September 8, 2023

Why Your Company Needs a Cultural Cowboy™

I cannot recall the precise moment when I first coined the phrase “Cultural CowboyTM”. What I can share, however, is that whenever I use the phrase “Cultural CowboyTM” in conversation, whether with an intrapreneur or anyone that’s passionate about innovation, it’s as if a light bulb goes off above the person’s head. A smile breaks across their face, and they often exclaim, “That’s it! I love it!”

What is it about the Cultural CowboyTM moniker and the behaviors it represents that resonates so strongly with them and others?

Cultural Cowboy Defined

By “cowboy”, I’m not talking about gunslingers whose hobby it is to ride through towns, guns a-blazin’, creating plenty of chaos but not improving anything. They may in fact be disruptors, and not appreciated or even approved of by many in their path. 

The Cowboys I’m referring to get things done, and they use the system to change the system. I’m not referring to those who simply enjoy breaking rules for the sake of being different, or those who steer clear of, or look down on, the everyday, ordinary business or the people who do it.

I'm talking about those who choose to live and work outside the norm, but who still value the resources and assets within their environments. They don't run from challenges.

While they may not be content with the status quo, they approach opportunities and problem-solving with openness and optimism. In fact, they relish complex challenges that many consider too risky, impossible, or not worth the effort. Tell a Cultural CowboyTM  that something can’t be done or changed because it has not been done before, and watch the fire in their eyes blaze! 

How To Spot A Cultural Cowboy

Business acumen, wisdom, toughness, creative pragmatism, connectivity, and can-do spirit are all characteristics of Cultural CowboysTM. 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, these individuals are gutsy, bold, and feel empowered from within to do the right thing (and the needed thing) cleverly, at the right moment. Yet they are still respectful of the people, places, and things with whom they are collaborating.

Traditional cowboys tend to have codes and wise 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 CowboysTM 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.”

Why Every Company Needs a Cultural Cowboy

The concept of a "Cultural CowboyTM" might just be the spark your company needs to ignite innovation and forward thinking. Cultural CowboysTM have the wisdom to know when not to walk into a lose-lose gunfight. And they have the prudence to know when to wait until dust storms settle before venturing out into 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.

In the business world, a Cultural CowboyTM is the catalyst that sparks new ideas, transforms challenges into opportunities, and drives your company's growth forward. They're the bridge between the ordinary and the extraordinary. It's time to welcome the Cultural CowboyTM into your ranks and watch as your innovation flourishes.