Do you know Sonic the Hedgehog, a video game character and blue mascot of Sega? Like real hedgehogs, he has one key special ability - turn into a ball. Once transformed into a ball, he becomes nimble enabling him to roll into tunnels and attack enemies.
It turns out great leaders and organizations are like hedgehogs. They do one big thing really well. This idea is called the Hedgehog Concept, which was introduced by business thinker Jim Collins in his book - Good to Great: Why Some Companies Make the Leap and Others Don’t.
Picture two animals: a fox and a hedgehog. Which are you? 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. They know how to simplify a complex world into a single, organizing idea—the kind of basic principle that unifies, organizes, and guides all decisions... Leaders of good-to-great companies develop a Hedgehog Concept that is simple but that reflects penetrating insight and deep understanding.
How to create a Hedgehog Concept
In order to create your Hedgehog Concept, an organization must understand and clarify three elements:
- What are we deeply passionate about?
- What can we be the best in the world at?
- What drives our economic engine?
Imagine a Venn diagram of three circles with each representing an element from above. At the intersection of these three circles is where the Hedgehog Concept lies.
In other words, developing a Hedgehog Concept starts by understanding what you are good at, what you are passionate about, and what value you create.
Finding purpose with Aristotle
My team and I went through books and research about clarifying purpose for companies, We came across multiple references to Aristotle regarding the subject. The ancient Greek philosopher and scientist held a philosophical view inspiring business thinkers today:
Where your talents and the needs of the world cross; there lies your calling.
That calling is interpreted by many as purpose. We realized there is striking resemblance between this thinking and the Hedgehog Concept.
According to Aristotle’s quote, to understand our calling, we must have a clear understanding of two things:
- The first is knowing what we are good at - our talents.
- The second is identifying a true and real need that our talents or strengths can serve; we must create real value.
It was clear that the Hedgehog Concept and Aristotle’s thinking had some overlap. In the end, we decided to take the best of both worlds: the thinking of one of the most respected modern business thinker and a wise Greek scientist/philosopher. Adapting their models, my team and I have come up with what we think is the treasure map to purpose.
The treasure map to purpose
Imagine three circles with each representing your strengths, your passions, and the needs of your customers. At the intersection of the three circles, there's a big X. This is where your team's purpose is.
A purpose at the intersection means its authentic and at the same time relevant to your customers.
To discover your purpose, we'll need to explore these three areas.
So put on your fedora hats (imagine Indiana Jone's theme playing). We're embarking on a journey!