Are You a Hedgehog or a Fox?

When it Comes to Marketing Problem-Solving, are You a Fox or Hedgehog?

The ancient Greek poet Archilochus once stated, “The fox knows many things, but the hedgehog knows one big thing.” This concept of classifying approaches to knowledge of the world – and how we act in it – was revitalized in the public sphere by Isaiah Berlin in a 1953 book. In short, here is how the two thinker types approach problem solving and predictions:

The Hedgehog:

  • Principle-driven
  • Likely to make bold, sweeping statements
  • Can inspire confidence in others through consistency of view
  • Sees an over-arching logical structure to the world
  • Approaches most problems deductively – starts with a premise, sifts through evidence to prove or disprove premise, make predictions
  • Sees most/all things through the same lens, applies the same general model to problems
  • Makes long-term predictions, sticks to them even in the face of contradictory evidence
  • Updates “model of the world” slowly – if at all
  • More fixed view of the world
  • Tries to reduce complexity, gets overwhelmed by it
  • Analog from predictive modeling: supervised learning, logistic regression


The Fox:

  • Evidence-at-hand-driven
  • Shies away from making sweeping statements about anything
  • Questions everything all the time, which inspires less confidence about those who want solid answers
  • Sees truth and structure as more fluid, ever-changing
  • Approaches problems inductively – starts with the data, works toward more general statements or predictions
  • Applies various tools, belief systems and lenses to the problem at hand, as the need arises
  • Continually revises predictions, based on new data or evidence as it becomes available
  • Constantly switching between multiple “models of the world,” updating each one often
  • More fluid view of the world
  • Surfs complexity with relative ease
  • Analog from predictive modeling: unsupervised learning, K-means clustering, deep learning


But hold the phone:
how in the world does all of this apply to marketing? Here’s how: it is useful to identify which type you and your organization gravitate toward so that you understand the benefits and pitfalls (Hint: most of us are mixtures of both types of thinking).

What is MindEcology’s approach? Put simply, we’re a mix, in that:

We’re like hedgehogs in that we approach most new problems with some explicit working principles/mental models. This provides us with a framework to make sense of complexity and make sense of the world, fitting evidence into our models (deductively). You see, we have worked with over 200 clients over the past decade and in as many situations, and we are very good at identifying patterns we’ve seen before.

We’re like foxes in that, as time passes, we continue to remain open to – and act upon – new evidence as it becomes available. MindEcology is a big believer in grounded-theory approaches to data. Meaning: we start with the data, as it is, and draw conclusions from that (inductively). Depending on the scenario, we can take the data out for a “random walk” until a new, useful pattern emerges. We make sense out of the mess – even if the conclusions we draw take us into new territory.

So, we’re a balance of the two types: we apply time-tested principles to make sense of things but we remain open to current evidence, context and complexity down the road to take us to the best marketing solution for our clients.

About MindEcology:

MindEcology is a team of thinkers and do-ers who apply our expertise to helping our clients make more money through better, more effective marketing.  Contact us today to find out how we can help you.