Be really good, or even the best in the world, at ‘one thing’
The short story about the fox and the hedgehog…
The fox is a very smart and cunning character.
He knows many things. Able to devise complex strategies.
Every day he sets off to find and attack the hedgehog. Fast, sleek, beautiful, fleet of foot and crafty – he looks like a sure winner.
The hedgehog on the other hand, is a dowdier creature. He waddles along, going about his simple day, searching for lunch and taking care of his home.
The fox waits in cunning silence at the juncture of the trail, and the hedgehog wanders right into the path of the fox.
‘Aha, I’ve got you now’ thinks the fox, and leaps out lightning fast.
The little hedgehog sensing danger looks up and thinks, ‘here we go again, will he ever learn?’
A hedgehog knows one big thing.
Rolling up into a perfect little ball, he becomes a sphere of sharp spikes, pointing outward in all directions.
The fox, seeing the defence, runs round the hedgehog a couple of times before calling off the attack, and retreating back to the forest to calculate a new line of attack tomorrow.
And each day some version of this battle takes place, and despite the greater cunning of the fox, the hedgehog always wins.
People who are foxes pursue many ends at the same time – they are scattered or diffused, moving on many levels, never integrating their thinking into one overall concept, or unifying vision.
Hedgehogs, on the other hand, simplify complexity into a single organising idea, a basic principle or concept that unifies and guides everything. It doesn’t matter how complex the world, a hedgehog reduces all challenges and dilemmas to simple – almost simplistic – hedgehog ideas.
For a hedgehog, anything that does not somehow relate to the hedgehog idea holds no relevance. They see through the complexity to what is essential, and ignore the rest.
In his book Good To Great, Jim Collins applies the concept of being clear and focused on one thing to what some of the most successful companies do.
If you think of some of the world’s most successful companies you could probably identify what’s their ‘one thing’, like Starbucks – great coffee, or Virgin – innovating fun, Apple – believe in different.
In my business, the hedgehog concept is causing clarity.
Is there one thing in your business you do really well?
And you can then focus your time, and invest your money, energy and skills in being an expert – or even the best in the world at..?