Over at the IdeaPort blog, Roger Dennis points to a Long Now Foundation podcast from Philip Tetlock, who explains how people making predictions about the future can be divided into two separate camps: foxes and hedgehogs. Within any organization, a change in the mix of foxes and hedgehogs can lead to widely differing views about the future:
"[Philip Tetlock] categorises experts into two camps: foxes and hedgehogs. Foxes have many tricks (i.e. experts that cover broad areas) while a hedgehog has but one trick (i.e. a deep subject matter expert).
Tetlock examines the accuracy of these two groups across a range of different criteria. It’s fascinating, and especially relevant for my work on the Technology Futures programme.
We’ve found that the mix of foxes and hedgehogs in any one large group can dramatically alter the buzz of an event.
As a sidenote Tetlock has been quite clever in selecting the two animals use as illustrations. The imagery behind the choice is strong, and you could conceivably label someone a hedgehog without incurring their wrath. After all, rolling into a spiky ball is quite clever. You could not really say the same if you labeled someone a slug, a flatworm or a hagfish (despite the fact that a hagfish has a couple of neat tricks too)…"
Anyway, as might be expected, foxes make better predictors than hedgehogs.
[image: The fox and the hedgehog]