Procurious Big Ideas Event This Week – Are We All “Change Solipsists”?

On Thursday this week the long-awaited Procurious Big Ideas Summit takes place in London. A mixed group of senior procurement practitioners, consultants, and other fascinating people from different sectors will come together to look at major issues for the profession.

The unique element of this event – and it is one that others might learn from – is the way in which Procurious works hard to involve people who can’t make it to the event, but want to feel involved. So through the Procurious social media network, members can get access to much of the summit material, before and after, see videos and generally get the benefit of any useful information and learnings that come out of the event.

Spend Matters will be there to report on the Summit, and as live participants we have been given a bit of “homework” to do before Thursday. We have been asked to take a look at a very thoughtful research report titled “Thinking the unthinkable” from one of the keynote speakers - Visiting Professor at King’s College and Former BBC World News presenter, Nik Gowing.  It is in the public domain here and whilst it’s fascinating we should warn you that it is 58 pages and not exactly a light read.

The main thrust of it is that we are in times of unprecedented crisis and change, and that leadership of our institutions, whether political or business, is failing to meet the challenges of the times we’re experiencing. That flows down to procurement leadership too – how do we equip ourselves in this rapidly changing world?

It makes some great points, and when the authors discuss how unprepared world leaders have been to face the growth of ISIS for example, it’s very thought provoking. And there is no doubt that technological change is running at a faster pace than ever in some senses. But I wonder whether our natural solipsism means that we over-estimate everything about our own age?

If I think about my grandparents’ lifetime, around 1880 to 1970 let’s say, at one stage they lived in a farm cottage with no electricity or running water. By the time they passed away in the 1970s, the list of changes in their lifetimes included domestic electricity (lighting, refrigeration), central heating, the internal combustion engine (cars as we know them basically), air travel from the Wright Brothers through to Concorde, imported foodstuffs, recorded music, radio, the telephone, cinema, television, even early computers.

Oh yes, and the National Health Service, state pensions and education, the birth-control pill, vaccination, penicillin, the discovery of DNA, two world wars, men on the moon, the Atomic Bomb, the emergence of Communism, the Great Depression …

When you think about how everyday lives changed over that period, I’m not sure that in 30 years’ time I will look back over my lifetime and feel that the change has been quite so dramatic. The Internet, yes, but how I travel, my home, my recreation, my food … you know, the past 50 years has not really been that dramatic in many ways.

So is our own age quite so different and special? I’m not sure. But I’m looking forward to Thursday and a good argument!  And do register to participate, go to www.BigIdeasSummit.com, where you will be able to register for free membership on Procurious, join the Big Ideas Summit group and shape the future of procurement by getting involved.

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