“The Hedgehog Concept”
Jim Collins said in his book, “Good to Great”, that when businesses focus on one thing, and do it extremely well, they increase their chances significantly to beat their competitors. This is what he called: “The Hedgehog Concept.”
The Greek tale says, “The fox knows many things, but the hedgehog knows one big thing.” Foxes are smart animals; they have many interests and use various strategies at the same time. Therefore, their thinking is distracted and their achievements are limited on the long run. However, hedgehogs are calm and constant, they are able to focus on one dominant goal. This is what directs their actions, and makes them succeed.
To find out what your brand’s “Hedgehog Concept” is, Jim Collins advises to assess three main factors:
1. Passion: You need to think about what keeps you and those who work with you excited? What values inspire and motivate them? Does your vision attract those who share the same passion with you?
2. USP: You have to identify what differentiate your brand from its competitors? What is that only thing that your organization does better than others? Be honest with determining what are the strengths and weaknesses, and remember that your brand has to be the best at one specific area only.
3. Profit: You need to understand what factors drive your revenue generation process? This understanding will have a significant impact on the organization’s sustainable success.
After you’ve looked at the previous three areas, look at where they intersect to find your brand’s Hedgehog Concept. This is the core focus that should drive your organization’s strategy.
A live example that illustrates what’s been discussed here is Shake Shack success story (more at http://bit.ly/1k2J2ud). This brand has achieved his success by committing and staying committed to its mission: being “the best burger company in the world.” Randy Garutti, Shake Shack’s CEO, summarized it in a simple sentence: “Do what you want to do really well in its most basic version.”
I find many business professionals get carried away from core business objectives with the excitement of creativity i.e. new ideas. Meanwhile, I wonder what is the value of new ideas if they didn’t serve a set strategy, or communicated a strategic message?
If you, as a business leader, haven’t thought and decided about the strategic objective of what you’re doing, your constant experimentation is not a proof of your creativity. Actually, these random attempts indicate that you have serious strategic problems, which will affect your business negatively on the long run. Moreover, your “creativity” wastes countless human, tangible, and intangible resources without achieving what you aim, as the goal is not clear yet!
Only after you employ your analytical thinking to identify the strategic direction of your business, you can launch your creative thinking activities to figure out new means to achieve your business strategic goal. This is when your creative spirit becomes a functional strategic weapon that could gain your business actual revenue.
Over the past years Private Label Brands are increasingly threatening FMCG brands in different segments. What strategies those brands should implement to compete against Private Label Brands?
I’v been invited by Dubai TV to talk about Brand Strategy’s importance for establishing new business.
In my Master of Design degree, my thesis topic investigated how design can assist in emergency management. I explored how design can be utilized as a strategic and communication tool in governance to preserve livelihood, lower environmental degradation, and reduce property, financial and economic losses. Design—in this context—does not only manifest itself in visual applications, but is also a tool to create innovative and evolving system(s) of strategies, plans and applications.
The Tank: Détourned
In The World’s Armored Fighting Vehicles, a tank is defined as “a tracked, armoured fighting vehicle designed for front-line combat which combines operational mobility, tactical offensive, and defensive capabilities. Firepower is normally provided by a large-calibre main gun in a rotating turret and secondary machine guns. Heavy armour and all-terrain mobility provide protection for the tank and its crew” (van Senger Und Etterlin, 1960).
Russians have been making a wide range of tanks, of which the Russian tank T-62 is a good example. One of the largest markets for these tanks is the Middle East, Syria in particular. Syria ordered 500 tanks from the Soviet Union in 1973, and 200 from Libya in 1978. In 1982, Syria ordered a further 300 tanks from the Soviet Union (Stockholm International Peace Research Institute, 2011). Thus, as of 2005, Syria had 1,000 T-62s in service (Syria–Army Equipment). Unfortunately, the Syrian regime has been using these and other types of Russian tanks against its own people.
Syria originally ordered these tanks as a defence against its traditional enemy, Israel, which regularly orders US-made M48 Patton tanks. Israel used the M48s in 1976 against another of its neighbouring countries, Jordan, which is also a steady buyer of the M48 Patton tanks. Moreover, M48 Patton tanks were used by the Lebanese Army, the South Lebanon Army and other Lebanese militias in the Lebanese Civil War between 1975 and 1990.
According to the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute, military expenditure was estimated to be $1,630 billion in 2010, which represents a real-terms increase of 1.3% over 2008 and a 50% increase since 2001. The top five spenders are the United States, China, France, the United Kingdom, and Russia, and tank manufacturing makes up a sizeable portion of their investment. For instance, in 2010, the Syrian military’s expenditure was US$2.2 billion, Israel’s was US$13 billion, Jordan’s was US$1.3 billion, and Lebanon’s was US$1.5 billion (SIPRI, 2011).
The tank has played a dominant role in the visual literature that has been produced since the start of the Syrian uprising. It represents the military force of the ruling regime, and many artists, especially caricaturists, have made fun of the Syrian tanks being used against the Syrian civilians instead of against Syria’s traditional enemy, Israel.
Last September, a Red Crescent volunteer in the city of Homs was killed by a bullet inside an ambulance while he was helping some injured people (Reuters News Agency, 2012). This incident posed a question: what if tanks were ambulances? What if armoured live-saving vehicles were let into the effected neighbourhoods of Homs instead of armoured vehicles of destruction?
What if the tank is détourned to be a tracked, armoured vehicle which combines operational mobility and tactical defensive capabilities designed to save lives? Heavy armour and all-terrain mobility provides protection for the tank and its crew.
