The Hedgehog Concept

Last summer I read Jim Collins newest book How the Mighty Fall. It was a fascinating reprise to his marvelous earlier works Built to Last and Good to Great (including the added monograph Good to Great for Social Sectors). Recently I had the opportunity to revisit this work with others. In Collins’ work he talks about the “Hedgehog Principle.” In a summary he writes: “Greatness comes about by a series of good decisions consistent with a simple, coherent concept – a ‘hedgehog’. The hedgehog concept is an operating model that reflects understanding of three intersecting circles: what you can be the best in the world at, what you are deeply passionate about, and what best drives your economic or resource engine.” (Jim Collins, How the Mighty Fall, p. 181)

I am mindful that churches are very different from businesses. Our mission is biblically and theologically defined. The power and presence of the Holy Spirit cannot be over estimated. At the same time (and not in contradiction), business models are helpful tools. They can guide the clarity of our thinking about our divinely called mission.

Bearing the above in mind, I am convinced that a significant question to ask is – what is our Hedgehog Concept? This applies to churches and conferences. It is also important to separate what we think our current Hedgehog Concept is versus what our Hedgehog Concept ought to be (reality verses aspiration). While I wrestle with both, I think at our best Methodism has lived with some version (you can argue about exact phrasing until the cows come home!) of the following Hedgehog Concept.

1. We are best at being (originally) at intentional Christian discipleship development (hence the name Methodist coming from being “methodical” about discipleship growth and development).
2. Our passion is to transform people and the world.
3. Our economic or resource engine (meaning more than just where does the money comes from but rather what drives our best development and transformational efforts) is the local church.

Now the big question is how big is the gap between reality and aspiration?

2 Responses to “The Hedgehog Concept”

  1. James Ballard January 25, 2010 at 6:30 pm #

    Something to think about, maybe. I really like Jim Collins and the Hedgehog Principle. If we were good about being intentional discipleship we wouldn't be a declining denomination. Look at the numbers for Sunday school attendance juxiposed to worship attendanc3. I would argue that we are really good at forming comminuties of friendships and supporting one another. Tend toward people like us. Thats not evil, its human. Life is too full for too much diversity these days. Unless your getting paid to advocate for diversity all the time.

    I would argue that "our transforamtion of the world" tends to be about physical transformation, like eliminating poverty for the entire world, providing for the needs and wants of the entire world, meanwhile evangelism in terms of salvific stories and supernatural miracles from our missionaries is never heard of.

    We are really good about being "nice" but not changing the spiritual atmosphere in the world. We don't confront "personalized evil". When is the last time any one every speaks about casting out "demons" from people.

    You talk about Holy Spirit encounters. In the book of Acts, believers were challanged to recieve the Holy Spirit and after prayer the scriptures says there was a sign or a witness that seemed to satisfy the disciples that, in fact, the Holy Spirit came upon them. I don't know if there are a lot of signs here. We are not even nice to charismatice in this conference.

    What we are good at is a very "nice" nonconfrontational traditional worship service, unless its about giving money to feed and clothe who knows. So spiritual transformation is about feeding and clothing people.

    As far as discipling goes, we are "divided" over "issues" we don't have any authority to "disciple". Discipling Authority" becomes just your opinion and your subjective interpretation of the scriptures.

    I have told by good church members that the reason they come to the Methodist Church is because they can smoke, drink, and curse every now and then and still go to heaven. They tell me that they can have an abortion and fell good about coming to church. We don't preach that this is wrong. I get all kinds of crazy reasons.

    Hedgehog Principle: I work really to provide a worship environment in services. I don't know about the world, but I work really hard to disciple those around me. I know that our history and theology allows us to teach about experiencig the Holy Spirit. I encourage praying in tongues. It not the only sign, but it is a sign of the presence of the Holy Spirit and a comfort in troubled times.

    Hedgehog Principle: We are really good at the Peter Principle.

  2. James Ballard January 26, 2010 at 4:37 pm #

    I need to apologize for thenonhelpful attitude of my response yeterday. I really want what the Holy Spirit and John Wesley started to succeed. I love the Methodist Church. My struggle is always the adverse politics I watch and the effects it has on good people.

    My spirit filled home church was basically shut down and scattered, so I'm probably still recovering from that. The work of the Holy Spirit and the Conference is something I am always hopeful for and prayerful for.

    Thank you for writing and being open to people writing back in this blog. I do pray for you and thank God for you and the Cabinet.