Yesterday I attended the UKVIA reception at the House of Commons to launch this year's VApril campaign. It was a drizzly arrival at Parliament, but was soon brightened by seeing so many old friends...
Why Broughton is happy to be a ‘hedgehog’.
Apr 27, 2023 | Published by Broughton
If you’ve ever encountered our team at an event, you’ve probably seen the Broughton hedgehog mascot at our exhibition stand.
But why a hedgehog?
To understand the Broughton hedgehog, we must first go back to an ancient Greek poet and a British philosopher. In 1953 philosopher Isaiah Berlin published an essay and a book called The Hedgehog and the Fox. The title references a fragment attributed to the Ancient Greek poet Archilochus: "a fox knows many things, but a hedgehog knows one big thing”.
Isaiah Berlin used the concept to divide writers and thinkers into hedgehogs or foxes. A hedgehog was a thinker that viewed their world through one single simplifying and defining idea (Berlin identified thinkers such as Plato, Dante, Ibsen, and Nietzsche in this camp). A fox was a thinker who drew from a wide variety of different ideas and couldn’t be defined by a single concept (Berlin placed Aristotle, Shakespeare, Goethe, and Moliere here). In reality, Berlin was setting up the concept of the hedgehog and the fox to critique Tolstoy’s view of history, because he felt Tolstoy was a natural hedgehog that had acted as a fox for ideological reasons.
Interesting in terms of political philosophy perhaps but not that relevant to the world of modern business. Until Jim Collins referred to the story in his 2001 book Good to Great: Why Some Companies Make the Leap... and Others Don't . Collins showed a clear preference towards the hedgehog mentality, suggesting that those who built the good-to-great companies were, to one degree or another, hedgehogs.
Hedgehogs can simplify a complex world and are able to focus on a few critical things. They understand that the essence of profound insight is simplicity. They show qualities of piercing insight that allows them to see through complexity and identify underlying patterns.
Collins’ research showed that companies that were able to demonstrate a hedgehog nature to drive growth consistently outperformed companies that tended to be more fox-like: scattered, diffused, and constantly changing direction. The simple business strategy that drove this culture was called the Hedgehog Concept.
At Broughton, we often use the Hedgehog Concept to stimulate debate. It helps us evaluate growth opportunities through three critical lenses; being passionate and caring deeply about something (in our case; to improve quality of life), being the best at something (in our case; to help our clients deliver life-enhancing products to market, by providing the most trusted integrated services in the world) and driving our economic engine (making us economically viable and contributing to global communities).
So, the hedgehog is an important mascot for Broughton and all our employees. It helps guide us in a specific market area to ensure we focus on the things we believe we can be the best in the world at. It reminds us to continually work to simplify a complex world.
By doing this, we can focus on our passion and drive our vision ‘to improve quality of life’ and ‘help our clients deliver life-enhancing products to market’.