The Hedgehog Concept
A key learning that I took away from Jim Collins’ ‘Good to Great’ is what he calls the Hedgehog concept.
While introducing the concept, Jim discusses the difference between a fox and a hedgehog in the context of their behaviour in the wild. He discusses how a fox almost always fails in its attempt to hunt down a hedgehog.
A fox is cunning and lays multiple traps to hunt the hedgehog but the hedgehog steers clear from trouble almost all the time. The fox doesn’t realize that the hedgehog has mastered the art of defending itself. An ancient Greek parable distinguishes between foxes, which know many small things, and hedgehogs, which know one big thing.
All good-to-great leaders, it turns out, are hedgehogs.
While trying to analyse organizations and leaders of organizations that are successful from the ample research carried out by Jim and his team, they find a pattern that these organizations and people follow in their pursuit of activities/challenges that they aim to solve for.
They do not just pick a random goal or objective that the rest of the companies in their industries are aiming to achieve. Instead, they look inward along with the context of the industry to pick a goal that meets a bit of each of the following 3 criteria-
- Something they are extremely skilled at (skill)
- Something that they deeply care about (passion)
- Something that has a real demand (economic value)
While many of us take a lifetime to arrive at this union of 3, it is helpful to constantly strive towards achieving it. The goal is to eventually be a hedgehog. Thank you for the takeaway, Jim.
P.S- The hedgehog concept reminded me of Ken Robinson’s (educational advisor and bestselling author) book- ‘The element’ where he discusses something very similar (You are in your element when you are doing something that you you love, something that you are really good at and something that you can make money at) — Link.