Posted by: bevmeldrum | January 28, 2008

Going from Good to Great – The Hedgehog Concept

Photo by Andrey ProkhorovReferring to the old parable of the fox and hedgehog Collins and his team highlight what they call ‘The Hedgehog Concept” as their four key concept for taking an organisation from good to great.

The fox in the parable knew many things, but the hedgehog knew one big thing. Each time the fox tries to attack the hedgehog it tries a different tactic, after the last one he tried failed.

The hedgehog just has one tactic – to curl up in a spiky ball. It doesn’t matter how much effort the fox spends coming up with new tactics it won’t work.

Organisations that go from good to great focus on their hedgehog concept – their one big thing. As Collins explains:

“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 an understanding of what you can be the best at. The distinction is absolutely crucial.”

In order to identify what your Hedgehog Concept is Collins suggests you look for what is at the intersection of these three elements of your organisation:

  1. what you can be the best in the world at
  2. what drives your economic engine or for ‘more than profits’ your social impact engine or a combination of the two
  3. what you are deeply passionate about

Once an organisation has identified that one key concept – their hedgehog concept – those that go from good to great focus on that one thing. If an opportunity comes up that doesn’t fit their hedgehog concept they say thank you don’t pursue it. Everything is tested against their hedgehog concept – they don’t get distracted.

That is good advice for those of us that often get distracted by the latest funding stream and spend time trying to see how we could fit what we want to do into what the funder is after. A great organisation gives itself permission to say no to new funding streams to enable it to focus on becoming great at what it does.


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