Hedgehog Child or a Fox Child Illustration of Hedgehog Fox and Butterflies in Wildlife Forest

Good to Great: A Hedgehog Child or A Fox Child

by Paul Osei-Owusu

What has a hedgehog child or a fox child got to do with parenting? Well, everything according to Jim Collins in his book Good to Great. This is my take on his business company insights turned into parenting insights.

Jim Collins; is well known in the business field for conducting deep analysis into businesses and companies. You can find out more about him in my earlier post, Build A Level 5 Child (Level 5 Leadership). This blog spoke about how you build a Level 5 Child by raising your child to have a perfect blend of extreme personal humility, unwavering resolve, no self-importance or desire hero status.

When I saw this analogy instantly, I felt this had solid grounds to be a good teaching blog post. So what is a hedgehog child or a fox child? The answer can be found in Isaiah Berlin’s famous essay “The Hedgehog and the Fox, ” based on an ancient Greek parable.

The fox knows many things, but the hedgehog knows one big thing.

Hedgehog Child or a Fox Child: Young Lady in Pink Dress Thinking Through Her Options

A Hedgehog Child or A Fox Child

The fox is a cunning creature who can develop many complex strategies for a sneak attack on the hedgehog. Day in day out, the Fox circles around the hedgehog den, waiting for the perfect moment to attack.

The fox looks like the winner, a fast, sleek, beautiful fleet of foot, crafty. The hedgehog is a dowdier creature, looking like a genetic makeup between a porcupine and a small armadillo. He waddles along, going about this simple searching for lunch and taking care of his home.

The fox waits in cunning silence at the juncture in the trail. The hedgehog, minding his own business, wanders right into the fox’s path. The fox is thinking, I have got you now! He leaps out, bounding across the ground, lightning-fast.

The little hedgehog, sensing danger, looks up and thinks, not again, this silly fox does not learn. Rolling up into a perfect miniature, the hedgehog becomes a sphere of sharp spikes but outwards in all directions.

The fox, bounding towards his prey, sees a hedgehog defence and calls off the attack. Retreating to the forest. The fox begins to calculate a new line of attack, which will end the same way as the last attempt.

The moral of the story about a hedgehog and a fox is…

We live some version of the battle between the hedgehog and fox; Isaiah Berlin extrapolated from this parable and divided people into the primary group of foxes and hedgehogs. Jim Collins decided to use this to divide CEOs into hedgehogs and foxes. I have decided to use this parable for aiming to raise a hedgehog child instead of a fox child (hence, a hedgehog child or a fox child).

Foxes tend to be scattered, diffused and inconsistent, move in many levels, and do not integrate their thinking into one overall concept. Whilst hedgehogs keep their focus on a goal that unifies and guides everything.

Foxes pursue many ends simultaneously and see the world in all its complexity. But, no matter the complexity, hedgehogs reduce everything into a simplistic idea, known as the hedgehog idea. Anything that does not fit into this idea holds no relevance. This is the formula many of the greats use for success.

A professor at Princeton (Marvin Bressler) who Jim Collins conversated with, had this to say;

You want to know what separates those who make the biggest impact from all the others who are just smart? They’re hedgehogs.

Those that take complex situations or problems and simplify them. On the outside, people may not consider hedgehogs to be wise, but hedgehogs are not stupid. They understand the profound insight into simplicity. Hedgehogs see what is essential and ignore the rest.

Instead of raising children to be fast, sleek, beautiful, a fleet of foot, crafty, stop and think if you want a hedgehog child or a fox child. I, for one, did not know how intelligent hedgehogs are. What a great insight gleaned from this parable and the intellectual level of hedgehogs.

Upon reading this chapter, I started to think about how I could turn my children into hedgehogs. I have not quite figured it out yet, but I thought it would be good knowledge to share this concept. Enjoy!


  • Jim Collins. 2001. Good to Great. London, England: Random House Business Books.

You may also like

Leave a Comment

This website uses cookies to improve your experience. We'll assume you're ok with this, but you can opt-out if you wish. Accept Read More