Hedgehog Concept-an understanding what you can be best at
Are you a hedgehog or a fox?
In the famous essay by Isaiah Berlin “The Hedgehog and the Fox” the world is divided into two types. The fox knows many things. The fox is a very cunning creature, able to devise a myriad of complex strategies to sneak attack upon hedgehog. The hedgehog knows one big thing. That is rolling up into a perfect little ball thus becoming a sphere of sharp spikes, pointing outward in all directions. The hedgehog always wins despite the different tactics the fox used.
Just recently, I managed to read the book and also listened to the audio book Good to Great: Why Some Companies Make the Leap…And Others Don’t by Jim Collins. This is a highly must read book even though it was about business companies but I found that individuals can learn especially the Hedgehog Concept of Chapter 5. I actually kept on listening the audio book a lot of times, it was like having Jim Collins as your coach by your side. That was priceless.
The Hedgehog Concept is a simple, crystalline concept that flows from the deep understanding about the intersection of the following circles:
- What you can be the best in the world at (and, equally important what you cannot be the best in the world at). This basic understanding goes far beyond core competence. A core competency does not guarantee that you can be best in the world at it. Conversely, what you can be the best at might not even be something in which you are currently engaged.
- What drives your economic engine? Most of the good-to-great companies discovered a single driving denominator as profit per x, which had the greatest impact on their economics. For social sector, instead of economic, resource engine – which is broken into three parts as time, money, and brand.
- What you are deeply passionate about. The good-to-great companies focused on those activities that ignited their passion. The idea here is not to stimulate passion but to discover what makes you passionate.
To understand more simply about the 3 questions so that we can apply to our personal understanding, here are some guiding statements. 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. (“I feel that I was just born to do this?”) Second, you are well paid for what you do. (“I get paid to do this? Am I 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.”)
A 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 simply an understanding of what you can be the best at. This distinction is very crucial.
Here are some exercises that you can do to be able to find and understand your hedgehog concept. Get 3 sheets of paper. On the first sheet of paper, do an analysis of yourself. What I am truly passionate about? What do I love to do? List down as many things that you love to do even when you are a child. Start with, I love to… On the second sheet of paper, what am I genetically encoded for? I feel like I was kind of made to do this. What fits your capabilities? What fits your psychology? What fits me why I was put here on this earth to do? On third sheet of paper, what are all the various things that you can think of that will allow you to have an economic engine? What are the things that you can do that make you a living if you’re allowed to do that?
Give those sheets of papers to your trusted friends and ask them for the thoughts where do you see the intersection across these 3 sheets? What kind of direction do you think that this might help me see as the right direction for me?
Please play this audio advise by Jim Collins on How to Find Your Personal Hedgehog Concept?