Charles Engelke's Blog

November 3, 2003

What’s Info Tech’s Hedgehog Concept?

Filed under: Retreat November 2003 — Charles Engelke @ 10:40 pm

Okay, maybe that’s not the clearest question we’ve ever addressed. It
comes from one of the books we were assigned to read prior to this
retreat, Good
to Great
by Jim Collins. (You might have heard of Collins’s last
book: Built
to Last

Collins spends a lot of time presenting a rigorous basis for his
research and conclusions. He doesn’t convince me, because you can
always find patterns retroactively if you have enough data. Until you make
predictions based on your perceived patterns and see if they come
true, you can’t tell if you have real insights or just coincidences.
Still, the ideas in this book resonate with me. Not only do they
feel right, they fit in really well with Info Tech’s own
experiences and history.

A key thesis of this book is that “good” companies become “great” by
being like the hedgehog: The fox knows many things, but the
hedgehog knows one big thing.
(From the Greek poet Archilochus.)
These great companies preserve their focus on the “one big thing” that
they can be passionate about, and can strive to be the best at. This
is what Info Tech has used as a guiding principle since before I got
here in 1988, and it has served us very well. We’ve had incredible
growth and success over the last decade or two, and I think the
hedgehog principle is a major reason for it. A book that
explores the fine points and implications of this approach is going
to be a very useful resource for us.

We’re aware of the weaknesses in how we run our business, and we
are all actively working to eliminate them (or at least reduce them).
While we do that, we need to keep an eye on our strengths, too, and
make sure we maintain and improve them as well.


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