· Blog

The Greek poet Archilochus said: ‘The fox knows many things, but the hedgehog knows one big thing.’ This parable is interpreted in many ways by scholars, poets and philosophers.

The great Isaiah Berlin explains that hedgehogs are thinkers who relate everything to a single central vision. One system, less or more coherent or articulate, in terms of which they understand, think, and feel. A single universal organizing principle, in terms of which alone, all they are and say has significance.

Foxes pursue many ends, often unrelated and even contradictory, connected, if at all, in only some de facto way. Foxes lead lives, perform acts, and entertain centrifugal ideas rather than centripetal ideas. Their thought is scattered, diffuse, and moving on many levels, seizing upon the essence of various experiences.

We see both animals in all kinds of businesses at various ranks and roles. Foxes are deep and complex thinkers who can consider multiple scenarios and paths to success, whereas hedgehogs are more narrowly focused and single-minded in their vision.

Foxes can assess performance critically; of themselves and others. They are easy to acknowledge mistakes and pivot when necessary. Hedgehogs are self-confident, make instinct-based decisions, and seek to squeeze complex problems into their cause-effect templates. They drive toward a goal without doubt and by ignoring nuance. Foxes, on the other hand, welcome nuances, options, and possibilities. They embrace uncertainty.

Seek out those two animals in your business zoo when wanting to create unbeatable teams! Why? Three main reasons.

One. The world is changing fast, and, more importantly, the boundaries between industries and companies are becoming foggier. You will need your hedgehogs to show you the way in the accelerating pace of change and chaos. They will lead with confidence. Your foxes are essential to managing dissonance across functions, businesses, and industries. They make the creative connections needed to be a disruptive innovator.

Two. Dare to be different when wanting to win. This sounds easy, but in reality, it is very complex. It is hard to find your disruptive uniqueness. Your hedgehog will be adamant about continuing the search, tweaking and tuning until the single one unique value proposition is found. They will not settle for less. The foxes will be the ones that seek out a wealth of information. Their curiosity will lead them into pathways that nobody explored before. They will come with product-business model combinations that make the hedgehogs shake their quills before understanding they will ultimately have to shake their legs on it with the foxes.

Three. 'Chance only favors the prepared mind'. I love this quote of Louis Pasteur. Unexpected and unplanned discoveries may occur; only because the prepared people are in the right place at the right time. The foxes will search, find, and celebrate accidental connections. But only because the hedgehogs in their teams prepped them for the journey and navigated their steps along the way.

I am, clearly, a fox. What are you? And what other animals do you find in your business zoo?