The Hedgehog Concept: Good-to-Great

The good-to-great companies worked to the great hedgehog concept; understanding the basics and making the complex information into simplistic ideas.

             I had discussed the qualities of the leaders who transformed good companies into great companies (presented by Jim Collins in his famous book; Good-to-Great) in the previous blog. Since I had promised to come up with more excerpts from this book on readers’ interest. So as the blog received a great number of views; it compelled me to share another interesting and eye-catching concept with my readers. Without wasting more of your costly time in a boring prologue, I just take you to the summary of “The Hedgehog Concept”.

 Jim Collins starts the chapter by asking a question to his audience; Are you a hedgehog or a fox? Well, you might be surprised by confronted with such a tricky question, in case you haven’t read the great essay “The Hedgehog and the Fox,” by Isaiah Berlin. Isaiah Berlin divided the world into hedgehogs and foxes, an idea developed on an ancient Greek fable: “The fox knows many things, but the hedgehog knows one big thing.” The fox is cunning, who builds on sharp tactics to attack the hedgehog furtively. She monitors his den very closely and waits for the perfect moment to attack. The fox seems to win for her smartness. The hedgehog on the other hand is a frumpy fellow, quite conventional and orthodox in nature who toddles around in search of food and taking care of the den.

The Hedgehog Concept: Good-to-Great

Unfortunately, like every time, the hedgehog happens to be perfectly in the way of the cunning fox who swiftly pounces upon him. Expecting the threat, he does the only thing known to him; Rolls up into a perfect little ball, becoming a sphere of sharp spikes, pointing outward in all directions. The hedgehog’s ancestors might have trained their descendants to Bruce Lee’s saying, “There’s only one basic principle of self-defense: you must apply the most effective weapon, as soon as possible, to the most vulnerable target”. The fox has to call off her attack, having no response-tactic to such a vigorous defense. The fox makes unique plans and strategies to formulate a new line of attack each day, and despite her cleverness, the hedgehog always wins.

Berlin exempted this small metaphor to divide people into two major groups: foxes and hedgehogs. Foxes chase many parts at once and see the world in all its complexities. Berlin says they are scattered, moving on many levels, and never merge their thinking into a common concept or a unified ideology. Hedgehogs, on the other hand, simplify a complex world into a single organized idea, a basic principle or concept that unites and guides everything. Despite the complex nature of this world, a hedgehog minimizes all the challenges and dilemmas into almost a simple hedgehog concept. For the hedgehog, anything that has nothing to do with his unified concept is irrelevant.

Now that you’ve comprehended the hedgehog concept, we move onto the comments made by a fellow of Jim Collins, professor Marvin Bressler who said: “You want to know what separates those who make the biggest impact from all the others who are just as smart? They’re hedgehogs.” He supports his argument by implying to Freud, Marx, Darwin, Einstein, and Adam Smith by calling them all― “the Hedgehogs”. According to him, Freud’s theory of the unconscious mind, Darwin’s about natural selection, Marx and the class struggle, Einstein’s relativity, Adam Smith about the division of labor were all the hedgehog concepts. They grabbed the complexities of this world and brought them into simple but comprehensive ideas. As Walt Whitman said, “The art of the art, the glory of the expression, and the sunshine of the light of letters, is simplicity”. For what could be simpler than E= mc2? The same is true for the theory of evolution, and the work by all the geniuses mentioned above. They just discerned what was pivotal and disregarded the rest.

Jim Collins interprets how the good-to-great companies worked (knowingly or unknowingly) to the great hedgehog concept; understanding the basics and making the complex information into simplistic ideas. More details about those companies are beyond the subject of this blog.

 At last, I would ask you a usual question, how was this blog? Comment your feedback and if you really liked it, share it with your friends and subscribe to my blog by signing in with your email address. This would help you in getting notifications whenever I post a new blog to my website. Thanks for your support and appreciation. Keep reading good content and keep growing. As I told you earlier that this book― “Good-to-Great” is very close to my heart, that’s why I am spending so much time exploring its different aspects to extract some juicy content for my readers. Therefore, your feedback would help me in deciding my future posts; whether or not they should come out of this book.

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Here is the quick link to the summary of the previous excerpt from this book.

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