I am reading Nate Silver’s The Signal and the Noise, and a thought struck me about his categorisation of those that can make good forecasts and those that would be best leaving it to luck. He proposes that there are two types of people who forecast; the Hedgehogs amongst us are specialized people, often having spent the bulk of their career on one or two great problems; he then puts it to the reader that the Foxes amongst us are able to incorporate ideas from many different disciplines and apply them regardless of the origin or political spectrum.

When creating an information security team what do we look for, experts in their field or adaptability. I hate the phrase “Jack of all trades, master of none” personally as it comes with such negative connotations and when creating the team I wonder if that would be the better option.

However if we play the Galileo of number crunchers supposition further forward then it starts to really test what do we need. A Hedgehog believes in the Big Idea and in governing principles, surely ideal qualities for a leader in the Information Security environment (Maybe even the whole Information Systems environment). A Fox is a scrappy thinker, able to believe and act on a plethora of little ideas, able to take multiple approaches simultaneously to any problem. So in this descriptive case it makes me think that the Hedgehog is the old school and the Fox is the new school, dealing with Big Data, Open Data, Governance Frameworks and Commercial relationships all at the same time.

But, Hedgehogs make better television guests! They make big bold statements and inspire confidence, they have an air for the dramatic, which lets face it is how we often get Information Security on the agenda. But how often can we make big bold statements and be sure that the prediction we are making will come true, particularly if as Hedgehogs it’s a big bold prediction about our one big idea that we have had all of our careers. Foxes differ to Hedgehogs in this situation as they have that pluralistic approach to problems, often giving off an air of not being sure at all. However in a crisis the Fox will make better predictions of outcomes and will not be caught out chasing a false hope just because that has always been the answer.

So, what with the Fox and the Hedgehog and the old fable of the Tortoise and the Hare I think I may need to open a petting zoo to house my Information Security team, I am convinced its about the balance of animal types but I also think I want to have a Fox with just some elements of Hedgehog as the leader.

NB – The Signal and the Noise (The Art and Science of Prediction) by Nate Silver is a wonderful summertime beach read, full of ideas and bold statements!