Looking at Business … From All Sides

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In a recent post on his excellent blog Logic+Emotion, David Armano talks about the need to ‘unlearn’ what we take for granted and to look at things through others’ eyes. Although he was taking about B-school students unlearning what they had just been learning in class, the principle has broad general application.

Those others eyes might be a customer when you are thinking about designing the new customer experience (it is their experience after all), suppliers when you are thinking about improving the supply chain (they are doing the supplying) or colleagues when you are thinking about implementing your latest big idea (they are the ones that you are expecting to change).

The idea of taking diverse viewpoints has also been discussed in a couple of other recent postings: First by John Hagel in a blog posting on ‘Difference & Friction’ and then by Legg Mason’s Michael Mauboussin in an article on ‘The Importance of Diverse Thinking’. Hagel points out how diverse groups of intelligent problem solvers can outperform groups of the best individual problem-solvers, particularly when solving new and unusual problems. Mauboussin shows that people who have a little knowledge of a lot of different topics (the ‘foxes’) outperform people with a lot of knowledge about a few topics (the ‘hedgehogs’), particularly when deciding on the direction for a business.

All three postings highlight the importance of looking at things through different viewpoints, whether fomulating strategy, solving business problems or just day-to-day business.

What do you think? Is it best to be a fox or a hedgehog?. What type are you?

Post a comment and get the conversation going.

Graham Hill

3 COMMENTS

  1. If you work in consulting areas perhaps is better to think and be a fox, because the many viewpoints plus experience could be an important factor. But maybe like Alvin Toffler says the knowledge management is near to our era.
    Rafael Melo, Jr.
    [email protected]

  2. Rafael

    Thanks you for your comment.

    I think you are right about consultants needing to be foxes more often than hedgehogs. But sometimes the tables are turned and they need to become hedgehogs too.

    I have consultaed for a number of years with Toyota in Europe. It has been an amazing experience and has caused me to unlearn almost everything I have learned over the previous 20 years as a management consultant. Quite literally. But I am also an Interim CRM Manager at Toyota too. This is a role that requires me to implement many of the foxy consulting ideas in real life. It is very much a hedgehog activity.

    Sometimes different roles require mostly fox, sometimes mostly hedgehog and occasionally, a good balance of the too.

    Are you naturally a fox or a hedgehog?

    Graham Hill

  3. Interesting post, Graham,

    Which would you consider the network weaver? The person who is able to see patterns and connect groups that on the surface appear disparate? Also, what about the hidden influencers who plant their knowledge in a variety of places?

    I see a trend towards more increased collaboration outside the organization, tapping knowledge sources a la carte so to speak. As communication with customers and employees evolves in the new social paradigm, there will be less resistance to taking risks on a project basis with more fluid resources.

    Best,
    Angela Dunn
    @blogbrevity

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