Foxes vs. Hedgehogs 🦊
Are you a hedgehog? Or are you more of a fox?
What are foxes and what are hedgehogs?
An ancient Greek poet wrote:
The fox knows many things, but the hedgehog knows one big thing.
Isiah Berlin expanded upon this idea in a famous essay. He divided writers and thinkers into two categories:
...hedgehogs, who view the world through the lens of a single defining idea and foxes who draw on a wide variety of experiences and for whom the world cannot be boiled down to a single idea.
It reminds me a bit of the idea of a generalist vs. a specialist. A generalist has a wide array of knowledge whereas a specialist has deeper knowledge in one area.
Why is this interesting?
Psychologist Phil Tetlock sees this model as a way of understanding two cognitive styles.
Foxes have different strategies for different problems. They are comfortable with nuance; they can live with contradictions. Hedgehogs, on the other hand, focus on the big picture. They reduce every problem to one organizing principle.
The hedgehogs are more the big idea people, more decisive. In most MBA programs, they'd probably be viewed as better leadership material," Tetlock says.
This model is certainly an interesting way of thinking about how you see the world, and how cognitive styles affect leadership and strategy in the business world.
Want to go deeper?
🔖 If you still aren't sure which way you lean, check out the Hedgehog vs. Fox quiz in this post
🔖 The original essay The Hedgehog and the Fox
😂 I did go on a tangent watching cute baby hedgehog videos
📖 More from Collins in his classic book Good to Great, and his summary page on The Hedgehog Concept
🧠 Build your latticework! Revisit related mental models: