Have you got one thing you’re truly good at? Do you find yourself coming back to it time and time again? Think of the hedgehog, and their defensive mechanism – to curl up in a ball with all spikes pointing outwards. That’s their thing. It works, it works well.

The hedgehog model is based on this very concept. Outlined in his 2001 book, Good to Great, Jim Collins suggested that if companies focused on one thing and did it well, there would be no threat to their success.

So what does the hedgehog model look like? Well it’s pretty simple actually. Three keys factors, when joined together, highlight the niche area in which you should focus:

  • What are you deeply passionate about?
  • What can you be the best in the world at?
  • What drives your economic engine?

Co-founder and managing director of Valve Corporation, Gabe Newell’s story, I believe, is a great example of the hedgehog model.

1.What is he deeply passionate about?

Online game development and online distribution. After working at Microsoft for 13 years (Newell has described himself as “producer on the first three releases of Windows”) he founded Valve with Mike Harrington in 1996. Valve is famous for critically acclaimed online games such as Portal and Half-Life, and more recently for its social distribution network Steam and their own 3D video game engine Source.

2. What is he known to be the best in the world at?

Creating things ‘that haven’t existed before”, products that the end user wants, and doing them well while not being driven by corporate strategic thinking or deadlines. Newell is well known in the industry for speaking out against these types of measures. One such case is claiming the developing processes for the PlayStation 3 console in general as a disaster on many levels and suggesting, “they should just cancel it and do a do over”. There is even a term, ‘Valve Time’ that indicates they do not always meet their promised release time. Valve has embraced the term, as it means they only release a quality product when it’s ready.

3. What drives his economic engine?

Ok, this one is a bit harder for me to define. But whatever it is, it’s working. Last month it was reported that Valve’s business increased by 50 percent last year. From his 13 years working at Microsoft where he became a “Microsoft Millionaire”, his net worth is now estimated to be $1.5 billion, placing him on the Forbes Rich List.

So, what does this all mean to you and I? I’m not suggesting we’ll all become billionaires, although that would be rather nice, what I am suggesting is that as individuals, as new start ups, or as an organisation that needs a new strategy – identify the one thing you are good at, and stick to it. In some ways it’s about getting back to basics. Devote your resources and energy into pursuing that one thing, and do it well. It provides you and your team a clear vision and focus, and can make you an opposing competitor in your market.

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