The hedgehog concept is the ONE thing that can make the difference between loving what you do while making money, and all of the alternatives. Not that those alternatives are necessarily horrible. It’s just all ‘round better to be at the core of your hedgehog.
This is the second of a five-part series on the Entrepreneur’s Hedgehog–how can you, as an entrepreneur, discover what you can be the best in the world at? For an initial understanding of the Hedgehog concept, we wholeheartedly recommend that you read Chapter Five of Good to Great, by Jim Collins. For audio learners, Jim Collins provides several videos and audios on his website. While we rely on Jim Collins for the initial idea, we have extended his concept to small business owners over a number of years. The hedgehog is the intersection of three aspects of your life:
- What you can be the best in the world at;
- What you are deeply passionate about; and
- What drives your economic engine.
You would think that you would know what you can be “best in the world” at, don’t you? That is seldom the case without some work. Imagine trying to look at the back of your neck. Even if you can get it centered in a mirror, it’s backwards! Additionally, your “best” may seem so natural to you that you don’t even recognize it as a strength. Do you have one of those “walking encyclopedia” friends who shrugs his shoulders when you ask him how he always knows the direction for “North?” Maybe you know one of those people who can add four digit numbers in their head or who always knows the “right” question to continue a conversation. Those are people with a genetically-coded ability and they often don’t realize that others don’t have it.
As I’ve worked with clients to discover their “can be best” strengths, we’ve often used a combination of three approaches. When the three all point towards the same strengths, you know you’ve got it right.
First, conduct a brief survey. I’ve worked with several clients to contact friends, mentors, business associates, and customers as part of their discovery process. I ask them to pick ten people who will be honest and answer three questions:
- What do you see are some of my greatest strengths? Can you relate a specific example?
- What is the greatest contribution I have made to you personally? Again, can you relate a specific example?
- What is, in your opinion, my single, most greatest strength if you had to narrow it down to one? Can you give an example that would illustrate your point?
The results from the survey can fill pages, so I’ve worked with some clients on a way to squeeze out the data. They go to http://www.wordle.net/ and create a word cloud. The results are often visually clear. This is a word cloud generated for LynChristian.com
Second, look inside yourself. Start by thinking about what you do naturally that others admire. You are probably on the right track. If you want an outside stimulus for this phase, you can turn to almost everything that Marcus Buckingham and the Gallup Management team has produced that contains the Strength Finder instrument in it. The most recent publication is Strength Finder 2.0. Are you a lifelong learner? Maximizer? Strategist? WOO? Read the book, take the survey, and add the answers to what you find out from others.
Third, ask your customers. The Entrepreneur’s Toolkit, Chapter 4, has a section on getting customer feedback as part of your marketing. It works for this as well. Often I will send a simple request at the end of a coaching contract that asks my client to “spend a few minutes thinking about the value our coaching brought to you. I am asking you because I believe that you will be candid and objective.” Your customers will tell you what you bring to the table, and that gets added to your other answers about what you can be best in the world at.
You can take the results from these three approaches and triangulate the results. You will find what you can be the best in the world at.