in of Energis, the UK's third largest telecommunications service provider.

His unparalleled experience as a business leader, a top consultant, an entrepreneur and a compellingly, engaging speaker gives him a unique edge and ability to engage with companies at the highest levels and generate ideas, insights and methods to drive change and secure improved performance.


Strategic IQ

Creating Smarter Corporations

John Wells

Why do once-successful companies fail? The book identifies 3 types of inertia that can be fatal to the most successful company: strategic/structural/ personal. Senior executives often go to great lengths to resist change. When things start to go awry, they try harder (through efficiency gains, etc) and therefore may simply be getting better at doing the wrong thing. Instead they need to analyse their market effectively and diagnose what is needed to respond to the real threats outside. The illustrations throughout the book give the reader real-life tales of competition on the edge and show what took place behind the public narrative of many prominent companies.

This book will prompt executives to ask: What is your Strategic IQ? Do you have the strategic intelligence to keep ahead of your competitors? Readers will find the book enlightening and its lessons easy to apply:

  • It provides a framework for understanding strategic intelligence
  • A roadmap for advancing up the intelligence ladder
  • Assessment tools to measure progress

John Wells shows how traditional success metrics such as revenue growth, profit, market share, reputation and stock price often fail to predict impending disaster — and what to do about it.

John Wiley & Sons (4 May 2012)


"An essential read for leaders of any organization in these turbulent times"
— Charles Gurassa, former CEO of Thomson Travel Group, former Chairman of Virgin Mobile, former Chairman of Love Film, currently Deputy Chairman of easyJet

"John Wells combines a hard hitting in your face message for business with a stimulating intellectual tour de force that makes this a must read for business leaders."
— Archie Norman, Chairman of ITV, former CEO of ASDA, former MP and Deputy Chairman of the Conservative Party

"John Wells is one of the world's finest strategic thinkers. Especially during these tumultuous times, every business leader should read Strategic IQ"
— David Soskin, former CEO of, Chairman of

"Hats off to John Wells! He combines practical wisdom and intellectual insight to convince us that a smart leader has to wear three hats — that of a strategist, an organizational designer, and a social psychologist — all at the same time."
— Hirotaka Takeuchi, Professor at Harvard Business School, former Dean of Hitotsubashi Business School, Japan,

"As always, Wells gets to the heart of outstanding performance. Neither leadership nor analysis by themselves is enough. It’s the combination that is potent. This is a must-read for anyone in a position of authority"
— Gerald Corbett, Chairman,

"Wells makes a compelling case for dramatic change"
— Ron Sargent, CEO of Staples, USA

"A scintillating, stimulating and thought-provoking perspective on strategy….ignore it at your own peril!
— Dr. Nahed Tahir, CEO of Gulf One Bank, Saudi Arabia

"A must read for any CEO looking to jump-shift their company’s performance."
— Michael White, CEO of DirectTV, USA

"Wells brings his famously sharp mind and uncompromising approach to a brilliant new book.…you will enjoy the read, but flinch at the implications."
— Dan Cobley, Managing Director, Google UK

"Terrifying but true! Wells zeroes in with supreme intellectual precision on the heavy price firms pay for moving too slowly on the business battlefield"
— Bill Roedy, ex CEO, MTV Networks International, USA

"Wells…offers real world, practical advice to raise your company’s Strategic IQ"
— Glenn Renwick, CEO of Progressive Corporation, USA

“Wells breaks down common misconceptions about strategy. This book provides an excellent guide.”
— Dr. Victor Fung, Chairman of Li and Fung, Hong Kong

"A master-class on strategy from a master strategist"
— Rick Mills, Group Director, Strategy Innovation, Alliance Boots, UK

"A tour de force ... Wells presents the most approachable, practical, and comprehensive strategy guide to formulating and executing strategy ever!"
— Bruce Harreld, ex-Head of Strategy, IBM, USA


John tailors each presentation to the needs of his audience and is not limited to the topics we have listed below. These are subjects that have proven valuable to customers in the past and are meant only to suggest his range and interests. Please ask us about any subject that interests you; we are sure that we can accommodate you.

Strategic IQ


— Wells on Strategy