I was reading an article recently about the bias against creative people and came across an interesting characterization of people: the Foxes and the Hedgehogs.
The idea is that there are two types of people in organizations: the Hedgehogs and the Foxes. Due to the natural characteristics of the Hedgehogs, they have claimed top positions in today’s corporations. According to this setting, and the natural characteristics of Hedgehogs, the ability for these companies to innovate and capture growth is being compromised by their own nature – the dominance of the Hedgehog clan.
Foxes are intuitive, multidisciplinary, self-critical, engagers, empirical, innovative and hard to predict. Hedgehogs, on the other hand, are specialized, single-view, formula driven, order-seeking, simple and easy to predict. These two clans do not get well with each other naturally.
The Fox knows many little things, but the Hedgehog knows one big thing.
The Hedgehog possesses an almost machine-like mind. They are valuable to companies, because they can imitate without flaw, repeat things in detail and apply “best practices”. They speak the common language and easily can get bye-in from people. They look for order and rules. Foxes, on the other hand, are emotional. They see the big picture and can get frustrated with Hedgehogs stubbornness and lack of vision and leadership. They connect the dots, bring the big picture together and strive out of their comfort zone. They seem at times to be “in the clouds” by Hedgehogs. But they see things that are invisible to other people. Particularly by connecting apparently unrelated topics. And this happens mostly unconsciously. They follow their gut. Not rules.
If you start using rules, you stop using your instinct.
For growth to be recaptured, there needs to be innovation. Innovation comes from creativity. Creativity comes from Foxes. And Hedgehogs don’t like creativity. Research has shown that practically everyone rejects or ignores ideas that fall out of their comfort zone.
Researchers (a summary by Phys.org) found that:
- “Creative ideas are by definition novel, and novelty can trigger feelings of uncertainty that make most people uncomfortable.
- People dismiss creative ideas in favor of ideas that are purely practical — tried and true.
- Objective evidence shoring up the validity of a creative proposal does not motivate people to accept it.
- Anti-creativity bias is so subtle that people are unaware of it, which can interfere with their ability to recognize a creative idea.”
The question then becomes: how can businesses fight this established, almost unconscious bias, that is hindering growth? Here are a couple of guidelines:
1. Accept our own biases
2. Identify in your organization who are the Foxes and Hedgehogs
3. Level any side which is in minority
4. Pair Hedgehogs with Foxes without hierarchy ruling
5. Provide guidance to both groups so that they understand each other better
6. Coach each type to adapt certain positive behaviours from the other group
7. If, at the end of all these, there are still people who refuse to accept and cooperate, gently remove them
So, are you a Fox or a Hedgehog? And what are you going to do about it?