Jim; in his book; explains the concept using the simple story by Isaiah Berlin who divided the world into two kinds of people; foxes and hedgehogs. Jim explains:
In his famous essay "The Hedgehog and the Fox," Isaiah Berlin divided the world into hedgehogs and foxes, based upon an ancient Greek parable: "The fox knows many things, but the hedgehog knows one big thing." The fox is a cunning creature, able to devise a myriad of complex strategies for sneak attacks upon the hedgehog. Day in and day out, the fox circles around the hedgehog's den, waiting for the perfect moment to pounce. Fast, sleek, beautiful, fleet of foot, and crafty - the fox looks like the sure winner. The hedgehog, on the other hand, is a dowdier creature, looking like a genetic mix-up between a porcupine and a small armadillo. He waddles along, going about his simple day, searching for lunch and taking care of his home.
The fox waits in cunning silence at the juncture in the trail. The hedgehog, minding his own business, wanders right into the path of the fox. "Aha, I've got you now!" thinks the fox. He leaps out, bounding across the ground, lightning fast. The little hedgehog, sensing danger, looks up and thinks, "Here we go again. Will he ever learn?" Rolling up into a perfect little ball, the hedgehog becomes a sphere of sharp spikes, pointing outward in all directions. The fox, bounding toward his prey, sees the hedgehog defense and calls off the attack. Retreating back to the forest, the fox begins to calculate a new line of attack. Each day, some version of this battle between the hedgehog and the fox takes place, and despite the greater cunning of the fox, the hedgehog always wins.
- What are you deeply passionate about?
- What drives your economic engine?
- What you can be the best in the world at?
Once you have found answers to the three questions; Jim gently nudges people to involve themselves with doing things; where answers to all these three overlap. The thing where the three circles overlap for you; is the thing that you want to spend your life doing and this is what you want to become a hedgehog doing.
As superfluous and abstract as the concept might sound; Jim uses his own journey to finding a personal hedge hog to illustrate a practical example of how this concept can be put to work.
In a world where we have programmers who cannot program and teams that go around in the infinite loop of failure maybe; conscious thinking and reflection of our very own personal hedgehog is something that every programmer should be taught in software development schools around the globe.
Have you ever spent time to consciously think and reflect on what your very own personal hedgehog is?
If you answered no; now might be a good time to start thinking about it.
I wish you good luck.