If you have been wondering what to do with your life, or where to go with your business, the “Hedgehog Concept” in Good to Great by Jim Collins is a great place to start.
Collins and his team researched 1,435 good companies over 40 years, identified 11 companies that became great, and found some striking commonalities across all these great companies.
One thing that all 11 great companies did was to use the “Hedgehog Concept”, i.e. each company had a single idea or principle (their “core”) which guided everything that they did.
In the same token, we can apply the concept to unlock your potential and find out what you are meant to do in your life.
Finding Your Niche in Business
To apply the Hedgehog Concept, you need to first develop a deep understanding of each of the 3 circles, i.e.:
• What you can be the best in the world at. This is not a goal/ intention. It is understanding what you can be the best in the world at (and also you can’t be the best at).
• What drives your economic engine. Good-to-great companies know clearly what drives their profitability. They discover 1 denominator (profit per “X”) that impacts their economics most significantly, where “X” could be employee, geographic region, customer, consumer brand etc.
• What you are deeply passionate about. This is not about motivating your people or about stimulating passion; it’s about discovering what you (and your people) are truly passionate about – be it for the product, industry, or what your company stands for.
Armed with a true understanding of the 3 circles, they focus all their effort and resources on the intersection of the 3 circles – this is where the Hedgehog Concept lies. This single-minded focus guides the decision of the entire company.
To find the right direction for your company, find your hedgehog. However, this process can take 4 years on average to crystalize. Here’s how you can deliberately apply the concept:
Use the 3 circles as your guide, form a council of 5-12 right people, who meet periodically to debate and perform these 4 steps in an iterative process:
• Ask Questions
• Engage in dialogue & debate
• Make executive decisions
• Conduct Autopsies & analysis
Finding Your Niche in Life
What should you do that could currently tap on what you are good at, fulfills you, yet earns you a decent or huge income? The answer: Find your Personal Hedgehog.
Start by answering each of these 3 questions honestly:
1. What can you be best in the world at?
Are you particularly good at a sport like swimming or badminton? Or are you really strong in a specific area like numbers or languages? Obviously, you may not be the best as yet in that area, but the key is to find the niches where you can excel.
An important note is that the word “world” can have multiple meanings, e.g. a specific region or domain. So, if you can’t imagine yourself becoming the best at something globally, start by considering a smaller “world”. Can you be the best plumber in your neighborhood? Can you be the best pianist in Europe? Can you be the process engineer in the logistics industry? And so on…be specific.
2. What drives your economic engine?
The key to this question is to find the area(s) where you are most marketable. What will people pay you to do? What problems will people pay you to solve? What pain-points do you address? What value do you deliver?
An important aspect of this question is this: is there a need for what you have to offer? The mode of delivery (whether you offer a training/ consulting service, or a software/ app) is less important here than the value-add that you provide, or the problems that you solve.
3. What are you deeply passionate about?
What really excites you and pumps you up? What can make you jump out of the bed each morning feeling energized? What could you see yourself doing for the rest of your life?
For you to become the best in your field and earn a good fee for your products/ services, you will need to persist through problems and challenges. Passion is important to keep you motivated, and to help you persevere through these tough times.
Finding Your Hedgehog
Finding your Personal Hedgehog will be no easier nor faster than finding the Hedgehog for your business/ company. But, when you find it, you will know.
So, if you are feeling lost and frustrated, take heart in the fact that others are also searching for answers. While the process may not happen overnight, you will eventually get there. Keep deepening your understanding of the 3 questions to find the intersection. All the best!
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