Said Greek poet, Archilochus: “The fox knows many things; the hedgehog knows one big thing.” Traditional business models dictate that companies should return to their core business during times of economic hardship, stress and turbulence. It’s a strategy called hedgehogging – rolling into a ball and concentrating on what you do best – a concept explored by author Jim Collins in his classic business book, Good to Great. They say fortune favours the brave, however, and now the brave are embracing a radical new strategy to ride out the recession. It’s called radical adjacency.

What is Radical Adjacency?

Radical adjacency is where an organisation moves into an area(s) of which it has no previous experience or knowledge. The premise being that it’s better to be like a fox than a hedgehog, after all – adapting to the environment and chasing success by being willing to try new things.

Why Radical Adjacency?

As the adage goes, don’t put all your eggs in one basket. Radical adjacency allows companies to develop secondary income streams, independent from and not reliant upon their primary income streams. Business survival is seen as a function of diversification, rather than consolidation.

Radical adjacency is not for the faint-hearted; it’s a gamble; but it just might pay off.

Radical adjacency should only ever be attempted by:

  • Companies with a significant enough cash reserve to invest in a new business direction
  • Companies with strong, dynamic, visionary leadership, open to new experiences, new trends and to hiring new people who are specialists in the new field
  • Companies which can adapt to new business structures, possibly a new hierarchy, and new ways of working.

Who’s doing Radical Adjacency?

Companies who’ve taken on radical adjacency, and won, include:

  • McLaren– one of the most successful Formula 1 motor racing teams of all time, McLaren is now applying the technology they developed for Formula 1 to a radically new field – human telemetry, helping doctors collect health data remotely from patients anywhere in the world through a specialist system adapted from the on-board telemetry system in F1 cars.
  • Apple – Nowadays, when we think Apple, we think iPod, iPad, iPhone or apps. But before the iProducts, there was simply Apple-Mac, a personal computer. An extreme transition in the mid-1990s (radical adjacency) took Apple from a personal computer brand in the doldrums to establishing Apple as one of the world’s leading brand and market leader in smartphones and tablets.
  • Googleat first, merely a search engine, and then the world’s most popular search engine, over the years Google has expanded into radically new markets several times over – email application, gmail; web application, Google maps and internet browser, Google Chrome.