The Hedgehog Concept Revisited

I was recently working through Jim Collins book, “Good to Great and the Social Sectors” (©2005 Jim Collins) and I landed again at his application of the Hedgehog Concept.  For those that haven’t heard this, or don’t remember it, here’s a recap:

The story of the Hedgehog and the fox derives from an ancient Greek poem believed to have been written by Archilochus.  In it, a cunning and brilliant fox grasps the complexity of the woodlands around him.  He sets his mind on eating a hedgehog, and spends hours plotting the perfect attack.  Meanwhile, the hedgehog, described as simplistic and somewhat dowdy, goes about its business unaware.  When the fox ambushes, the hedgehog rolls himself into a spiny, impenetrable ball.  Undeterred, the fox keeps re-strategizing, but the pattern repeats itself over an dower.  “The fox knows many things, but the hedgehog knows one big thing.” the poem famously concludes.

British philosopher and social theorist Isaiah Berlin expanded on this concluding idea in a 1953 essay called “The Hedgehog and the Fox.”  Berlin used the poem to divide the world’s thinkers and philosophers into two groups, hedgehogs and foxes.  Collins’ “hedgehog concept” is the application of these distinctions to the corporate and nonprofit world.

Collins then breaks these 3 circles and helps us identify our “Hedgehog”, adapted for the nonprofit sector:

He talks about Circle 1:  PASSION
Understanding what your organization stands for (its core values” and why it exists (its mission or core purpose)
He talks about Circle 2: BEST AT
Understanding what your organization can uniquely contribute to the people it touches, better than any other organization on the planet.
He talks about Circle 3: RESOURCE ENGINE
Understanding what best drives your resource engine, broken into three parts:  time, money, and brand
That centerpiece is our HEDGEHOG.  This is where Passion, Being Best At and our Resource Engine all come together.
This is what gets us out of bed in the morning.
This is where we are putting our energy, our focus.
This is where we are rallying our team to target.
I think sometimes we get stuck and we forget what it is we are trying to do, wanting to do, needing to do.  We get bogged down with the details of everyday life and we forget to keep our eyes focused on the goal, the purpose, the call.
Have you thought about this lately?
Can you define what your Hedgehog is?  If not, what do you need to do to move closer to that?
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