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The 10 best strategic business slides of all time: #1 — The Hedgehog


Nigel Malone keeps his favourite ten keynote slides related to strategic business development — his “Ten Commandments” — close to his chest at all times. Okay, sometimes he puts them down to bathe, but they are never far from his thinking.

In this series he shares the contents of these slides, which are drawn from a cross-section of sources, including the great business, brand and military planners of all time.

Also in this series:

Favourite slide #1: The Hedgehog

One of my favourite keynote slides in strategic planning is the ‘hedgehog concept’ slide, and I’ve got a gentleman by the name of Jim Collins to thank for it. It’s generally the first slide I focus on with any company, but especially so with startups or businesses going through significant change.

There’s a plethora on information online about Jim and his thinking, but the ‘hedgehog concept’ is one of his gems. It’s really about determining business focus. Rather than being a ‘fox’ that is always on the lookout for everything and anything in terms of prey, Jim’s view is that it’s far better to keep it simple and be great at one big thing — much like the hedgehog, that when under threat rolls itself into a tight impenetrable ball.

Whether you like the analogy or not, it’s amazing how many companies that don’t have a simple, coherent strategic concept that they pursue with relentless consistency. Jim should know. His book, GOOD TO GREAT: Why Some Companies Make the Leap … And Others Don’t, attained long-running positions on the New York Times and Wall Street Journal best seller lists.

So how do you find your ‘hedgehog concept’? Get your three circles right.


1. What are you really passionate about?
Nothing great can be accomplished without passion, so it’s important you limit your primary arenas of activity to those for which you have great passion. Be it education, sailing or strategy.

2. What can you be the best in the world at?
“Best in the world” might be local or highly-focused, e.g. “best in the world at breaking the cycle of homelessness in Australia” or “best in the world at providing financial services to people in Darwin,” it nonetheless captures what you can do better than any other institution on the planet.

3. What best drives your economic or resource engine?
If you are a for-profit business, identify your one economic denominator that has the most significant impact on your economics. If you are a social sector organisation, how do you best improve your total resource engine, so that you can spend less time worrying about money and more time fulfilling your mission?

While most of my work is concerned with branding and marketing strategy, for me they are both a subset of business strategy, and that’s why I find the hedgehog invaluable. Not only does it help me identify the focus of the business, it more often than not helps the business itself find their focus.

Nigel Malone is a freelance brand strategist and writer, with particular expertise in the fields of tourism, finance, technology, sustainability and social change. Find out more at www.icycalm.biz