Posted on 14 June 2017 by Morne Du Toit
“What do you do?”
Is a question that, no doubt, you’ve been asked many times, especially when meeting people for the first time. It seems that we human beings have a need to attach job labels to each other, or at least to place people into named job categories that we can easily make sense of.
Of course, it’s important to know ‘what we do’ as individuals, what our focus is, and where we put our energy and attention in order to make a living. It’s even more important for an organization, whose sense of ‘what we do’, needs to permeate all employees in order to bring alignment of energy into a common direction.
Equally important for an organization is the need to communicate what it does clearly to their market and potential customers. Any lack of internal alignment or vagueness in messaging to the marketplace will inevitably create diffusion of energy, confusion, and inefficiency, all of which can ultimately lead to non performance, ineffectiveness or even business failure.
In a business, an alignment on ‘what we do’ needs to start at the very top and include shareholders, directors, and executives alike. From here the message can be cascaded throughout the organization. Of course, it’s never enough to communicate this message once. It needs to be consistently reinforced in a variety of ways and permeate everything the organization does. This is easier said than done! Achieving the alignment of people across an organization can be complicated and tricky to say the least!
There is a deceptively simple and intriguing model called the ‘Hedgehog' concept that can be used to help businesses answer the question of ‘what do we do?’
It is based on an ancient Greek parable that states: "The fox knows many things, but the hedgehog knows one big thing." As the story goes, the fox uses a variety of strategies to try to catch the hedgehog. It sneaks, pounces, races, and plays dead; yet, each time, it walks away defeated, with a nose full of spines. The fox never learns that the hedgehog knows how to do one thing perfectly: defend itself.
Isaiah Berlin took this parable and applied it to the modern world in his 1953 essay, ‘The Hedgehog and the Fox’. In essence, Berlin divided people into two groups: foxes and hedgehogs. He argued that foxes are sleek, shrewd animals that pursue many goals and interests at the same time. Because of this wide variety of interests and strategies their thinking is scattered and unfocused, and they are limited in what they can achieve in the long run. Hedgehogs, however, are slow and steady, and people often overlook them because they're quiet and unassuming. But, unlike the fox, they are able to simplify the world and focus on one over-arching vision. It's this principle that guides everything they do, and helps them succeed against all odds.
Jim Collins in his 2001 book, ‘Good to Great’, popularized this concept and turned it into a modern strategic business model which is now used worldwide.
Steve Jobs’ approach to business is a classic example of someone who practiced the Hedgehog Concept. By doing so, he arguably saved Apple from failure, turning the company around and making it one of the most successful businesses in the world. What he practiced he also advised others, like Nike (https://goo.gl/qsvLPS) to follow.
If applied, the Hedgehog Concept can help a business answer the questions “what do we do?” and “How do we move from just being good to being truly great?”
According to Collins, organizations are more likely to succeed if they focus on one thing, and do it exceptionally well. By doing so, they can beat their competitors and become truly great businesses. An organization can find its Hedgehog Concept by making three distinct assessments:
1) Understand what it is they are truly passionate about;
2) Identify what they can do better than anyone else in the world; and
3) Determine the organization’s main revenue generators.
The main focal point is where all three assessments intersect. This defines the ‘sweet spot’ for the organization's strategy, as depicted in the image below:
The Hedgehog model:
It’s argued that when an organization has identified its Hedgehog Concept, its leaders should devote all their energy and resources to pursuing the one thing it does best. Collins argues that when the going gets tough, it's the organizations that consistently focus on what they’re really good at that survives, thrive and become world-beaters.
At Ennea International we’ve carefully considered the three key questions posed by this model and have defined our responses to them:
1) WHAT ARE WE DEEPLY PASSIONATE ABOUT?
We are passionate about People Development.
We develop people by raising their levels of consciousness (awareness and understanding) about:
a) Self (way of being)
b) Others (team members, people with whom you interact)
c) Values (clarity and diversity of personal and business values)
Increased levels of consciousness affect behaviour and give a person the ability to choose their behavior as opposed to reacting in unconscious, mechanistic ways. It also becomes the foundation upon which high performance and effective Individuals, Teams & Leaders are built.
2) WHAT CAN WE BE THE BEST IN THE WORLD AT?
We can be the best in the world at creating and distributing Products, Processes and Technology that support ‘people development’ globally.
Our FIVE LENS Development Platform is an integrated assessment, process & product platform that produces in-depth and personalized profiles and reports for Individuals.
What makes us stand out from competitors in the market is that our models align with best practices and world-renowned industrial psychological, behavior models and systems thinking, used throughout the business community. We also look at people through 5 different lenses of human behavior, where other solutions can be one-dimensional.
Our products & processes are further extended to work with Teams, Leaders and Groups.
Our Five Lenses form the golden thread running through a range of development modules designed to build essential qualities and competencies leading to measurably high levels of performance & effectiveness.
Our “Essential” set of products & processes are available to our Team Facilitators:
3) WHAT DRIVES OUR ECONOMIC ENGINE?
Our economic engine is primarily driven by the Certification of people, who, once certified, utilize our products and processes in their businesses and servicing their clients. This leads to Product Sales.
We build a network of Regional Distributors whose objective it is to identify and on-board people to be trained and certified in our FIVE LENS Certification Program. Certified individuals then purchase our products to service their own clients. Our FIVE LENS Certification program qualifies people as:
- FIVE LENS Practitioner (working with individuals)
- FIVE LENS Professional (working with Teams and Groups)
Who will benefit from our certification program?
People working in the following contexts can benefit by utilizing our products and processes to enhance or augment their existing service offerings and build their business further:
- Potential Distributors
- Independent Coaches & Consultants
- Coaching & Consulting Houses
- Coach Training Schools
- Business Schools
- Corporates: Academies
- Corporates: HR, L&D, OD
Working with the Hedgehog Concept has been, and continues to be, vitally important to Ennea International. It informs all that we do from mission and vision to strategy, implementation of plans, product development and delivery to clients.
Want to move your business to greatness? Start with the most important question…
“What do we do?”