Hugh Hefner was ahead of his time, but not because he put hot women in centerfolds -- and that's what Les Moonves and Randy Jackson will remember about him.

We got the CBS honcho leaving Craig's Wednesday night in WeHo, and Les had seriously high praise for Hefner. You know that running joke, "I only read Playboy for the articles"? Les says there's a lot of truth behind it, and for good reason.

As we reported ... Hefner died peacefully at his home. He revolutionized the magazine biz -- partly with Playboy's famous photos, but also by attracting amazing writers. 

Hef's leadership is what Randy admired the most.