Are You A Fox Or A Hedgehog?

Here’s an interesting snippet from a book review by Freeman Dyson:

“Great scientists come in two varieties, which Isaiah Berlin, quoting the seventh-century-BC poet Archilochus, called foxes and hedgehogs. Foxes know many tricks, hedgehogs only one. Foxes are interested in everything, and move easily from one problem to another. Hedgehogs are interested only in a few problems which they consider fundamental, and stick with the same problems for years or decades. Most of the great discoveries are made by hedgehogs, most of the little discoveries by foxes. Science needs both hedgehogs and foxes for its healthy growth, hedgehogs to dig deep into the nature of things, foxes to explore the complicated details of our marvelous universe. Albert Einstein was a hedgehog; Richard Feynman was a fox.”

In a much milder form, maybe the same fox/hedgehog division is true in business? In this context, and whilst it’s not the same, it did make me think of the emerging area of multidisciplinary mindsets which is perhaps the modern version of the ‘generalist’.

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2 Responses to Are You A Fox Or A Hedgehog?

  1. transportinnovation says:

    David, Interesting post on an interesting blog … I definately think you should read “Good to Great” by Jim Collins. Check out my blog at http://www.rethinkingtransport.com where I explain why. Jim applies the “Hedgehog concept” to business with devastating clarity. He argues that to make the transition from “good to great” that you need to be more like a hedgehog – simple, dowdy creatures that know “one big thing” and stick to it. His analysis showed that it takes about four years on average for good-to-great companies to get and apply a Hedgehog Concept to become great.

    • David Pottinger says:

      Hi Jon, thanks for the comment and also for the book recommendation. I’ll certainly look into it! By the way, I really like the timeline view (on your website) of the projects you’ve been involved with – very effective as well as eye-catching.

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