Formulating a Business Ambition

I’ve talked in my previous articles about how Ambition is rooted in our personality, and how it drives us and those around us forward, authentically, toward a future that matters.

Now, this might seem like a funny question – but do bear with me:

What do you think about hedgehogs?

When it comes to formulating a business ambition, there is indeed something we can learn from what’s generally seen as a small, unassuming animal.

In this blog, I’ll introduce the Hedgehog Concept from Jim Collins’ Good To Be Great, and explain how you can use it as a leader to leverage your strengths, passions, and fulfil your economic potential.

The Hedgehog Principle

The Hedgehog analogy plays an important part in my book Mind Growing because there are 3 elements that we can use to describe this little creature.

It is very passionate about one key thing. It’s main predator, the fox, is known for trying everything at its disposal to catch its prey – while the hedgehog simply curls up to shield itself. Every time.

They are also very good at this. The best at it, some might say, and this competency is its core strength that can be relied upon for success every time.
Last, and equally important, curling up is the hedgehog’s driver; it helps it stay alive and thrive in its environment.

We can think of these three elements as a Venn Diagram, shown below. Right at the centre, where the three elements intersect, we have a healthy, happy, and passionate hedgehog.

Hedgehog Concept Formulating a Business Ambition

How Leaders Can Apply The Hedgehog Concept

Collins’ concept applies both to you as a leader, and by extension, to the organization that you lead. To apply this concept and formulate your own Business Ambition in a VUCA world, you need to ask yourself three questions.

Ask Yourself…

To inspire your reflection, I’ve included some prompts:

  • First, What am I truly, deeply passionate about? Hopefully, you’ve given this a little thought since we discussed Ambition in the context of the Mind Growing Leadership ABCs. This will be connected to your values, beliefs, and emotions – it might be advancing your organization’s sector through innovation, revolutionising healthcare, or even making the world’s best sandwiches. As long as it drives you and gets you out of bed in the morning – that’s your passion.
  • Next, What can I be the best at? Perhaps unsurprisingly, this is almost always linked to our drivers. You can also reflect on how you might describe yourself (your ego) if someone were to ask about you: “I’m a superb team player,” or “I’m an amazing strategist.” Your core strength or strengths are what you can usually rely on, much more so than development points.
  • Finally, ask yourself: What is my economic engine? Here’s how you’ll contextualise your strengths and passions – as well as those of your organisation – in a dynamic and competitive business environment. Where can you leverage the other two elements for a successful, thriving, and happy organization?

Moving Forward

An understanding of your own Venn Diagram helps you find your personal Hedgehog Concept and operate from an authentic, relevant place of strength.
But what now? How can you pursue your Hedgehog Concept with a powerful Business Ambition?

The answer is simple: Formulate Goals. Then, Communicate them.

Here are some tips from Mind Growing, in which I describe how you as a leader can set engaging and achievable goals that you can communicate to those around you.

Along with clear Boundaries that encourage autonomy and drive, it’s important to:

  • Be Output-Focused. With tangible, visualisable results, you create clarity around what you want to achieve. Rather than saying “We’ll invest $X million in product development,” your goal might be “We’ll have two new prototypes by the end of 2020.” Doing this outlines expectations while leaving room for creativity around your How.
  • Leverage Emotions To Spark Action. Mobilising people means creating a sense of human urgency, not simply spouting facts and figures. By convincing people of the gravity of a situation, you can stimulate buy-in from those around you. Instead of “We need to improve sales by 20%,” for instance, why not “We are losing 20% of our sales to Key Rival Ltd?
  • Use ‘From’ and ‘To’ To Paint a Picture. By describing where you are currently and where you want to be, it’s easier for those around you to imagine your journey forward together.

Over To You

Have you ever thought about your strengths, passion, and economic engine before? Even more interestingly, have you ever thought about them together?

Hopefully, you’ll find the Hedgehog Principle a very useful framework as you continue your journey of Mind Growing leadership development. Why not try applying it in real life using some of the inspirational videos and exercises that I share on my YouTube and Instagram pages?


Collins, J. (2001). Good To Be Great. William Collins.