The Hedgehog Concept

Posted on 09. Feb, 2006 by in Business

Are you a hedgehog or a fox?

This question was originally asked by Jim Collins – author of the great management book Good to Great. The question stems from the parable of the hedgehog and the fox. Everyday the fox would devise a new way to sneak up on and catch the hedgehog. However, everyday as the Fox executed his new plan the hedgehog did the only thing he knew how to do – curl up in a ball and defend himself. While the fox tried everything to succeed, the hedgehog focused on only one thing – the thing that he did best.

The hedgehog concept is something I’ve been thinking about constantly – not only in the context of making a good company great – but also in a personal sense. The hedgehog concept is really a combination of three different “circles” or concepts that Collins introduces.

The three circles are:
1. What you are deeply passionate about
2. What you can be the best in the world at
3. What drives your economic engine

The model, as I mentioned before, can be applied to many different functions – and I’m sure you can apply it in at least one area of your life/business right now.

As applied to your business it means that you should find the magic “sweet spot” of the three circles – finding something your company can be the best at (notice it’s can and not are), something you and your employees are or can be passionate about, and what activities are aligned with the appropriate economic drivers. The book Good to Great is full of great examples of companies that were good, solid companies but realized that what they were doing was not what they could be the best at. Wells Fargo, for example, realized that it couldn’t compete with CitiBank on International banking. However, it did realize that it could be the absolute best in the world at providing bank services to the West Coast – and ever since that realization the company has outperformed the market and its competitors.

When I first heard this concept I immediately applied it to my personal life in the form of my profession. What is it that I can be the best at while at the same time loving what I do and providing for my family. And although I still haven’t found the “sweet spot” I have realized that I was going in the wrong direction. What I’m doing now is not necessarily something I love or something that I can be the best in the world at. Instead, I’ve been doing it for the money. So I’ve been brainstorming ideas and thoughts about each circle, slowly coming to a realization of that sweet spot.

But don’t get discouraged if you can’t find that sweet spot right away either. Most companies that made the leap from good to great took four years to apply this Hedgehog Concept. But I truly believe that if we can apply it to our lives and to our businesses that we will not only be more successful but we will be happier as well.

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