Author: Pekka A. Viljakainen, with Mark Mueller-Eberstein

Publisher: Marshall Cavendish Business: 303 pages.

Book Review by Nano Khilnani

This unique and interesting book has been written by the two authors named above along with eight other friends of theirs in the business world who contributed their thoughts on the issue of leadership. The eight contributors had discussions and questioned the Finnish author Viljakainen’s ideas. The end result is an unusually different book that challenges widely-accepted thinking in the world of business.

This is a unique way to put together a book, perhaps the first time a book has been organized and written this way. What is also very unusual about it and what led us to choose this book for a review is that the co-authors, if you will, come from different countries and different backgrounds, from Russia, Scandinavia, other parts of Eastern and Western Europe, the United States and China.

So who are these “digital cowboys”? If you remember Western movies, cowboys were men who, when they heard that someone was shot at, killed, robbed, cheated or in any way became a victim of a wrongdoing, rode their horses fast to the scene of trouble and meted out justice. They went prepared with as many weapons as possible. They were independent in their judgment and action. They were looked up to for their sense of justice and viewed as leaders.

Digital cowboys also have similar qualities and are typically on a mission of solving corporate problems. They grew up with the Play Station and other electronic toys, Viljakainen points out. They have a lot of means of communication and are inter-connected with many networks and blogs on the Internet and with others who have laptops, iPhones, iPods, iPads and the like.

Unlike the movie and TV cowboys who made decisions by themselves, the digital cowboys make decentralized decisions, getting input from others, gathering vast amounts of information, which is their “currency,” the authors point out.

Traditional business leaders are at the center or at the head of a corporation. They gather information from their subordinates and make judgments. They are mainly sole decision makers. This model has many limitations for the growth of a company, assert the authors.

With the huge mass of information out there around the world easily accessible through the Internet and networks of people who have the relevant expertise, it makes sense for today’s leaders of companies to interact with them and get valuable input before making decisions of the good and the growth of the company they lead. Therefore, today’s digital cowboys are changing the way companies are being run.

Some of the key characteristics of digital cowboys that have made today’s companies establish branches overseas and become truly global in shorter periods of time, achieve more revenue and profit growth, and attain greater customer satisfaction through rapid response are the following:

Digital cowboys have networks – local and international

They understand problems and find solutions

They’re constantly inter-connected with value providers.

They know how to gather a mass of useful information quickly

They need the latest electronic toys to be able to easily interact with company people and data at anytime.

They thrive and are more useful to their employers with flexible working hours and the lines between their work and their family and personal lives have become fuzzier than ever.

To learn how to provide more value to your company as well as grow in your career this book is essential reading. We praise all the authors for shedding light on this brave new world of the digital cowboys.