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Hedgehoggery in governance, risk and compliance? Are you a hedgehog or a fox? ……


I read another excellent Matthew Syed commentary in yesterday Sunday Times (link at the end of this piece). And in reading the following extract. I started thinking about Governance, Risk and Compliance [GRC] and its application and determination by others.  The others could be the business units, 2nd/3rd line defence teams, external auditors, or regulators.

Considering the extract, why don’t you think whether you are a fox or a hedgehog and whether those you deal with are one or the other?


In a wise essay in 1953, the philosopher Isaiah Berlin contrasted two types of thinker: the hedgehog and the fox.

  1. The hedgehog has one big idea. It reduces everything to this one idea. Everything else is filtered out.
  2. The fox, conversely, has lots of ideas. It likes to see the broader context, how concepts fit together, and is anxious to bring more information to light.

Berlin’s point — although he made it subtly — is

  1. That it is psychologically easier to be a hedgehog, but to understand a complex world, it pays to be a fox.

Neither meaning nor truth is contained in bare facts, assertions, data points, viral clips and simplistic headlines: rather,

  1. Truth is contained within a context — how one thing relates to many other things, and
  2. How parts fits into more complex wholes.

The tragedy is that the world is being dragged — almost without our noticing — towards ever more extreme hedgehoggery.

  1. Twitter users argue on the basis of 280-character caricatures of one another’s positions.
  2. Television interviewers seek not to elicit information, but to provoke viral controversies.
  3. Readers respond to the headlines of articles rather than the words beneath them.

Empathy has been sacrificed in the rush to misconstrue and misrepresent. Nuance has been destroyed in a bonfire of contrived outrage.

Mathews conclusion
  • It seems in my view there are a lot of foxes in the world of GRC
  • GRC is sometimes treated as tick box exercise, however, and as stated above neither meaning nor truth is contained in bare facts, assertions, data points, viral clips and simplistic headlines. Instead, a reality sits within a context — how one thing relates to many other things, and how parts fit into more complex wholes.

Extracted from Matthew Syed’S, Sunday Times commentary piece titled:- Piers Morgan’s idiotic rants reduce subtle arguments to soundbites

(Sunday, January 24 2021, 12.01 am)


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