The Angler
August 29, 2022

RU a Cultural Cowboy™?

I cannot remember the exact moment when I coined the phrase “Cultural Cowboy™”. What I can tell you is that every time I use it with an intrapreneur, or anyone who cares about creating new things, it’s as if a light bulb goes off above the person’s head. A smile breaks across their face. And they often say, “That’s it! I love it!”

What is it that they and others love about the Cultural Cowboy™ moniker and the types of behaviors it implies?

By cowboy, I am not talking about gunslingers whose hobby it is to ride through towns, guns a blazin’, creating chaos but not improving anything. They may in fact be disruptors and not appreciated or even approved of by all in their path. However, they get things done, and they use the system to change the system. I am not talking about those people who love to break the rules and be different for different’s sake. And I am not talking about those who steer clear of, or look down on, the everyday, ordinary business or the people who do it. I am talking about people who do live and work outside the norm. But they appreciate the assets found within their environments. And they don’t run from challenges. While not satisfied with the status-quo, they take an open, optimistic approach for capitalizing on opportunities and solving problems. In fact, they love complex challenges that most people see as too risky, impossible, or just not worth the effort. Tell a Cultural Cowboy™ that something cannot be done or changed, because it has not been done before, and watch the fire in their eyes blaze!

Cultural Cowboys™ have the wisdom to know when not to walk into a lose-lose gunfight. And they have the prudence to know when to wait till dust storms settle a bit before venturing out to new territory. Yet they are never sitting or thinking still. Even when they are not in action, they are contemplating and seeing connections that others do not see.

Business acumen, wisdom, toughness, creative pragmatism, connectivity, and can-do spirit are characteristics of Cultural Cowboys™. And these traits enable them to see the world as an economy of potential, fueled by the supply and demand of many kinds of capitals and “goods.”

Like cowboys, they are gutsy, bold, feel empowered from within to do the right thing and the needed clever thing. And yet they are still respectful of the people, places, and things with whom they are collaborating.

Cultural Cowboys™ take on the tasks of co-creating and shepherding value to market with care, cleverness, savvy, grit, and a code they pass along by the way they conduct their business and tell their stories.

Traditional Cowboys tend to have codes and wisdom sayings like “Don’t squat with your spurs on” and “If you’re ridin’ ahead of the herd, take a look back every now and then to make sure it’s still there with ya.” Or one of my favorite examples of cowboy candor is, “Never miss a good chance to shut up and listen.”

Cultural Cowboys™ have their spoken and unspoken codes, too. For instance, “Explore frontiers while grazin’ locally.” “Get down off your horse for a lot of the work.” “Be a rodeo skills champion and tip your hat.”

So, if you have been deemed a Cultural Cowboy™, commit to doing something new and clever each day. This ain’t your first rodeo, and it won’t be your last.

  • Excerpts from Hidden Treasures: How Companies Thrive by Detecting and Connecting Unrealized Assets. Jean Egmon, 2022