Wednesday, October 08, 2008

What's your Hedgehog?

I spent yesterday at the Footdown Conference at The Reform Club in London. Footdown is one of the Chief Executive groups that I wrote about in my piece for The National Networker recently.

During the afternoon session, delegates were split into small groups and asked to work together to discover our 'hedgehogs'. Based on the work of Jim Collins in his book 'Good to Great', The Hedgehog Concept helps businesses to find out where they should be focusing their attention. Collins' argument is that the very best companies have a simple, crystalised concept that underpins and guides everything that they do....their hedgehog.

Why a 'hedgehog'? As Jim Collins explains,

In his famous essay “The Hedgehog and the Fox,” Isaiah Berlin divided the world into hedgehogs and foxes, based upon an ancient Greek parable: “The fox knows many things, but the hedgehog knows one big thing.”

What does all this talk about hedgehogs and foxes have to do with good to great? Everything.

Those who built the good-to-great companies were, to one degree or another, hedgehogs. They used their hedgehog nature to drive toward what we came to call a Hedgehog Concept for their companies. Those who led the comparison companies tended to be foxes, never gaining the clarifying advantage of a Hedgehog Concept, being instead scattered, diffused, and inconsistent.

To find your hedgehog, Collins asks you to answer three key questions:

1 - What can you be the best in the world at?

2 - What drives your economic engine?

3 - What are you deeply passionate about?

These three questions are represented in three overlapping circles:

Where the three circles intercept, you will find your 'hedgehog'.

As Collins puts it, "If you could drive toward the intersection of these three circles and translate that intersection into a simple, crystalline concept that guided your life choices, then you’d have a Hedgehog Concept for yourself."

When talking about his Hedgehog Concept, Collins is trying to help businesses find out how to drive their business decisions. There is no reason, however, why a similar approach can't be used to work out your message, the clear, core message about what you do that sticks in people's minds.

When we want people to talk about us, to refer us, we need them to have a simple, clear image of what we do that makes absolute sense and is easy for them to communicate. Working through this exercise yesterday helped to clarify our new business model and I will be sitting down with colleagues this week to delve deeper.

Can you clearly state in just a few words what you do in a way that is 'sticky', that people will be likely to remember and repeat accurately? Can this approach help?

What's your hedgehog?


  1. Jan Vermeiren6:16 pm

    Hi Andy,

    I think this might be a good starting point.

    How to bring that across to other people in a way that it will be remembered (what we call in our training courses Your Sticky Story) is something else.

    Have a great networking day !


    Founder of Networking Coach (

  2. You're right Jan.

    It's important for us to know our own message first, before working out how to present it to others.

  3. Hello Mr. Lopata,

    Great Post.

    Good foxes like me need to learn alot from the great hedgehogs.

    I just started facing the brutal facts so i don't have my Hedgehog Concept yet.

    Your post was helpful. Thank you.