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Are You a Hedgehog or a Fox?

Defining business success

· Entrepreneurship

Success is defined by the complexity of the environment and the unpredictability of the reactions of others. But as FDR said: “Try something. If it fails, admit it frankly, and try another”. To do so you have to be a fox instead of a hedgehog.

John Kay, in his witty and wise book Obliquity (2010) defines hedgehogs as people who think they know all the answers and try to adapt the world to them. They seek to maximize shareholder value. Foxes know the limitations of their knowledge and are not hung up on consistently seeking profit over people. They seek to maximize shared value by presenting alternative ways of thinking and then actually do something.

Social entrepreneurs are foxes that apply the tools and principles of business-led transformation to achieve a social good. They do so obliquely by defining profit as originally understood by our Founding Fathers: delivering value to all stakeholders. By being consistent in their choice to do business for good, they maximize their utility as creators of alternative solutions to poverty, inequality and exclusion. They present alternative ways of thinking and then actually do something when faced with daunting tasks or challenges.

Our biggest challenge today is overcoming the crisis in both private and public morality. How long can unconstrained desire for wealth and power continue to be excused just because it’s a part of human nature?

We are experiencing troubling times. There is widespread anxiety and distrust toward our political and economic system and even our neighbors. We live amidst divisiveness, confrontation and a lack of civility. Business is afflicted by too many hedgehogs, men and women who mistakenly believe the world is as it should be: for their taking. It is not.

Responsible business is doing well by doing good and should persist in getting beyond better by doing good business well.

Astrid Ruiz Thierry, Principal, UpBoost LLC

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