Sometimes, lasting innovation requires being slow, quiet and even a little bit boring
Every single business is unique in one way or another. Businesses vary greatly depending on the products that they provide, the business models they employ and the style of service they give to their customers. Most businesses struggle to compete against one another because what sets them apart from the others isn’t necessarily clear or well defined. Companies need processes and systems for determining what sets them apart. Certain tools and tricks can help businesses define their strategies more clearly in order to successfully differentiate themselves. The Hedgehog Concept Template is one such tool for helping an organization define its strategic proposition.
The story of the Hedgehog and the Fox has been told over and over for centuries. The Greek parable recounts the tale of a Fox and a Hedgehog living in the forest. In the story, the Fox tries to catch the Hedgehog using a number of tricks and strategies, including sneaking up on the Hedgehog in the middle of the night and even playing dead. Try as he might, the Fox is never successful in catching the Hedgehog, instead getting a face full of quills in its snout. The Fox is quite clever and fast, but it never learns from its mistakes and continues to pursue the same goal (catching the Hedgehog) over and over again despite the fact that it might be better positioned to pursue other more effective (and less painful) ways of finding a meal. At the same time, the Hedgehog successfully avoids disaster by being good at one thing: defending itself.
In 1952, the philosopher Isaiah Berlin expounded on this parable in his essay “The Hedgehog and the Fox” in which he argues that people generally fall into one of two categories: that of the Hedgehog or that of the Fox. According to Berlin, Foxes have a complex world view, and they tend to pursue many goals and strategies at the same time. Because of this they are scattered in their planning and execution. Hedgehogs on the other hand have a simple world view, and they tend to focus on a single, overarching objective and stick to that vision in order to achieve their goals.
In 2001, business writer Jim Collins published his touchstone book “Good to Great” and brought the Hedgehog and the Fox concept to the business world. In his book, he outlines how those businesses which succeed in the long run are driven by a single overarching objective and tend to fit into the category of the “Hedgehog”. He goes on to outline what a business must do to define its own Hedgehog Concept.
Focusing on one strategy in business may seem to be anathema to the next generation of “tech disruptors”, but having a solid Hedgehog Concept in place is vital if you want your business to survive through the inevitable ups and downs of the global economic climate. Here are the three questions that every business must ask if it wants to develop a strong Hedgehog Concept for its organization or business:
- What are you MOST PASSIONATE about? Seek to uncover what your team is most passionate about in order to determine what will truly keep people motivated.
- What do you do better than ANYONE ELSE? Look at what sets you and your team apart from the competition, so you know how to position yourself.
- Where do you generate the MOST REVENUE? Determine which parts of your business are most profitable and most efficient in order to determine where you can double down your efforts and investments.
The intersection of these three questions will provide your business with a solid foundation and help you determine your Hedgehog Concept. With this in place you will be much better positioned to drive success within your organization over the long run.
Remember, while it may be fun and exciting to be the Fox, it is much more effective and ultimately more sustainable to stick to being a Hedgehog.
If you’d like to learn more about how you can help your organization develop its Hedgehog Concept, check out upBOARD’s customized Hedgehog Concept template here.