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: