In this article, I will cover the Hedgehog Concept and how it will help you determine if you should become a PHP programmer.

My name is Keith Smith. I have been a freelance PHP programmer since 2006 and I have evaluated my career choices several times using the Hedgehog Concept.

I first become aware of the Hedgehog Concept through the book “Good to Great” by Jim Collins. The book was copyrighted in 2001 and I read it in 2005 at the suggestion of my employer. Interestingly my employer at the time was not following the teachings of this book.

The book “Good to Great” is about how businesses move from good to great and the book shares many findings. One of which is the Hedgehog Concept.

Hedgehog Concept

In a nutshell, the Hedgehog Concept leads us to that one big thing we should focus on. In business, it is the service, product, or concept that is right for that particular business. For instance, Walgreens is on almost every corner. How they got there is the reason they moved from good to great – they focused on what they could be the best at.

The Hedgehog concept can be used personally to evaluate our best career path at any given point.

Using this same set of principles will guide us to the one thing we should focus on.

The Fox and the Hedgehog

The Hedgehog Concept is based on an old Greek parable “The fox knows many things, but the hedgehog knows one big thing.”. Jim Collins took that parable and turned it into 3 questions that take us from being a fox that knows a lot of things to a Hedgehog who does great things because he is focused on his one big thing.

In this article, I am going to focus on how we can determine our personal Hedgehog Concept.

Our Personal Hedgehog Concept

I am only going to cover the Hedgehog Concept and how it is applied to us. We will look at it as our personal Hedgehog Concept, or what is the single or dominant thing we were encoded to do.

We are encoded with many abilities, however, one will more than likely be our personal Hedgehog Concept.

The Three Questions of the Hedgehog Concept

There are three principles or questions that make up our personal Hedgehog Concept.

  1. What are you deeply passionate about?
  2. What are you genetically encoded to do?
  3. What drives your economic engine?

What Are You Deeply Passionate About?

Passion is an indicator of what you should be doing. If you are passionate about a particular area absent one of the other two indicators, this particular passion is not your one big thing. The area that you are passionate about and fulfills the other two indicators probably is your one big thing – or the thing you should concentrate on.

What Are You Genetically Encoded to Do?

Each of us is unique. Each of us was created with special skills and abilities – things we are naturally good at. By the time you become a teenager, you should start seeing your strengths and the things you are a natural at. Some are good at art, some are good at writing, some are good at business, etc.

What Drives Your Economic Engine?

This is a big one. You are looking for something you are passionate about that can drive your economic engine.

Putting All Three Together

Having passion about something you are a natural at, that also drives your economic engine is your one big thing – your Hedgehog Concept

I would recommend taking some time to go through this exercise before you decided on what you would like to do for a career. 

A Real-Life Story

Let me share a story and why I think going through this process is important.

About 10 years ago a young man approached me at a men’s gathering and said he wanted to become a PHP programmer. I asked why. He told me that I was successful so he thought he would do what I do. That answer gave me a lot of insight. I was looking for passion. He was looking for a job or a skill that could create success.

At that point I suggested he determine his personal Hedgehog Concept and then if he determined becoming a PHP programmer was what he should pursue, then come back and we would talk. He never returned.

My Advice to Any Aspiring Programmer

Do not choose a career path just because those skills are in demand and because the pay is good.

Every one of us is encoded with certain abilities. And every one of us has a set of passions. We need to take the time to look deep inside to determine our correct path.

I’ve heard it said, “Do what you are passionate about and the money will follow.”. If you choose the wrong path you might end up less than satisfied or in the end, being miserable.

Let me give you an example. Registered Nurses (RN) get paid well and are in high demand. I have the ability to become an RN, however, I would be miserable because I am not passionate about being an RN. It’s just not me.


This article is about using the Hedgehog Concept to determine if you should become a PHP Programmer. By using the Hedgehog Concept we can determine our career path and lead a more fulfilling and richer life.

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