Foxes or Hedgehogs?
The Greek poet Archilochus wrote a poem about the fox that knows many things, and the hedgehog that knows one big thing. His point was that some of us – the hedgehogs – are inclined to hold one set of skills, big idea or view of things. Others are more likes foxes that continuously learn from a wide array or diverse sources, have many different skills. are master of none, and hold divergent ideas at the same time.
The hedgehog has dominated the 20th century. They are the engineers, inventors and scientists that built our infrastructure, put men on the moon, and invented the computer. They had deep science, engineering or math skills and were rewarded and respected. We would not have the world we live in without them.
But times change and so do the skills needed to remain successful. Today, automation, robotics and A.I. are changing the work landscape. Many of the jobs suited to the hedgehogs have been or will be automated and the workers that are displaced will need new skills. But what skills should they get?
The fox may be better adapted to the 21st century where we are not yet sure which skills will be most critical, For now we need diverse and creative skills to improve the quality of life, figure out how to live in a sustainable world, prosper in a global society, and solve the social problems that have plagued us for centuries. The foxes may solve the problems that the hedgehogs couldn’t. While the hedgehog is always important, it may be that the time of the fox has arrived.
Below is a diagram of the most significant skills we will need to develop and nurture. Only a few are directly related to the success skills of the 20th century. As the rewards in the 20th century went to scientists, engineers, and manufacturers, the social and financial rewards of this century will go to those who can collaborate easily with others, bridge economic gaps, innovate new solutions to environmental and social problems, thrive in a global, multicultural world, and have a basic understanding of technology and math.
Critical Skills for 21st Century Success
Recruiters will need to have these skills and will need to encourage hiring managers to look for candidates who have a broader set of skills than STEM skills. We will need people who are both hedgehogs and foxes.
Singapore is famous for being proactive and for using insight to develop their people to take advantage of emerging business needs. This is an article showing what they are thinking.
The five key skills professionals need to thrive now and in the future | Human Resources Online (from Singapore)
Dr. Jaclyn Lee, CHRO of SUTD, says employers need to focus on re-training while employees need to embrace new technologies and ‘unlearn, learn, and re-learn’.
It’s time for the oft-maligned human resources function to kick old habits and drive businesses forward. That will take HR leaders with broader skill sets.
All I see lately are recruitment conferences focused almost entirely on technology. It seems as if other things – the really important skills that differentiate the skilled recruiter from the amateur – are not important anymore.
Are you a Fox or a Hedgehog? Read this article and take the short quiz to find out.
Some say that writers and thinkers are either hedgehogs or foxes. On one side is a balanced central vision. On the other, the pursuit of contradictory ends. Listen for the distortion of strategy.
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