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The Hedgehog Concept

I know you have said “Good Bye” to 2021 and I’m sure you will have a mixed baggage of all your sadness of unfulfillment or accomplishments of happiness at professional and personal levels…. right?

Some thoughts crossed my mind while I was reflecting the whole year and definitely, what you see every day is day and night, your experiences with loads of ups and downs, success & failure, learning in and out, and every milestone has a story of adaption, change, revision, growth and I believe success will follow when you are consistent in what you do and as I was thinking about 2022, I felt “The Show Must Go On” from good to great.

So, let's ponder on the question "How far are you willing to go from good to great?

Yes friends, I’m referring to the book `Good to Great by Jim Collins & he says Greatness is not a function of circumstances and greatness is largely a matter of conscious choice one need to make and what struck my chord was one of the tools in his book called `The Hedgehog Concept’’ which refers to a unique concept that will enhance your move from good to great to make an impact in the future.

Get ready to deep dive into the journey of greatness & to know the Hedgehog concept in detail

First & foremost, it asks you a question - Are you a Hedgehog or a fox? Let’s understand the traits of Hedgehog and the fox for you to choose & decide what you want to be?

The fox is fast, intelligent, knows many things and is a cunning predator and is able to devise a myriad of complex strategies as a sure winner, it is also inconsistent and calls off execution the moment it faces the defense from the other side despite his greater plan.

On the other side, Hedgehogs knows one big thing and its traits are very simple, minds his business, sees what is essential, ignores rest, takes care of his home and will use his one great weapon when confronted by predators (fox) and despite all cunning efforts by fox, the hedgehog always wins because the hedgehog does one thing well- defend itself.

The distinction comes from a saying of the ancient Greek poet Archilochus : "The fox knows many things, but the hedgehog knows one big thing." Hedgehogs have a single grand idea that they apply to everything, while foxes come up with many ideas for every situation.

You might be wondering what does all this tête-à-tête of hedgehogs & foxes have to do with good to great. The answer is everything & that’s what Jim Collins says those who build good to great companies used their hedgehog nature to drive towards Hedgehog concept and others who tend to be foxes never gain the clarifying advantage of a hedgehog concept being instead they are scattered, diffused and inconsistent.

I felt `The Hedgehog Concept’ is a great insight not just to companies but also to individuals as this will enable you to focus on that one great strength of yours to move towards excellent.

So, you might now be wondering what is the hedgehog concept.

In this Good to Great book, the hedgehog concept is knowing oneself – i.e., For you to transition from good to great, you should focus on your one great strength which you can do the best than anyone else in the world and that simply leads to greatness. The concept also says that if you scatter your interest and objectives, then you may lack focus which results incompetence, inefficiency and getting very little done.

It is important to identify & focus on what you are good at and that would be your core objective to get breakthrough results in everything you do.

So, The Hedgehog Concept is a tool for identifying your own simple, crystalline concept. It’s based on developing a deep understanding about the intersection of the three circles:

(1) What you can be the best in the world at,

(2) What drives your economic or resource engine.

(3) What you’re deeply passionate about.

So, let’s understand all three in detail:

Circle #1 - What you can be the best in the world at and what you cannot be the best also:

The hedgehog concept is not a goal to be the best, a strategy to be the best, an intention to be the best, a plan to be the best. It is an understanding you need to gain of what you can be the best at. The distinction is absolutely crucial as you should be really sure at doing that better than anyone else. This is applicable for both organization & individuals too and we should not lack the clarity from moving from the path to good to greatness.

Jim says - To go from good to great requires transcending the curse of competence. It requires the discipline to say `just because we are good at it – just because we’re making money and generating growth – doesn’t necessarily mean we can become the best at it. The good to great companies understood that doing what you are good at will only will make you good; focusing solely on what you can potentially do better than any other organizations or people is the only path to greatness & that’s what you need to reflect

Circle #2 - Focuses on what drives your economic or resource engine

This is not a book on microeconomics & I’m also not great at that. However, the book guides how Every organization must understand on how to generate sustained cash flow. One way to gain understanding & insight into the drivers of your economic engine is to ask yourself this single question: “If you could pick one and only one metric to systematically increase over time, which one would have the greatest and most sustainable impact on your economic engine?”

Potential answers might include profit per customer, profit per employee, profit per retail location, profit per square foot, profit per geographic region, or profit per product which simultaneously increases profitability across the entire system.

Simply asking it can be subtle, even unobvious but it will stimulate intense dialogue and debate within yourself or the team in the organization. As a result, even in cases where you or the teams fail (or refuse) to identify a single metric, the challenge of the question can drive you to achieve deeper insight into your economic model. The key is to use the question to pick that one metric not for the sake of having the metric, but for the sake of gaining insight & understanding that ultimately leads to more robust and sustainable economics.

Circle #3 - What are you deeply passionate about

It may seem fuzzy as `Passion’ is an integral part of a strategic framework. But throughout Good-to-great companies focused on the activities that ignite their passion. The idea here is not to stimulate passion but to discover what makes you passionate. You can’t manufacture passion or “motivate” people to feel passionate. You can only identify what ignites your passion and the passions of those around you.

Now, this doesn’t mean that you have to be passionate about the mechanics of the business per se, although you might be. The passion circle can also be focused on the mission, vision, ideas or underlying purpose behind the company you are working or can be looked at the individual goals too. So, books like Start With Why and Find Your Why by Simon Sinek can help with this circle.

To quickly grasp the three circles: Consider the following personal analogy. Suppose you were able to construct a work life that meets the following three test.

  • First you are doing work for which you have a genetic or God given talent, and perhaps you could become one of the best in the world in applying that talent. (u should feel that you were just born to be doing this.”)

  • Second you are well paid for what you do. (U get paid to do this? Are you dreaming”)

  • Third, you are doing work you are passionate about and absolutely love to do, enjoying the actual process for its own sake. (I look forward to getting up and throwing myself into my daily work, and I really believe in what I’m doing”)

If you could drive toward the intersection of these three circles and translate that intersection into a simple, crystalline concept that guided your life choices, then you’d have a Hedgehog concept for yourself.

So, finding that sweet spot for The Hedgehog Concept isn’t easy. According to Jim Collins, it took four years!!! for the good-to-great companies to clarify their Hedgehog Concept. It’s an iterative process and that will require asking the right questions, engage in vigorous debate, make decision, autopsy the results and learn all guided within the context of the three circles (i.e., 1. What you can be the best in the world at 2. What drives your economic engine 3. What you are deeply passionate about) on what’s working and what’s not with you & your team.

It is one of the tools out of six tools mentioned in the Good to Great book by Jim Collins. So, I would highly recommend that you read this book to understand the entire framework to discover how you can make full use of the related ideas & expedite your journey from good to great and hedgehog concept is a turning point.

To conclude if you want to follow Hedgehog concept then “Do one thing better than anyone else” and that distinction is absolutely crucial. I agree, the journey is not easy & it can be challenging. It can mean moving out of your comfort zone. But it's all worth it to welcome this New Year 2022 journey to move towards from Good to Greatness.

With this note, Wishing you all the very best and a very happy new year 2022 to you and your family.

Look forward to your views & comments!

Content Credit: Jim Collin's Good to Great Book

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savitha Basanth
savitha Basanth
Jan 06, 2022

Nice thought

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