Your world-class ‘Hedgehog Strategy’

Many creative enterprises offer a range of goods or services and regard this as a way of maximising their options and income-generating potential. I understand what they are trying to do. They say it’s a case of ‘keeping your options open’ and ‘casting the net widely’ in order to increase the chances of winning new customers.

One of the problems with this approach is that you also increase the number of your competitors. And in each market you are competing in, the chances are that somebody is better than you at that particular thing. So you end up being a ‘jack of all trades but master of none’. Even if that is too critical an analysis of your position, it may still be the customers’ perception of your business.

Instead of competing on several fronts, I often urge my clients to identify the one thing at which they excel in relation to competitors, in other words, the one thing which ‘puts them head and shoulders above’ competing enterprises. The question is : What is the one thing at which you can be world-class?

In a study of the most consistently successful companies, Jim Collins identified that each of these companies uses what he calls the Hedgehog Concept. The fox, renowned for his cunning, has many strategies for killing the hedgehog. On the other hand, the hedgehog has only one strategy for defending itself. Whenever the fox attacks, from whatever direction, the hedgehog rolls itself into a ball of spikes. It works every time. The hedgehog is supremely good at one thing, and it survives by sticking to its winning strategy.The most consistently successful companies identified the one thing at which they can be world-beaters – and then they focused on this speciality to consistently beat the competition.

Identifying your own organisation’s Hedgehog Strategy flows from a thorough and objective understanding of:

  1. What you are deeply passionate about. (Not what you would like to be passionate about, or what you ‘ought’ to be passionate about, but what innate passion can you draw on.)
  2. What you can (and cannot) be best in the world at (not what you would like to be, but CAN be best at).
  3. What ‘drives your economic engine’, ie how value is created. Ideally this should be crystallised into a single financial measure.

Your Hedgehog Strategy is derived from the intersection of the three factors above.

This strategy applies to large corporations but also to smaller businesses and enterprises in the creative sector. For example, painter Rob Kinsey has combined his passion for the sport of motocross with paintings of motocross that he sells to riders, fans and companies in the industry. By focusing on this narrow niche, he has found the place where his passion, creative talent and target market overlaps. This is the niche in which he can be a world-beater.

Let me know about your own Hedgehog Strategy!