The production cost for a Russian T-62 is estimated at around US$4 million, and the cost for a US M48 Patton is around US$5.5 million. Conversely, a brand new GMC G4500 Braun Ambulance is priced at US$129,900.
The idea for this détournement was conceived after looking at the current situation in Syria, which includes the deployment of hundreds of military tanks into Syrian cities. These tanks are not only destroying properties and homes, they are also wounding and killing many civilians. In the midst of this situation, no ambulances are being allowed into the destroyed neighbourhoods to save the lives of the injured. Moreover, the wounded people are not allowed to go to hospitals but instead are taken to field clinics that offer only basic supplies and equipment.
For this project, two tanks were chosen – the Russian-made M-62, and the American-made M48 Patton. As explained earlier, these two types of tanks are very “common” in Middle East countries. The “visual distortion” (Debord & Wolman, 1965) of the détourned tanks was twofold: first, the removal of the guns, and second, the painting of the tank in white and red, similar to ambulances. One of the tanks is détourned to be a Red Cross ambulance and the second a Red Crescent. The cross and crescent represent the two major Syrian religious affiliations – Christianity and Islam, respectively.
The pictures used in the backdrop were chosen from a Syrian context. The one in the centre shows three Russian-made tanks in the city of Homs. The other two pictures show injured people getting treatment in temporary field clinics.
In conclusion, the aim of the détournement project was to ask a simple question, yet the answer is not so simple: instead of investing in killing machines, like tanks, would it not be better to invest in products that contribute to the growth and healing of humanity, like ambulances?
Debord, G., & Wolman, G. J. (1965). A User’s Guide to Détournement. Retrieved March 13, 2102, from Bureau of Public Secrets: http://www.bopsecrets.org/SI/detourn.htm
Reuters News Agency. (2012, January 2012). Red Crescent official shot dead in Syria—ICRC. Retrieved March 7, 2012, from The Star: http://www.thestar.com/news/world/article/1121402—red-crescent-official-shot-dead-in-syria-icrc
Stockholm International Peace Research Institute. (2011, April 11). Background paper on SIPRI military expenditure data, 2010. Retrieved March 7, 2012, from SIPRI: http://www.sipri.org/research/armaments/milex/factsheet2010
Syria—Army Equipment. (n.d.). Retrieved March 4, 2012, from Global Security: http://www.globalsecurity.org/military/world/syria/army-equipment.html
von Senger Und Etterlin. F.M. (!960). The world’s armored fighting vehicles. London: Macdonald & Co. Ltd.
Communication Strategy Framework
A partial outcome of my current research is a communication platform. While I was mapping the communication strategy that I wanted to establish, I thought it might be interesting to visualize the framework of any communication strategy in general. It is another way to comprehend the main components of such a strategy, and how they are connected to each other.
Throughout the past fifteen years of my life, I have changed my place of residence several times, moving to and from various cities in five countries. Because of this constant exposure to other ways of living and perceiving life, cultural heritage and dimension pique my interest. In particular, I am fascinated by how these factors formulate the identity of a specific community and how this identity is reflected in their individual human behaviour. My observations of this phenomenon have also emerged from my studies in design, having developed the skill to view the relationships between and amongst those communities as well as various aspects of the design disciplines and their artefacts.
Since coming to Canada, I have paid significant attention to understanding cultural factors within this context. Surprisingly, this task has not been easy. Therefore, it has been necessary for me to delve deeper into this dilemma to try to analyse not only the cultural factors but also why it has been difficult for me to define what the Canadian cultural identity is.
One reason that came to mind is that Canadian culture may yet be in formation and therefore more difficult to discern, Canada being a relatively young country. I come from an old-world country (Syria), where the cultural identity is very distinct. I also thought the official attempt by government on all levels to blend British and French heritage and language might be affecting the development of a distinctly Canadian culture, or that the struggle between North American (i.e., American) aspects and European ones may be detrimentally impacting the formation of ‘Canadianism’.
In addition, what adds another layer of complexity to the cultural mix in Canada is the increasing number of immigrants who come from the Far and Middle East. These immigrants carry with them deeply ingrained cultural beliefs that, generally speaking, are in direct conflict with Western or North American ones. However, in contemplating this factor, I was rewarded with my first insight into genuine generic Canadian culture – that Canadian policies respect others’ cultures and strive to accommodate them. This approach is manifested in a multicultural dimension that is so generic, it is almost invisible or loses its distinct feature. Nevertheless, this generic nature could indeed be a distinct feature that differentiates Canadian cultural identity from other countries.
As well, there is often a clash between second (or third or more) generation immigrant Canadians and first-generation immigrants or new Canadians. The first group can define the Canadian cultural identity clearly and claim this identity is distinct and recognizable worldwide, while the second group tends to side with the claim that Canadian cultural is ambiguous. Here is where the temporal factor, amongst others, may come into play. This factor is reflected in the comparison new Canadians carry with them, between their home country’s cultural heritage and beliefs, and the new ones they are experiencing in Canada. Moreover, new Canadians can also be considered almost external observers to the Canadian context and are more objective in their argument, while “old” Canadians are emotionally attached to the country and therefore render judgements that are more subjective.
This argument is still ongoing and is reflected in the decision-making activity of design strategies, which then trickles down to design application and artefacts. Personally, I keep questioning the nature of the Canadian cultural identity in my design practice, but I wonder how my reflection on this subject matter will be changed were I to spend another five years in Canada?