I recently finished reading a book by Jim Collins called Good to Great, which details the results of a study to determine how companies can make the jump from "a good company" to "a great company" and maintain that greatness.
One of the major points was that each company in the study discovered and adhered to their "hedgehog concept." There's a good definition here, but essentially, the idea is that there are two kinds of companies - foxes and hedgehogs.
A Fox knows and focuses a lot of small things while the hedgehog knows and focuses on one big thing. The overall outcome is that the hedgehog out-does the fox and becomes great because everything they do is centered around one central concept.
Personally, I feel like I've been a fox most of my life - My interests and personal projects constantly dart from one topic to another. Although I've been successful, I've never accomplished anything super significant in the grand scheme of things. That lead me on a quest to define a personal hedgehog concept for myself.
The Three Circles
In order to get started, we have to know what the foundation for building a hedgehog concept is. There are 3 parts:
- What you're passionate about
- What you're the best in the world at
- What drives your economic engine
The intersection of the three contains your hedgehog concept.
Once we understand the three circles, we can start making a list of items for each circle and eventually find the core concept that will be used to generate our statement.
The Venn diagram is a good place to start, but once we've identified some things that could be a hedgehog concept, it helps to put it into a more concrete form that you can use to focus all of your other activities.
In addition to the examples in the book, I also came across an example from Rhythm Systems that was helpful, which was:
Purpose/Passion: To envision, design & manufacture innovative products that make the job safer, easier and faster for the workingman.
Best in the World At: We see what others overlook to design & manufacture superior XXXX products.
Profit/X: % Gross Profit/Product
Once you have the three statements, those can be used to create a BHAG, or big hairy audacious goal. These are large, challenging to reach goals that are generated by using the three parts of the hedgehog statement. The example from Rhythm Systems above was
To grow a global organization of XXXX companies that manufacture innovative products to solve unique customer needs that grows us to $50M by 2025 with a GP >XX%.
A Practical Example
Now that we know what a hedgehog statement and BHAG are, I thought I'd share the process I used to generate the first version of mine.
First, I created a Venn diagram using draw.io to get something on paper and figure out where there might be some overlap.
Look for Overlap
Having made a basic chart, next I looked for what overlapped and tried to figure out how I might combine them. Considering most of my life has been spent in tech, that's what most of my ideas centered around.
The ones that felt most appropriate to me were programming, individual freedom, and problem solving.
Generate the Statements
To create something more concrete out of the brainstorming phase, I used the examples above to generate a passion, best, and profit statement.
Passion: Utilizing technology to increase personal freedom
Best in the world at: Breaking down complex problems into easily digestible pieces
Profit / X: Net profit per product
I wasn't quite satisfied with what I came up with however. I wanted a mission statement that tied everything together, and Justin Welsh has a blog about outlasting 99% of entrepreneurs that included decades long goal statement that I felt would do the trick.
His example was:
I want to help one million people escape the rat race, build thriving one-person businesses, and enjoy freedom-filled lives.
I ran with that and come up with the following:
I want to help one million people leverage technology to increase their personal freedom, become self-sufficient, and take back control of their lives
It may seem a bit counter-intuitive, being that technology seems to take over our lives rather than give us control - But I think that may have to do with how it's being utilized and pushed through big tech companies, as opposed to the technology itself.
Anyhow, I figure this is a good place to start, and refinement can always come later. Now I have something that I can start measuring my actions against and utilize to generate yearly and quarterly BHAGs.
I'd love to hear if you've come up with a personal hedgehog statement, so let me know in the comments!