Developing Your Hedgehog Concept

Mario in Muscle Suit

In his book Good to Great, Jim Collins profiles companies that were able to have huge gains over their competition through getting focused on what he refers to as the hedgehog concept. This concept is,  that in order to make your business grow you need to be focused on the intersection of three concentric circles. These circles are:    Hedgehog Concept

  • What you are passionate about?
  • What drives your economic engine?
  • What you can be best in the world at?


Looking at these three concepts the place to start is in the third area which is, What can you be the best in the world at? If you can find that out then ask yourself if you can develop a passion around it. If there is a passion for it, and you are the best in the world at doing it, you will build a powerful economic engine around it if there is a need.

A good cycling example of this in the cycling world is Mario Cipollini. Mario’s winning streak lasted from 1989 to 2005 and included 191 victories. He was one of the greatest sprinters of his time, and he was the self proclaimed fastest man in cycling during that era.

Mario in Zebra

Mario’s following of his hedgehog concept, brought him a lot of criticism, but ultimately brought him great success as well. Let’s analyze his hedgehog concept.

  1. What can you be the best in the world at: Sprinting! That was what he did. He did it better than anyone else of his day. He focused on it and only it. While other riders were trying to round themselves out, he stayed focused on sprinting and only sprinting. He was criticized for not developing his climbing ability, however, he knew that he would never be the best climber, and because of that, he did not try in the hills. Instead he saved his resources for the sprints where he knew he could win.
  2. What are you passionate about: The attention winning brings! Mario loved the attention. This was obvious from some of the outrageous outfits he wore. He also loved the attention that he received when he sprinted across the line. This passion drove the third portion of the equation which is the economic engine.Just like Mario
  3. What drives your economic engine: Endorsements! Mario used his winning record, good looks, and flair to drive an empire for himself. He became the face of advertizing for the products he represented. Companies like Specialized even painted bikes to capitalize on his flair.

The secret to his success was following his hedgehog concept in a saturated industry. Although he was passionate about Cycling, he focused on sprinting because he had a passion around being the best at it. That simple focus is what built his empire.

Are you focused enough in your business? What is your simple hedgehog concept?

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  1. David,

    It’s great to see you writing about the Hedgehog Concept. I feel that it is a very valuable tool for helping companies develop alignment of their culture and core values, vision and brand development.

    I only have a slight disagreement with the idea of developing a passion around a purpose. For me, I believe that passion is something internal and organic and that trying to develop a passion seems artificial. For instance a musician “discovers” music and the passion is immediate what instrument to play, what genre, do I want to write, or perform, or produce? These are purpose questions. In other words, purpose is the channeling and application of the passion and profit is a natural byproduct of alignment of passion and purpose.

    1. Hi Daigoumee,

      Thank you for your feedback on the sight. I would also like to thank you for passing it along. I hope people will enjoy reading it as much as I have enjoyed writing it. Don’t forget to tell all your friends about the leadership week in Italy. It will be a lot of fun and our riders will return with actionable plans for improving their business and the knowledge of how to get their people to execute them.

      Any and all feedback and comments are welcome.


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