The ancient Greek poet Archilochus once wrote: “Πόλλ᾽ οἶδ᾽ ἀλώπηξ, ἀλλ’ ἐχῖνος ἕν μέγα.” or translated: “The fox knows many things; the hedgehog one big thing”. This simple line has trickled down through literature and influenced philosophers such as Isaiah Berlin, who classified writers and philosophers into foxes (those who drew on many influences and ideas) and hedgehogs – those whose world view is set by a single defining idea.
Management guru Jim Collins has taken this idea a little further. He feels that whilst our society needs both foxes and hedgehogs to thrive, when it comes to Leadership, the hedgehog has the distinct advantage. To quote:
“Greatness comes about by a series of good decisions consistent with a simple, coherent concept—a “Hedgehog Concept.” The Hedgehog Concept is an operating model that reﬂects understanding of three intersecting circles: what you can be the best in the world at, what you are deeply passionate about, and what best drives your economic or resource engine.”
In other words, great leaders:
Have a simple, coherent strategic concept that they pursue with relentless consistency
Understand that nothing great can be accomplished without passion, and they limit their primary arenas of activity to those for which they have great passion.
Know what they can be the best in the world at – even if it is local, small-scale or niche
Understand what best drives their resource engine. For social businesses, this would be knowing how best to improve total resources, so that they can spend less time worrying about money and more time fulﬁlling their mission.
Act with understanding, and not bravado.
You can find out more at: http://www.jimcollins.com/tools/diagnostic-tool.pdf
We have used the Hedgehog Concept to define our own company’s purpose and vision.