The Parable of the Platypus and the Hedgehog; more Business Lessons from Nature – This week’s #CoffeewithColm, Episode 199

Two things happened this week that got me thinking about the clarity you and I need to have in our businesses.

First thing that happened was I found myself as part of a team manning an exhibition stand at a trade show. Late one afternoon a guy arrived onto the stand looking to flog my company something. He admitted that he wasn’t part of the expo but had snook in looking for business which is taboo and I was a tad allergic, however before I could stop him he was showing me a short video on his iPhone of a product that we may have an interest in so I asked him to send me a link on Monday.

Instead of stopping there, he started to push and tried to tell me about another service, wholly unrelated to the original one. I stopped him and told him if he continued to push, he could remove me removing my stated interest in his first product; he annoyed me, he pushed too hard, he was too ‘salesy’. He was trying to be all things to all men.

Second thing that happened was I had a coffee with a really good friend of mine and we spoke about life and who we are and what we stand for in business etc and the challenge that happens when we try to do too many things and try to be all things to all men all the time, and the ensuing confusion in the marketplace.

Then, as I was planning this episode of Coffee with Colm, those two incidents came to mind, as did the Platypus.

To find out what in God’s name us Business Owners can learn from a Platypus and a Hedgehog, watch the 5-minute video, listen to the 5-minute podcast, or read on below…

The Platypus is this otter-like creature with an otter(ish) body and legs, a beaver’s tail and a duck’s bill and despite being a mammal, lays eggs instead of giving birth to live young – such a strange little creature. No idea why Nature decided the planet needed a Platypus, but it did and we’re grateful for it’s oddity. But we don’t need any more Platypuses (? ) (Platypi?) thank you very much.

And the real question is, is your business a Platypus? Are you trying to do a bit of this, a bit of that, a bit of the other? Are you like me man on the stand, trying to be all things to all people all the time? Do you, if somebody mentions a need, immediately jumpo on it and say , “Oh, yeah, we do that.” and someone else mentions another need, “Oh, yeah, we do that too…”

If that’s your business model, then it is a Platypus and it needs to change. And, while it may not fail, it will never gain enough traction in any one area to lift off and scale. Why? Because it can’t, it doesn’t know in which direction to go.

Instead of the Platypus, your business needs to mimic the humble Hedgehog. The Hedgehog knows what it is and what it’s about. The Hedgehog is the very best in the world at one thing; being a Hedgehog, with a single super power ability to fend off predators by curling into a ball and using it’s spines as armour.

You and I need to me more Hedgehog-like. There is a Hedgehog concept of business (yep, it’s real – link at the end) that challenges you and I to ask ourselves, “What can we be the best in the world at?”

And we can’t be the best in the world at everything; you can’t have a duck-billed, beaver-tailed, otter-bodied, egg-laying mammal of a business, it’s got to be focused on something and you’ve got to decide what that something is.

And over coffee, my friend and I were talking about focusing on that area of your business where the doors are opening most easily, getting into the flow, into the groove.

Go with the flow. What doors are opening most easily at this moment? Step through them. Stop beating your fists against the door over there where nobody is answering – there’s nobody home!

And make haste. Yes, make haste slowly (another Coffee with Colm Episode around this in a few weeks), but make haste nonetheless.

So that’s this week’s #CoffeewithColmChallange, figure out is your business more like a Platypus or a Hedgehog, because if it’s a Platypus, how can your clients, even if they are satisfied, tell others what you do and who you are? How can they refer others to you? With great difficulty is the answer.

If, however your business is a Hedgehog, simples!

Ps,  for more on The Hedgehog Concept of Business – click here


Thanks for thinking with me.

Yours truly.


Watch | Listen | Read | Think | Act

FANCY A COFFEE WITH COLM in ‘real’? I have been creating free weekly content for over three years now and am very happy to have the opportunity to do so. That said, if you enjoy my work, perhaps you might consider buying me the odd coffee to help defray the hidden costs around sourcing, creating, editing, uploading and sharing? Some pretty cool rewards await those who do! Check out my PATREON page here.

MORE: Did you enjoy that? Fancy a sip of some of my recent “Coffee with Colm” Blog posts:

  • Lessons in change from the Moths of Manchester – click here.
  • The Glass is neither Half Full, nor Half Empty – It’s Refillable! – click here
  • If it ain’t broke… Break it! Before your competition breaks it for you! – click here.

BONUS: My infamous Man on the Train story…

  • The ‘Man on the Train’ story. How my fortunes changed through a seemingly random (is there any such thing?) meeting – click here.

FREE AUDIO BOOK. If would like a complimentary copy of my book “Feeding Johnny – How to Build a Business Despite the Roadblocks” in audio, narrated by Yours Truly so you get all the nuances, feel free to grab one here.

LINKEDIN. Perhaps the thing to do right now is simply to hook up professionally on LinkedIn – if that’s of interest, click here.

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