by Daniel R. Weiss
“The fox knows many things, but the hedgehog knows one big thing”. Known as the “Hedgehog Concept”, this idea, based on an ancient Greek parable, is often used in organizations to help find success by focusing on one thing. If we were asked whether we would rather be a fox or a hedgehog, which would we choose? Many of us would choose to be a fox. They are a beautiful animal and they are cunning in their behavior. A hedgehog is small, it is prickly, it travels slowly.
The parable teaches that a fox attempts to catch a hedgehog by shrewd planning, using a variety of techniques and approaches. It sneaks up on the hedgehog, it races after it, it pounces on it, yet each time it is defeated by the prickly hedgehog. The hedgehog in truth only knows one thing, how to defend itself. Rabbi Jim Rogozen, the first Head of School I worked for, once taught, “Do less, better.” The goal was to focus on one area and do it as well as possible.
Philosopher Isaiah Berlin used the hedgehog concept to show that if one has a wide variety of interests and strategies, if they are scattered and unfocused, if ultimately they are limited in what they can achieve, such is the way of the fox. The hedgehog however, lives in a simplified and focused world with an overarching vision.
In his essay, Good to Great, author Jim Collins, explains that organizations are more likely to succeed if they focus on one thing and do it well.
In order to effectively use the Hedgehog Concept, we must first understand our passions. What is it that makes us tick? What inspires us each day? Where is our motivation? What are our core values? This is what we love. If we don’t love it, we should not be doing it.
Second is understanding what we are best at, or what comes easily to us. What do we do that is better than what others do? We must be honest. We must look at our strengths and at our areas in which we need to improve. We must realize that sometimes it is ok not to be the best at something, because when we find those areas, we know where we can improve.
Third, we must determine and understand the economic implications. Are we making enough to ensure our long-term economic success? What determines economic success?
Once we have looked at each of those factors, we must look for overlap. The center spot, where each circle meets, becomes our BHAG, our Big Hairy Audacious Goal, this is where the Hedgehog concept is found. For each of us, that spot may be different, as each of our circles is different.
Scott Jeffrey, an entrepreneur and coach shares the following 10 Qualities of Visionary Leadership:
- Inspirational – tapping into our emotions by igniting passions
- Emotionally intelligent – showing empathy to inspire others
- Open Minded – while having the big picture in mind, they are flexible in how to get there; they are receptive to multiple perspectives
- Imaginative – allowing themselves to dream and encourage other to dream big too
- Resolute – holding a high conviction even in the face of adversity; doesn’t see setbacks as a sign of failure rather a way to realize the vision; willing to take risks; give assurance even when facing uncertainty
- Persistent – realizing that obstacles are constant, yet capable of being pushed through
- Collaborative – finding solutions together by building trust within a team
- Bold – be courageous and daring
- Magnetic – inclusive and inviting; ability to bring out the best in others
- Optimistic – having a positive outlook for the future; be hopeful that success will be achieved
So, what’s my BHAG for Bornblum? Simply put, it’s about relationships. I believe that there is a power in building strong, long-lasting relationships. We do this by building a character education program that allows not only our students, but our parents and our staff and faculty and the entire community to understand not just character values, but the value of one’s character. Relationships and relationship building does not cost anything, yet at the same time, carries tremendous value. If we can teach based on the 10 Qualities of Visionary Leadership, we will create a world where value and character are interchangeable.
Each of us has the potential to be a leader. It is something that we strive for. To get there, we must become visionaries. It is for that reason that we must reflect on our personal Hedgehog Concepts and determine our BHAG. For each of us, that BHAG is different. It should be. We all have goals and desires. Our BHAGs may change from time to time. Once we set a goal, we strive to achieve it. What do we do once we have? We set another one. Our vision may not change, but our paths may.
Educators hold an important role in the life of our students. We must inspire them to greatness, while empowering them to take life’s lessons and apply them to their work. We teach our students to find their own Hedgehog Concept. We implore them to be visionary leaders, by setting an example in how we live our lives.
How will you find your vision? How will you find your Hedgehog Concept? How will you determine your BHAG? How will you help us achieve ours?