Good old Bill Gates did an interview recently about who he would have hired in the beginning stages of his career. His comment that he would have picked a sales person rather than try to learn and do it all himself drove home the point of the need for hire people with depth rather than breadth.
This brings the fox and hedgehog parable, most famously put forward by philosopher Isaiah Berlin. The fox is clever, knows a little bit about many things, and can survive in different environments. But the hedgehog, who knows a lot about doing one thing, can do that one thing extraordinarily well and end up enjoying a deeper level of success. While foxes merely get by, hedgehogs can accomplish incredible things that would be simply impossible if they were well-rounded.
There remains some debate about which approach to one’s career is truly preferable, but Hoffman and Gates both believe in the hiring of hedgehogs for certain positions. In many cases, a manager should not be looking for generalists, or jacks of all trades, but specialists who are at the top of their specific fields. This would enable the company to then tap on them to better propel forward. One is probably not better than the other. Look at the list of hedgehogs and foxes.
John F Kennedy
If you have set your mind on being a hedgehog, start to focus on your key strength and grow your depth. Continue to make friends outside your core competency. Collaborate and learn. At some point of course, it might be good to then add some other skills sets either through job exposure or even an MBA! Start narrow/focused and expand your skills set as you go along. That’s my bet.
Food for thought.
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