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What is your One Big Thing?

During a coaching session on focus and purpose, our discussion lead to Jim Collins‘ idea of  a “Hedgehog Concept“, as described in his classic book “Good to Great“.

The name “Hedgehog” comes from Isaiah Berlin‘s essay “The Hedgehog and the Fox“, the title is based upon an ancient Greek parable: “The fox knows many things, but the hedgehog knows one big thing.” And to build a business that lasts, you need to be the best at One Big Thing.

So what is it, your One Big Thing?

To get at the answer, Jim Collins suggests “Three Questions“, which I rephrase and reorder to align with how I coach this concept:

1. What is the One Big Thing you most passionate about?

What is the change that you most want to see in the world, something that you are willing to commit your resources, your time, your life to making happen? Then the second part of this is: Why is this important to you *and* to others? The answer to this question becomes your manifesto, the declaration of who you are and the legacy you are creating. (Read how to write a manifesto here: http://is.gd/jUYo )

You will know that you have a great answer to this first question when you share your manifesto with others and they see you as a leader instead of a mere service provider.

2. What is the One Big Thing you are best in the world at doing?

How I coach this question, is to focus on describing the compelling, lasting impact that you make with your clients, an impact that is memorable and important for the client. And you should be the best in the world at doing this (or at least the best in your world of people who know you!). Remember that the real question behind this question is not “what do you do”, but rather “what do you do for them” (your clients).

To really nail the answer to this question, talk to your clients. Get them to describe, in their words, their impressions of the impact you have created for them. Focus on the qualitative (emotions, feelings) as well as the quantitative.

When you have completed this step, you should have a short, compelling “tag line” that encapsulates the most significant impact your create for your client.

3. “What drives your economic engine”?

Your answer to this specific question that Jim Collins asks, provides the bridge between the results you promise and the results your clients get. Here you describe the activities, products and services. Check to make sure each offer you make focuses on expressing the first two questions: that every product and service builds towards the compelling change you wish to see in the world (question 1) by helping clients experience the impact you are best in the world at creating (question 2).

The more you focus your products and services to align with your answers to questions 1 and 2, the more valuable your offers become to your clients, and the more time, effort and money they will be ready to commit to what you offer.

What is my (Davender’s) One Big Thing?
(question 1): I believe that entrepreneurship is the key to creating and implementing the positive change that humanity needs in order to get out of the economic, environmental and spiritual mess we find ourselves in at the moment. This is necessary to build a strong foundation for a prosperous and successful 21st Century

(question 2): I Guide People With Big Dreams To Power Their Vision From Passion to Profit. I build 21st Century Leaders.

(question 3): And I do this by offering coaching and learning opportunities that push my clients to go beyond their comfort zone and What I do is to help people make the transition from a dependent “employee” mindset to a confident “entrepreneur” way of thinking, acting and being.

Imagine having this level of clarity – what kind of clients would you attract, and results could you create with them?

For more information

Jim Collins’ mini-site about the Hedgehog Concept:

The book “Good To Great”

Jim Collins’ web site

Image: Adam Foster on Flickr
Direct link: http://www.flickr.com/photos/paperpariah/4301471586
Used under Creative Commons 2.0 licence

This post was originally published on Feb 17 2009 and updated on November 30 2010.

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