Friday, 2.18.05: Fox & Hedgehog
I had dinner with Ann last night and we got to talking about skills and talents. We both admire people who are masters in one area yet find ourselves in the jack of all trades (master of none) category. And I remembered what someone said to me once -- that he was a fox (teacher, musician, art dealer), but his wife, a well-known print artist, was a hedgehog. The actual saying is this:
I thought it came from Aesop's Fables, but his fox and hedgehog are irrelevant. The line is a fragment by a Greek poet named Archilochus -- mysterious and open to interpretation. It's one of those handy ways of categorizing people and I always thought it differentiated generalists (us jacks) from specialists.
But now I'm flipping through web pages seeing that thinkers give it a different spin.
(Never mind that I don't know enough about the literary giants referenced to test this guy's assertion.)
Hmmm... that's pretty interesting. And it definitely still leaves me in the fox category. I had lots of grand ideas in my old career, but I could never simplify them enough to have them gain traction. My old company is still enthralled by its own complexity -- a battalion of clever foxes -- and so its "vision" is more of a plaque than an organizing force.
Oh -- naturally some business guru has already latched on to this, calling it the Hedgehog Concept, without which your company is scattered, diffused, and inconsistent.
On the other hand, I see an ad for Hobart and William Smith College that extols the virtue of liberal arts foxes.
They also have a pretty humorous quiz for college-bound high school kids, to help them figure out if they are foxes are hedgehogs.
I guess it takes both foxes and hedgehogs to
populate a forest.
The Hedgehog and the Fox by Isaiah Berlin
Fox and the Hedgehog: an assortment of opinions.
The Hedgehog Concept by Jim Collins