Lesson No. 25: The Hedgehog Concept

The Queen of Hearts: The Confessions of An ‘Accidental’ Leader

The Hedgehog Concept

I didn’t purpose to be in the space that I find myself in – Founder & CEO, Passionate Entrepreneur, EQ Fanatic and OWIT Nairobi President.  God plucked me from the path that I had set out for myself & set me on an alternative journey. At the start it all appeared somewhat ‘accidental’ but I know now that it was no accident, rather His design, His purpose for my life…

So now that I am here, these are my confessions…the lessons I am learning about being a woman in business, building an empire, one brick at a time…

Lesson No. 25: The Hedgehog Concept

“Nothing can add more power to your life than concentrating all of your energies on a limited set of targets.”
-Nido Qubein 

I recently got a call from a client asking me if I could provide a particular service.  Awesome, I hear you say.  Well, not really. I found myself in a quandary. The service they asked for was not my area of expertise.  Could I do it – well probably, but the question was, could I do it well?

The temptation was to say yes, of course I can.  And then figure out exactly how.  Information is so readily available nowadays.  Surely, I could conduct some research, put together the necessary curricula and provide the training that they needed.  Conducting the training myself would mean additional income.  It would also mean that that my client wouldn’t have to talk to an alternative training provider who may ultimately try to lure him away.

On the other hand, was giving my client less than the best really the best idea? Whilst I may be able to provide something good, it wouldn’t be my best. I wouldn’t be passionate and excited about it. If I referred my client to a subject matter expert, they would get training from a practitioner whose training programme was not based on information found on the internet but real life experience.

After much deliberation, I came to the conclusion that our relationship was based on the premise of service excellence and that was something I was not willing to sabotage. I introduced my client to a trainer I had seen in action previously, someone I knew would do an awesome job.

An alternative would be to take on the assignment and then partner with someone, an expert in that particular field, who could complete it. The problem with that option is that of dilution. If you have positioned yourself as a provider of a niche service or an expert in your chosen field – taking on assignments outside of that would only dilute your brand.

In his book, “Good To Great,” Jim Collins uses the parable of a fox and a hedgehog to highlight the importance of focus. The story is derived from an ancient Greek poem believed to have been written by Archilochus. In it, a cunning and brilliant fox grasps the complexity of the woodlands around him. He sets his mind on eating a hedgehog, and spends hours plotting the perfect attack.

The hedgehog on the other hand, is described as simplistic and somewhat dowdy.  He goes about his business unaware. When the fox ambushes, the hedgehog rolls himself into a spiny, impenetrable ball. Undeterred, the fox keeps re-strategizing, but the pattern repeats itself over and over. “The fox knows many things, but the hedgehog knows one big thing,” the poem famously concludes.

Collins calls this the hedgehog concept – doing one thing and doing it well.  The concept requires the intersection of three key elements: Your passions, your skills and your economic engine.

In his study of 1,435 established companies to find every “extraordinary case that made a leap from no-better-than-average results to great results,” Collins found that all good-to-great leaders are hedgehogs.  Moreover, the good to great companies, like hedgehogs, know “one big thing” and stick to it.  The comparison companies, like foxes, know many things but lack consistency. 

As a woman in business, it is very tempting to try and be all things to all people. The problem with that strategy is that ultimately you will become a jack of all trades and a master of none.

With Love,

The Queen Of Hearts

Mucha Mlingo

| Six Seconds EQ Practitioner | Master Trainer & Facilitator | | Award Winning International Keynote Speaker |

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