The Hedgehog Concept
The hedgehog concept is about focus: find the one thing that you can be great at, that economically makes sense, and that you are passionate about.
I think it's an idea often repeated but easily forgotten. Without this focus, cutting out things that fall outside of your personal hedgehog concept, you are setting yourself up to be good, but not great.
The Stockdale Paradox: confronting the facts of reality while continuing to believe in the long term vision
Jim Collins tells a powerful story of a prisoner of war for 8 years during the Vietnam War. His name was Jim Stockdale. Stockdale said the people that didn't make it out of the camp were the optimists. They were constantly looking at the next landmark: Christmas, Easter, Thanksgiving. But they would never get out.
Stockdale had so much faith that he would get out and this experience would be a defining moment in his life, but he accepted the reality of the situation.
This story may be extreme for a business book but Collins uses this story to introduce what he calls the Stockdale Paradox: have faith in your vision, your hedgehog concept, but don't ignore the facts of reality and what must be done today.
Finding something where you ask not "Why should I become great?" but rather "How do I become great?"
The book ended with the question of why should we even be concerned with becoming great. He tells an anecdote of a cross country coach, who transformed the high school's program and led the team to a state title.
He asked her why she wanted to make the team great. She paused and said that she just cared so much about the team and the impact she was having on the kids.
What's even more fascinating is she was an honors economics graduate and got an MBA from an elite school. She could've gotten a job anywhere, but coached cross-country because it was something she cared so much about she didn't ask why she wanted to make the program great, but how she could make the program great.
To have a fully developed Hedgehog Concept, you need all three circles. If you make a lot of money doing things at which you could never be the best, you’ll only build a successful company, not a great one. If you become the best at something, you’ll never remain on top if you don’t have intrinsic passion for what you are doing. Finally, you can be passionate all you want, but if you can’t be the best at it or it doesn’t make economic sense, then you might have a lot of fun but you won’t produce great results￼￼￼.
For these people, work will always be first and foremost about what they get - game, fortune, adulation, power, whatever - not what they build, create, and contribute.
I read this book because on a Bill Simmons podcast remembering Kobe, Simmons tells an anecdote where Kobe found the book Good to Great so valuable that he didn't want other people to find out about it. I wanted to read the book to find out what he learned from it.
My favorite quote from Kobe I think tells me what this book taught him.
Those times when you get up early and you work hard, those times when you stay up late and you work hard, those times when you don’t feel like working, you’re too tired, you don’t want to push yourself, but you do it anyway. That is actually the dream. That’s the dream.
Going from good to great is falling in love with the process. It’s the small, daily pushes of the flywheel that eventually lead to a breakthrough moment years in the making.
It’s funny - I feel like many of the books I’m reading just keep repeating themselves. The message of Bo Eason’s in There's No Plan B for Your A Game is to make your declaration to be the best at something specific and just focus on achieving that. Phil Knight’s Shoe Dog is about finding your calling, pursuing it with an athlete’s determination, and just don’t stop.
Good to Great is the same. Find your hedgehog concept and build the culture of discipline to focus on things that fall under that hedgehog concept and cut out everything that's not.
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