If you've read Jim Collins's Good to Great, that may make a bit more sense than if you haven't.
But to catch you up/recap - the Hedgehog Concept is this: a hedgehog is good at one thing in the world - curl up in spiny little sphere and hence protect itself. The hedgehog's adversary, the fox (apparently this parable happened in England), knows many clever ways to catch it's prey. But not the hedgehog; a hedgehog doesn't fight with teeth. It doesn't claw the competition. It doesn't run. It knows one big, really important, simple thing. And that's what it does. It curls up in a ball. Really well.
So the concept is the basis of decision-making for a business or organization and what they should be doing. There are three intersecting circles (not that you've ever seen a diagram like that before) that make up the Hedgehog Concept:
- What are you deeply passionate about?
- What can you be the best in the world at?
- What best drives your economic (or resource) engine?
This was the topic of conversation the other day in my Ag Business, Leadership, and Economics class. It's a new class this year that only took me four years and - literally - convincing our local community college to create a class so we could articulate it and get it onto the books. But I digress... I am absolutely loving this class for two reasons - one, the topic is interesting as all get out to me, and secondly the kids in it are the bomb.com (sorry, showing off my street-cred. Is street-cred hyphenated?). The class has rotated against our Horticulture class, so much of the instruction is applied to our greenhouse as a business.
It was in our early planning of The Business (we haven't named it yet, we just refer to it as The Business. You know, like The Family. Or The Great Escape. Or The Mob) as we wrote a mission statement, determined its purpose and values, and designed the vision for our enterprise. And they've come up with some pretty darn good stuff. Early in this planning we brought up the Hedgehog Concept, and applied it to our Business. Knowing we had a greenhouse at our disposal, but no rule saying we had to use it to grow plants, we drew the familiar overlapping three circles and looked at what would put us in the middle where the three circles overlapped.
- What were we passionate about?
- What could we be the best at?
- What would drive our economic engine?
As we facilitated our way through the planning processes and made decisions based on the three criteria of the Hedgehog Concept (were we passionate about running a business? Creating a service? Designing boutonnieres with analogous color schemes?) I made the point that this does not just apply to businesses - any organization or even an individual can utilize the Hedgehog Concept. In fact, I challenged, if you can find a career that you are passionate about, that you can strive to be the best at (note: it doesn't say you have to be the best, just could be), and that will be economically sustainable, then you'll have it made. And be ahead of about 97% of the rest of the world.
These juniors and seniors and I have been around been around the bend together a time or two, so they're fairly unafraid to ask questions. And this one was immediate but unexpected: "Mr Crawford, have you found your hedgehog concept? Is it teaching?"
I should probably say I had already considered this question. Or maybe I should say I gave it some intense consideration before responding. But that isn't the truth. Yet my response was immediate. And unprepared. "Yes."
I didn't give a lot of detail, but I don't think I had to. I do think I'm as close to the middle of those intersecting circles as I can be in any field. I am very much passionate about what I do. I don't have to be the best ag teacher in the world, but I think I have it in me to do the best job for SHS that I can as an agriculture educator. And while I can't say I'm getting rich, the job pays the bills. I do think I've found my Hedgehog.
Although it was that third part that was the least believable by my students. In fact, that question from the senior student was qualified with "Well, except for the third circle (economic), because teachers don't get paid enough. Other than that, have you?"
Out of the mouths of kids. I hope that, someday, they find their Hedgehogs too.
Have you found your Hedgehog?
How do you know?
How do you help your students find theirs?