(2 minute read)
When asked if they would rather be a Fox or an Echidna*, most people consider the sleek, well-groomed, and cunning Fox to be their preference over the slower, spiky Echidna.
Zoology aside, there is an organisational principle – The Hedgehog Concept – that uses these differences to explain varying approaches to business.
Based on an Ancient Greek parable, The Hedgehog Concept suggests, “While the Fox knows many things, the Hedgehog knows one big thing.”
Within the parable, the Fox uses many strategies to catch the Hedgehog – sneaking, pouncing, even playing dead. Yet, every time it ends up defeated – often with an injured nose for its efforts. In contrast, the Hedgehog knows how to successfully defend itself – the one big, important thing.
In a more modern essay on the same theme, Philosopher Isaiah Berlin, divided people into two groups: Foxes or Hedgehogs.
Berlin argued that Foxes pursue multiple goals and are easily distracted, leading to scattered and unfocused thinking and an often-unsatisfied hunger. Hedgehogs adopt a more single-minded, and simplified approach, which they quite often achieve.
As a modern planning strategy, the Hedgehog Concept can be applied by individuals, teams, and organisations to identify and focus on the one thing that they do best.
Even more recently, business leader and author, Jim Collins, wrote about this concept in his best-selling book, From Good to Great. Collins claims that, “when the going gets tough, it’s the organisations that focus on what they are good at that survive and thrive.”
So, when in your next planning session, consider how you can narrow your focus to give attention and energy to the one thing which will move you closer to your most desired outcome.
*In regions other than Australia, people are more familiar with the Hedgehog than our native Echidna. As well as the differences in Geography, Australian and Papua New Guinea Echidnas can live up to 40 years, while Hedgehogs average 5 years.