The Greek poet Archilochus wrote a poem about the fox that knows many things, and the hedgehog that knows one big thing. His point was that some of us – the hedgehogs – are inclined to hold one set of skills, big idea or view of things. Others are more likes foxes that continuously learn from a wide array or diverse sources, have many different skills. are master of none, and hold divergent ideas at the same time.
The hedgehog has dominated the 20th century. They are the engineers, inventors and scientists that built our infrastructure, put men on the moon, and invented the computer. They had deep science, engineering or math skills and were rewarded and respected. We would not have the world we live in without them.
But times change and so do the skills needed to remain successful. Today, automation, robotics and A.I. are changing the work landscape. Many of the jobs suited to the hedgehogs have been or will be automated and the workers that are displaced will need new skills. But what skills should they get?
The fox may be better adapted to the 21st century where we are not yet sure which skills will be most critical, For now we need diverse and creative skills to improve the quality of life, figure out how to live in a sustainable world, prosper in a global society, and solve the social problems that have plagued us for centuries. The foxes may solve the problems that the hedgehogs couldn’t. While the hedgehog is always important, it may be that the time of the fox has arrived.
Below is a diagram of the most significant skills we will need to develop and nurture. Only a few are directly related to the success skills of the 20th century. As the rewards in the 20th century went to scientists, engineers, and manufacturers, the social and financial rewards of this century will go to those who can collaborate easily with others, bridge economic gaps, innovate new solutions to environmental and social problems, thrive in a global, multicultural world, and have a basic understanding of technology and math.