I was recently exposed to the idea of thinking like a hedgehog (one big idea) versus the fox (a lot of different ideas). So what happens when people who are more like hedgehogs in their line of work, interact with people who think like a fox? I just happen to know two such groups: Business leaders or management and supply chain planners. In this blog post, I want to examine this very question.

In the famous book ‘Good to Great’ author Jim Collins describes good companies and their leaders as having a hedgehog like mindset. According to Collins, organizations are more likely to succeed if they focus on one thing, and do it well. By doing so, they can beat their competitors and become great businesses. So, focusing on one sweet spot, and doing it over and over is the key for business success per this concept.

As far as planners and forecasters go, it seems the exact opposite applies. Philip Tetlock, a professor of organizational behavior at the Haas Business School at the University of California-Berkeley had this to say about people in the prediction business, “The most important factor was not how much education or experience the experts had, but how they thought. You know the famous line that [philosopher] Isaiah Berlin borrowed from a Greek poet, “The fox knows many things, but the hedgehog knows one big thing?” The better forecasters were like Berlin’s foxes: self-critical, eclectic thinkers who were willing to update their beliefs when faced with contrary evidence, were doubtful of grand schemes and were rather modest about their predictive ability. The less successful forecasters were like hedgehogs: They tended to have one big, beautiful idea that they loved to stretch, sometimes to the breaking point. They tended to be articulate and very persuasive as to why their idea explained everything. The media often love hedgehogs.” (Here is the source of this information).

So, in summary, what is needed to be a good planner and forecaster is to have a lot of theories about the world, to think things through in multiple ways and then, and only then, arrive at a guess. In other words, they have to be a fox. But for business leaders and management, it is the opposite: Believe in one or two central ideas and then execute. A hedgehog it is for them.

Makes me wonder: What hope is there for planners to get the support of management and achieve effective collaboration? What percent of the total business leadership population is even willing to lend them an ear, let alone believe in what they have to say? How does management react when planners take them through the multiple lines of thinking, especially, when it contradicts the direction imagined by the driver business leaders. Must make for not so fun conversations.

Just wondering via this post! What are your thoughts, especially if you are one of the two groups?

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