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14.11.2019 Article

The Hedgehog Concept

By Martin Dei-Tutu
The Hedgehog Concept

“Suffering from the curse of competence but lacking a clear hedgehog concept, they rarely become great at what they do”- a statement made by Jim Collins in one of the chapters in his book- From good to great. The extrapolation of the hedgehog concept is from an understanding of the ancient Greek parable; ‘the Fox knows many things but the Hedgehog knows one big thing."

The background of the concept captures the classification of people into two groups- the Foxes and Hedgehogs and describes their peculiar understanding of the world and the dispensary of their qualities and capabilities for optimal interaction with their world. The Foxes are ever pursuing many ends at the same time, with totally diffused and inconsistent interactive approaches to their world and as such constantly encumbered with the complexity of their world. The Hedgehogs on the other hand, consider the complexity of the world (notwithstanding the existing challenges and dilemmas) and simplifies the complexity into a unified essential idea, that can be understood in simplicity and engaged to deliver the optimal outcomes in their world.

Thus the Hedgehog concept can be defined as a clear understanding of your world, knowing what you can be best at based on what you are deeply passionate about and can best drive your resource engine towards achievement. This single concept has throughout history, proven to be the substratum of significant accomplishments by individuals (entrepreneurs, scientist, innovators, etc.), organizations and most importantly nations. Consider for instance, when America professes to be a land of opportunities, with the tagline the American dream, what opinion are they transmitting? What does it mean to buy and own a product from Germany, what has Germany sold to the world about things associated with them? Think for a minute what it means to own a shoe, bag or a fashion product from Italy? What idea comes to mind when a name like Dubai, China, Brazil, Canada, Japan, just to mention a few is mentioned.

As captured in the opening paragraph of this article, ‘suffering from the curse of competence but lacking a clear Hedgehog concept, they rarely become great at what they do”, it appears therefore that the basis for which the aforementioned countries became great in their respective rights, was because they consciously institutionalized a specific defined hedgehog concept around which they have been building their country. What comes to mind when the name Ghana is mentioned? What are we known for? What hedgehog concept is being institutionalized in Ghana? What is the basis for our development agenda? When we say we want to develop, is our profession branching out of the need to just say something trendy or we have identified something we can be best at hence building our development agenda to reflect that?

It seems to me that as a nation, we are truly suffering from the curse of competence. We have the competence of a good human capital resource that has at its disposal the blessing of extractive minerals, a fantastic position on the world map (a country that is practically almost at the very center the world), myriads of arable lands and yet the curse of competence has confined us to replicating the same patterns and experiences that continues to keep us as a developing country all these decades. History has strongly highlighted the impeccable contribution of industrialization to development rather than the overdependence of the export of natural unprocessed raw materials. That notwithstanding, at least we were the best in the world for the production of cocoa in the 1960’s, but only to surrender the best place to our neighboring country Cote D’ivoire.

Nonetheless, it is about time, I believe in this generation and I think the time to press the reset button is now. Competence is good but to remain only competent and to be only good is an enemy of great. It is about time we open up discussions to build an understanding of our context and of our realities as a people, what can we do and be the best at. The fact that Cote D’ivoire could surpass us at producing cocoa means we can emerge as the best at something we were only good at yesterday.

What is our Hedgehog concept as a people? For a country like Dubai, Sheikh Mohammed Bin Rashid Al Maktoum ruler of Dubai in his book ‘My Vision’ states that it is EXCELLENCE. Dubai realizes she can be best at delivering excellence in every sector of her society and we are seeing this reality unfold before our eyes as they consistently strive to institutionalize excellence in the very fabric of the nation. So What is our Hedgehog concept as a nation? Figuring what we can be best at is the first step to building our own hedgehog concept. With history providing us with templates of how great nations have institutionalized their Hedgehog concept into their nations, we will learn, replicate the templates based on our peculiar context and make Ghana great.

#Thecriticalmass #TCMconsortium #Originissacred #Changeispossible #Ghanacanbegreat

Disclaimer: "The views/contents expressed in this article are the sole responsibility of the author(s) and do not neccessarily reflect those of Modern Ghana. Modern Ghana will not be responsible or liable for any inaccurate or incorrect statements contained in this article."

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