Procurious Kicks Off Its Big Ideas Summit: Cognitive Procurement and Thinking the Unthinkable

cognitive computing agsandrew/Adobe Stock

I’m in London today, attending Procurious’ Big Ideas Summit. This is the second year for the event, which got off to a great start last year — and this year is looking promising as well. The Summit, which generated “1 million social media impressions in 24 hours” in 2015 and is available streaming online again this year, is actually a small, intimate affair in person. With roughly 50 live attendees, many of whom are speaking, it’s easy to talk to anyone attending or follow-up on the words said on stage. We were even given a pre-reading/homework assignment for group discussion. (No comment from me on whether my own assignment is complete yet!)

Barry Ward, IBM global procurement brand manager, kicked off the day with a presentation titled “Procurement Will be Cognitive” and suggested his “big idea” was “you need to be bold” to succeed in procurement as the pace of change accelerates. As an example, Ward argued, we need to be bold when it comes to harnessing the power of analytics and big data, what IBM calls, when you exploit it successfully, cognitive procurement.

He has a simple definition for big data. To wit, “Big Data = All Data.” With “90% of all data” in the world having been created only “in the past 2 years”, Ward makes a convincing case for adopting a cognitive procurement model, including, as IBM has done, hiring a chief data scientist to serve the procurement function specifically.

Nik Gowing, visiting professor at King’s College and Former BBC World News presenter, took the stage immediately after Ward, with a PowerPoint-less lecture centered on “thinking the unthinkable” and “thinking the unpalatable.” A “culture of conformity” makes people reluctant to raise flags about unthinkables.

What are unthinkables? Take Russia invading Cremia. Or the Saudis having to raise cash on the open market. Or Donald Trump becoming president. Or oil prices remaining at $35–$50 for the near and mid-term future.

These are examples of unthinkables. Gowing suggested that even chief risk officers within companies don’t identify maximum risk because they’re trapped in a “straightjacket” in terms of what risks are acceptable within the system and those they are allowed to surface. Cognitive overload, dissonance and general risk aversion also make it difficult to predict the unthinkable.

Stay tuned for additional dispatches throughout the day.

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