Jimmy: He didn’t want the horse?

Rip: Don’t buck hard enough for ’em.

Jimmy: Wait, he’s saying that horse doesn’t buck hard enough?

Rip: Evidently not, Jimmy. Let’s go.

Jimmy: That horse bucked off everyone at the ranch. Already bucked me off twice. That Steiner kid stuck to it like a… Band-Aid.

Rip: Yeah. That boy’s been riding sheep since when he was four, Jimmy. Steers since he was seven. Not to mention, he’s got three world champions in his family to teach him. And he could still die. I want you to think about that.

Jimmy: What is this? What, this is your way of telling me not to rodeo?

Rip: It’s my way of showing you why you shouldn’t. What you do with what I show you, Jimmy? I’ll leave that to you.

—Yellowstone (Paramount Network)

Contextual Intelligence

Everything is relative. So is context, isn’t it?

It is priceless.

Remember this one?

Mastercard’s famous slogan, launched in 1997 that immediately caught the public’s attention?

“There are some things money can’t buy. For everything else there’s Mastercard.”

You can’t buy your way out of context. Many people make the mistake of thinking they can. Or just charge their card until they max it out. Then they learn hard truths.

“Wisdom lies neither in fixity nor in change, but in the dialectic between the two.” — Octavio Paz

Wisdom itself, argues, Matthew R. Kutz, assistant professor, in the School of Human Movement, Sport, and Leisure Studies, Bowling Green State University, is not necessarily a direct result of the passage of time or living but is a result of coming to maturity.

Contextual intelligence, contextual competence, and contextual ethos become the dialectic between the two—unchanging and change in our journey for wisdom.

Intelligence in context argued, Robert J. Sternberg, Professor of Human Development, Cornell University, relates to our environmental adaptation, selection, and shaping that characterize intelligent behavior in the everyday world. 

Intelligence in context, he stressed, involves purposive adaptation to, shaping of, and selection of real-world environments relative to one’s life.

Intelligence is not quite the same thing for “that Steiner kid,” Jimmy or Rip, who all are in different situations. The differences across them, and their conditions, extend beyond different life paths within their given cowboy culture. Although, the needs for adaptation, selection, and shaping of environments do not.

What is common among them, is how they are mastering their environments by their abilities, and the decisions they are making, to capitalize on strengths, and to compensate for weaknesses.

Successful people are not only able to adapt well to their environments; they actually modify the environments they are in so they can maximize the fit between the environment and their adaptive skills.

Contextual intelligence is also a leadership competency, stresses Matthew R. Kutz, that integrates concepts of diagnosing context and exercising knowledge.

“That Steiner kid,” Jimmy and Rip must be able to foresee and diagnose their changing contexts, then seamlessly adapt to that new context, or risk becoming obsolete and irrelevant.

Each of them approaches context with the intent to extract knowledge from it. 

Like “that Steiner kid,” extracting knowledge from riding sheep since he was four, steers since he was seven, and has three world champions to teach him.

This knowledge extracted is transferable to any different or future work setting.

Like “that Steiner kid,” rodeoing to become another world champion in the family.

Contextual intelligence, and the requisite skills, Matthew R. Kutz stresses, have a high degree of transferability.

The predicate is a contextually intelligent person, like Rip, who can influence others, like Jimmy, regardless of their job setting or role. 

“It’s my way of showing you why you shouldn’t. What you do with what I show you, Jimmy? I’ll leave that up to you.”

Experience, here, is being measured by the ability of Jimmy, to extract wisdom from different experiences intuitively. 

This intuitive extraction is not necessarily dependent on the accumulation or passage of time.

Contextual intelligence, for Jimmy, consists of a specific skill set whereby he effectively diagnoses his context he is in. To do so, he must apply his intelligence and experience.

Contextual intelligence, basically, for Jimmy, is about recognizing and interpreting the familiar baggage he is bringing, and then determining how this baggage is affecting his current context and possible future.

To become a contextually intelligent person, Jimmy must use this new knowledge, to exert influence in crafting a desirable future.

For Jimmy, as it is with any of us, experience results when preconceived notions and expectations are, as Matthew R. Kutz argues, challenged, refined, or unconfirmed by the actual.

Contextual competence builds on contextual intelligence, providing needed skills and abilities to set direction, plan, implement, and achieve desired outcomes within a contextual setting.

The collaboration of intelligence, combined with purposeful competencies, stresses Kurt Motamedi, professor, strategy and leadership, at Pepperdine University, is the essential ingredient of contextual competence.

“Awareness of the contextual ethos,” highlights Matthew R. Kutz, “involves being able to discern and accurately detect the attitudes, motivations, and values of many or all of the people who have a stake in the current situation.”