Beyond the Build


The Fox and the Hedgehog

A Greek poet by the name of Archilochus famously said, “The fox knows many things, but the hedgehog knows one big thing.”

In this conflict, a fox would seem to be an obvious winner, “but not so fast,” as Lee Corso might say. Foxes are sleek, quick and sneaky, spending their time devising strategies to be successful. Hedgehogs are slow and simple, but they roll up into a ball of spikes routinely for protection. When the fox attacks, he sees the hedgehog in this new light and immediately starts another strategy for success. The fox has missed the whole point, as nothing he does will help him to win in this game.

In the 1950s, Isaiah Berlin wrote an essay comparing people to these two animals. “Foxes” are working on so many levels that they miss overarching themes and concepts. “Hedgehogs” take complicated things and boil them down to a simple truth that works and therefore successful.

Make no mistake about it, changes in strategy and markets will always be good plays to consider. At the same time, never forget simple truths and strategies that keep us on the road to success. It’s not how one starts, but how one finishes.

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Merrill Stewart Jr.

Merrill Stewart is Founder and CEO of The Stewart/Perry Company, a commercial building contractor based in Birmingham.