Focus in business: are you a hedgehog or a fox?

"The fox knows many things, but the hedgehog knows one big thing."- Archilochus

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We talked about strategy, mission and vision before in a previous blog. This blog is about what works well when defining your mission and vision. It is largely based on Jim Collins 'Good to Great' classic. Here is a further explanation about the hedgehog concept by Jim Collins.

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Your strategy and mission are supposed to give you direction and a purpose which is clear enough to guide you and flexible enough when the situation changes.

Jim Collins study showed that a company is more likely to be successful if it focuses upon doing one thing very well. This is where the hedgehog comes in. The hedgehog knows just one method of surviving a Fox’s attack. While the fox has numerous abilities, the hedgehog only has one. When the fox attacks the hedgehog, the hedgehog is always successful in defending itself. The same idea appears to apply to business strategy. Focussing on one big thing in your strategy can make you more effective as a company. 

So how to find your hedgehog concept?

  • What are you truly passionate about?: Which core values excite your people the most? What makes you proud of your company? 
  • What does your company do better than anyone else?: Look at hard facts and do analysis. If you cannot be the best at it it will not be your hedgehog concept 
  • What is your economic engine?: You need a single measure that can have the greatest and most sustainable impact on your organization's long-term success. Where is the money made? And does the metric inspire you to reach for more?
Are you a hedgehog or a fox?

So are foxes a bad idea?

No foxes are better than hedgehogs in other situations. So definitely keep them around. A strong focus in your strategy is a necessary condition for economic growth of your company and autonomous decision making in your employees. But you also need people to look at things differently to projects flexible, inventive and grounded. I personally like this article about the strengths and weaknesses of the hedgehog and fox dichotomy. I highly recommend you read it to make sure you get the most out of both hedgehogs and foxes.


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