In his book Good to Great: Why Some Companies Make the Leap … and Others Don’t, Jim Collins talks at some length about being a hedgehog. What’s that, you say? Well, the story of “The Hedgehog and the Fox” is originally attributed to a phrase by the Greek poet Archilochus: “The fox knows many things, but the hedgehog knows one big thing.”
As Collins says, “It’s not a goal to be the best, a strategy to be the best, an intention to be the best, a plan to be the best. It is an understanding of what you can be the best at. The distinction is absolutely critical.”
I was reminded of this story last week as I traveled by train through the German countryside from Berlin to Frankfurt. The four-hour trip was made even more enjoyable by a long, relaxed discussion about content with the VP of marketing of a UK-based software company. We were talking about differentiation. He said,
“We’ve actually reduced the amount of content we create. We used to create tons of customer-loyalty leadership content across the whole industry. You know, news, trends, all that. Now, we’ve taken the hedgehog approach and decided that there’s one area that none of our competitors are covering from a content perspective, and that’s what we’re going to be the best in the world at it.”
He then said, “We’ve built a whole digital experience around the concept. It has taken us 18 months to get there, but it was so worth it.”
As you might expect we had lots to talk about.
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