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Sunday, December 04, 2005

are you a fox or a hedgehog? A hare brain or tortoise mind?

It turns out that "people who make prediction their business—people who appear as experts on television, get quoted in newspaper articles, advise governments and businesses, and participate in punditry roundtables—are no better than the rest of us."

"Think for yourself" is the lesson of the review by Louis Menand in the New Yorker magazine, of Philip Tetlock’s new book, “Expert Political Judgment: How Good Is It? How Can We Know?” (Princeton; $35.

Psychologists have tested and found that people who have one big idea are most likely to embrace information that supports it and severely question information that does not. When it works it pays off big. E.g, Winston Churchill was right about Hitler. But his idea about Indian independence was wrong. He's remembered for being right about Hitler. Tetlock calls this type of expert the "Hedgehog".

The other type of expert is more likely to be right, because they look for evidence and correct as they go, they are not "stuck" on one idea. It looks to me like more evidence for using the Scientific Method: Make a hypothesis, test it, and make a new model that takes the latest information into account. The beauty of this is the speed of learning: The fox dashes ahead to take into account the very latest information, is more likely to believe that their point of view needs to be modified.

But its not enough to be a fox.

In September, I attended a talk by the actor and comedian, John Cleese. He spoke about Hare Brains and Tortoise Minds. It was a profound talk to a group of people who have been battered into thinking that cost savings are the only path to profit - Contact Center Directors. It advocated thinking of new ways to connect with customers, and shifting beyond cost savings to revenue generation.

Hare brains are very logical and rational - making constant refinements, they are very effective when things are pretty well understood. Ideal for cost savings.

Tortoise minds look deeper into their unconscious, rely more on intuition. They are more likely to achieve breakthrough thinking. In the area of working with people, in the arts, in business, in customer relationships, the easy things have been done, the Hare Brains have taken care of the obvious cost savings. Its the turn of the tortoise minds to develop the breakthroughs in service excellence which then can be refined to be delivered cost effectively by the hare brains.

The next step, to achieve breakthroughs in delivering customer value and delighting customers requires tortoise mind, and opening up to what might work.

(Of course this is a very superficial summary of what was a hilarious and wonderful talk - if anyone wants to see my notes, let me know and I'll send you a copy.)

So is the path to customer connection that of the FOX? with a Tortoise Mind?

The Fox is critical to link to Tortoise Mind - Learning is essential to guide intuition and insight in customer relations and service excellence.

3 comments:

Darius said...
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Darius said...

Great entry. I would love to get your notes.

Who in your opinion makes better entrepreneurial leaders?

How about some examples of how you would categorize them?

Some of my guess -
Tom Siebel - Hedgehog TortiseMind
Bill Gates - Hedgehog HareBrain

Does it not seem that most great entrepreneurs appear to be Hedgehogs?

( keyword being 'appear' as most claim foresight rather then admit to accidental success, when the truth is probably both )

-Darius

Mei Lin Fung said...

The great consulting answer to your first question: It Depends. On the situation.

I do think great entrepreneurs have a compelling vision which they continue to hone as new information comes in. Accidents or the unanticipated are great sources of new information.