I am a big connoisseur of how-to and self-help books (and TV, and magazines, etc). It has everything to do with my “Learner” strength and hence my insatiable appetite to always be learning something new. However, there are a handful of books that I reread and reference often, and one of my favorites is the bestseller Good to Great by Jim Collins. The book was written for businesses — specifically on how to turn mediocre companies or even bad ones into great companies that triumph over time. However, I find several concepts within the book equally applicable to personal success. Today I want to share with you one that has made a great impact in the way I think about my life and career; it’s called the Hedgehog Concept.

The term “hedgehog” used in the book is based on Isaiah Berlin’s essay “The Hedgehog and the Fox” and actually originated from the Greek parable: “The fox knows many things, but the hedgehog knows one big thing.” Very briefly, “foxes” pursue many ends at the same time and see the world in all its complexity whereas “hedgehogs” simplify a complex world into a single organizing idea, a basic principle or concept that unifies and guides everything. The Hedgehog Concept states that anything that does not somehow relate to the hedgehog idea holds no relevance.

So how does one arrive at and apply the Hedgehog Concept? First, the Hedgehog Concept consists of three circles:

It will probably take you a while to answer those three questions. It took me about three years to really understand myself, so don’t be surprised if it takes you just as long. However, once you have answers to those three questions, then you are ready for the next step — find the intersection of all three circles.

hedgehog-concept.jpgIn order to fully engage in the Hedgehog Concept, set your career and/or life goals and strategies based on the area where the three circles intersect. The beautiful thing is, once you have finally grasped your Concept, it will be as clear and appear as matter-of-fact to you as stating that the sky is blue or the grass is green. As Collins wrote in his book, “When you get your Hedgehog Concept right, it has the quiet ping of truth, like a single, clear, perfectly struck note hanging in movement of a Mozart piano concerto.”

Last but not least, once you found your Hedgehog Concept, go through another round of refinement because getting and applying the Concept is an iterative process. Good luck!

For more information about the Hedgehog Concept, please visit Jim Collin’s website: www.jimcollins.com.

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