Are you a fox or a hedgehog?

The fox knows many things, but a hedgehog knows one big thing.

-  Ancient Greek Aphorism

Isaiah Berlin, a 20th-century philosopher, referenced in one of his essays the relative importance of two kinds of knowledge, one that reflects principles and ideas, and the other the "ways of the world," street smarts, and technique. The example goes like this - the fox for all of his cunning and abilities is thwarted by the hedgehog because the hedgehog can do one thing really well and that is become a “walking pincushion” in order to protect itself.

Berlin used the comparison as a lark in one of his essays. However, it has been taken seriously and referenced, again and again, by many people seeing the comparison for its simplicity in describing contrasting perspectives.

So, I too, thought about this in the context of management consulting.

The best consultants are those that focus on what they do best and are passionate about. They do not extend themselves into consulting engagements where they do not have domain knowledge or the ability to solve a client’s problem(s) with confidence. They stick to their areas of expertise and focus on issues they can resolve effectively and efficiently.

I have seen, from time to time, consultant’s that work beyond their domain knowledge and offer advisory services when they do not have the expertise they claim to have. The perspective they provide to clients is that they know a lot about everything when in reality they don’t. They are the fox; but really should stick to being a hedgehog.

Good consultants stick to their specializations and if they are faced with problems that are well beyond their expertise they go to team members or associates that do. And if need be, they become resourceful and seek resources that can be relied upon to provide the outcomes their client’s look for from a consulting engagement. 

Are you a fox or a hedgehog?

Our CMCs answer this as part of our ethical obligations in providing a higher level of consulting.  I am proud of this as we live by the philosophy, as a group of professionals, to deliver what we confidently can within the bounds of our expertise.

To your consulting success,

Lyn Blanchard CMC

President CMC-BC