Can Procurement Make A Difference – Philosophical Discussions At eWorld

At the recent eWorld event, I led a workshop discussion titled "Making a Difference".   The nature of those sessions at eWorld is "no PowerPoint", which suited the somewhat last minute decision to do this, and it is a rule that encourages real discussion.

So, here is the slightly abbreviated and edited  introduction I gave to start the discussion; and in part 2 we will come back with some of the points made in the discussion.


My theme today is "is making a difference". This has been driven by a couple of personal things this year. Firstly, my father died. He retired at 55 and really didn't do much for the next 32 years, so that got me thinking about how we use our lives, our legacy ...  I also went to see Groundhog Day at the theatre. It is great fun but also deeply philosophical - what if we lived the same single day over and over again? How would we approach it - mindless hedonism or doing something useful?

On a more practical note, this year I have got involved with the Public Spend Forum, an initiative to try and improve public procurement. It's driven by a pretty remarkable guy called Raj Sharma in the US. I don't want to spend time on that now but Raj is driven by a very real "public service" mission without a doubt.

I've also been thinking about Nick Drake. So he died aged 26 in 1974 as an unsuccessful, pretty unknown singer songwriter really. Since then he has been re-evaluated and he is now one of the most revered artists of his generation. His music used in adverts, and many top artists refer to him as an influence and an inspiration – from Elton John, Kate Bush, to REM  and lots of younger artists too.

But the paradox is this. Does that make his life "better" in some way? He has left a legacy - but that didn't make him feel better, more successful, or happier during his lifetime. Yet I suspect we all feel somehow that his life had more value than he realised at the time. But - so what? Does that translate into anything personal for us?

Anyway, that all got me thinking about my legacy, whether I'm doing anything that will be remembered in even ten years’ time, and whether we have any responsibility to try and do stuff that has a wider benefit? Or maybe we are just here to enjoy ourselves as best we can - which probably means being reasonably nice to people anyway, because generally that is more fun than not being nice to people. Or whether all this speculation is meaningless and it really doesn't matter at all.

Well, I think my conclusion is that there is something - and I can't articulate it - that says we should try and leave something behind. Whether that is because of religious views, or the Darwinist idea that we will be helping the species to survive - or whether we are actually just sentient hosts for the trillions of bacteria that live in our bodies -  then I feel that there is something in this.

So two questions for today's discussion. Firstly, am I talking rubbish? Or should we try and make a difference - and if so, why and how?

Secondly, if there is something in this, what can we do as procurement people to leave this legacy? By the way I should say I'm not in favour of going off and acting unilaterally.  I think we owe it to ourselves and our families not to get fired, and to our employers to work in a manner that is in line with their objectives. if I go and start giving contracts to nice little firms owned by disabled ex-military transsexuals, but I pay twice as much as I should - then I will rightly get fired.

But there are things we can do. I can give you my own list. But let's open it up to discussion. Is this concept of legacy meaningful? And if it is, what can we do?

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First Voice

  1. alun@marketdojo:

    This really comes down to your personal values. You can choose how to live your life and then this would relate to whether you believe in leaving a legacy. There is no right or wrong answer. Personally I am more thoughtful about how I live my life and the legacy would be family. However, since no one truly knows you could argue it both ways. I have met people who just want a hedonistic life and blow it all. Is that wrong?

    With reference to procurement, I would think that someones personal values on this will ultimately reflect on their job and there is an interview question in itself! At Market Dojo I would like to think that the the co-founders core values reflect in the level of service that relates to our clients. This might cost more in the short term but ultimately leads to a more sustainable business.

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