There is an ancient Greek parable that states: “The fox knows many things, but the hedgehog knows one big thing.”
The fox is a cunning creature with many complex strategies for attacking the hedgehog. It sneaks, races, pounces and plays dead. The fox looks like the definite winner.
The hedgehog is small, slow, quiet and plodding. It looks like a genetic mix-up between a porcupine and a small armadillo. The hedgehog is not concerned about the fox and spends its time looking for food and taking care of its home.
The fox is defeated every time it attacks the hedgehog. The hedgehog uses its spines to defend itself each time. Each day, some version of this battle between the hedgehog and the fox takes place, and despite the greater cunning of the fox, the hedgehog always wins.
The fox never learns that the hedgehog knows how to do one thing perfectly: defend itself.
Good To Great
In Jim Collins’ brilliant book titled Good to Great: Why Some Companies Make the Leap…and Others Don’t he developed an idea he called The Hedgehog Concept. The concept explains how companies can increase their chances of succeeding by focussing on one thing and doing it well.
According to Collins, The Hedgehog Concept is the one way companies can truly move from being good businesses to becoming great businesses.
To come up with its Hedgehog Concept a company needs to answer three questions:
- What is the company passionate about?
- What can the company be the best at in the world?
- What drives the company’s economic engine?
The intersection of the three answers to these questions becomes the company’s Hedgehog Concept.
The Hedgehog Concept In Your Life
The Hedgehog concept can also be applied in your own life. Something this valuable is not limited to companies only. You can come up with your own personal Hedgehog Concept.
Let’s adjust each of the 3 questions a little and see how you can apply them in your life.
What are you passionate about? You must find something you have a great passion for. Something you love to do. Something that reflects your values. Something that gets you up early in the morning and keeps you up working late at night.
The things you are passionate about are usually those things that you enjoy doing. Things that you would do even if you don’t get paid for doing them.
What can you be great at? You need to find what you can be great at. Not just something you would like to be great at, but what can you actually be great at. This can be something you are genetically encoded for or it can be a skill you have been developing from your younger ages.
Understand your weaknesses and remember it is okay to not be great at everything. However understanding what you can be great at is more powerful.
What can make you money? You must identify where you add value in the world. It is at these points where you have potential to make money through getting paid for the value you add. What will other people pay you for? Adding value often means making other people’s lives better, providing services or products that improve other people’s lives.
You still need to pay the bills and keep a roof over your head. It is important to identify a skill you can use to earn a sustainable income.
Your Hedgehog Concept
Once you have answered the three questions, you need to look at where you answers overlap. Your Hedgehog Concept is at the intersection of these answers. That is what you should focus on.
When you start focusing on your Hedgehog Concept you have less competition. You make yourself unique and special through focusing on what you have, your core competency.
Don’t worry if your Hedgehog Concept is not obvious right away. It is a difficult exercise to get right the first time as it requires some deep introspection. It requires asking tough questions about what you’re good at, what value you bring to others, and what you want to spend the rest of your life doing.
It is in understanding that The Hedgehog Concept exists and working towards finding yours that you will push yourself closer to greatness.