I recently had the privilege of hearing Jim Collins speak. He is the author of the best-selling business book, Good to Great. His advice for business leaders to find the “hedgehog” in their business has always resonated with me.
So where did the Hedgehog Concept come from and why is it so important? For those of you who have not read Collin’s masterpiece work, the “Hedgehog Concept” centers around gaining a deep understanding of what you can (and cannot) be the best at.
I found that this book grabbed my imagination like few others that I’ve read and left me curious as to whether our organization could pass the test and meet the standards of the hedgehog. Many of my associates have also read the book and it is quoted within our organization like the Bible.
So why is this book so great? Well, Collins and his team evaluated over 90 of the top US companies over a 30-year time period to find those companies whose performance went from being just below or constant with the stock market index to far outperforming the index every year for 15 years. They found only 11 companies that met their criterion. They were looking at identifying the defining moment when these companies changed, and then compared them against their competitors over the following years. Jim wanted to prove statistically and analytically what the companies did to achieve such massive and permanent change.
One of the keys to the outstanding success of these companies was the Hedgehog Concept. Here are the three ‘Circles’ of his Concept:
1. What can you be best in the world at?
2. What are you absolutely passionate about?
3. What is your business’s economic engine?
The first reaction is to say that these principles (circles) cannot apply to our local or regional businesses, because we are too far away from big markets and there are too many competitors. But that’s just making excuses. To quote Collins, “The good-to-great companies are more like hedgehogs – simple, dowdy creatures that know “one big thing” and stick to it. The comparison companies are more like foxes – crafty, cunning creatures that know many things yet lack consistency.” There’s nothing too fancy sounding about that is there?
Which are you – the hedgehog or the fox?