In his 1953 essay "The Hedgehog and the Fox," Isaiah Berlin described two types of people: hedgehogs and foxes. Hedgehogs view the world through a single defining lens. Foxes draw instead on a spectrum of experiences. Or, as Greek poet Archilochus wrote, "The fox knows many things, but the hedgehog knows one big thing."
The popular analogy finds conflicting play in business books today. Jim Collins trumpets the hedgehog in his bestselling Good to Great. Nate Silver's The Signal and the Noise, on the other hand, urges people to be more "foxy."
Regardless, it's likely we surround ourselves with like-minded critters—foxes or hedgehogs. In enterprises, you have a perfect example in Marketing and IT.
Marketing and IT are comfortable working as hedgehogs—experts in their fields. But as the emergence of Big Data and analytics increasingly elevates multidisciplinary foxes, a new partnership between CMOs and CIOs is no longer a novelty. It's a matter of survival.
Increasingly, IT must turn Marketing's data into something more valuable and measurable for the enterprise. At the same time, in this age of the customer, Marketing is directing more technology. So, although the hedgehog's characteristics (specialization, singular focus, and domain expertise) are critical, it's the foxy skills (systems thinking, cross-collaboration, etc.) that will enable CMOs and CIOs to secure the future of their businesses.
Viewing Each Other as 'Other'
Big Data and analytics are the unifying factor between Marketing and IT. Misconstrued perceptions of each other's departments are the opposite—the dividing factor. Exploding these obsolete misperceptions is the first step in building a solid partnership and sparking greater insight on business decisions.
- Perception: Marketers are uninterested in technology integration and data platforms. CIOs view marketing as a "softer" science that favors creativity and instinct over data and analytics, and, moreover, that marketers care only about immediate campaign performance, to the detriment of long-term integration of data into customer intelligence systems.
Reality: Big Data and advanced analytics are exerting tremendous pressure on marketers to be data-driven and analytical. The August 2013 CMO Survey found that marketers are planning to up spend on marketing analytics by 40% over the next three years.
- Perception: IT is disconnected with the real customer. CMOs think IT is near-sighted, because it prioritizes internal customers—users of IT services within the organization—even though the customers that matter are the external consumers of the organization's products and services: the ones paying the bills.
The Reality: CIOs are pushing IT to become more customer-oriented, to shift focus to delivering outstanding customer service. For IT, that shift has been transformative, completely changing IT's outlook and reputation. Once thought of as the "support guys," IT is becoming a valuable partner in improving customer experience.
A Foxy View: Four Imperatives