Procurious Big Ideas Event – New Voices, Different Ideas

Last Thursday saw Jason Busch and me attending the second Procurious Big Ideas event at the achingly trendy Soho Hotel. No hard conference chairs here - sofas and armchairs with luxurious (probably fake) animal skin covers, which molted impressively all over my blue jacket.

A couple of Procurious announcements to start with - the organisation is starting to offer a (paid for we assume) corporate platform to help organisations and procurement functions communicate better internally. There is also now a mobile App, as Procurious gradually seems to be working out where their essential revenue streams may come from in time. Membership is up to an impressive 14,000 and it was a nice touch for Procurious to fly their ten-thousandth member over from India to participate in the day.

This year there were more corporate sponsors (Coupa, IBM, Hackett, Odgers) than last, which worried me slightly ahead of time - would this make it less of a "different" event and more like many other procurement conferences? But keeping the numbers down, and getting a really interesting mix of practitioners and others as delegates generated good quality and informed debate, and those sponsors generally kept their sessions at the right level and avoided the predictable sales pitches!

The keynote speaker was Nik Gowing, a journalist who is now an academic and researcher. His argument, put forward in a powerful report co-authored with Chris Langdon and based on interviews with global leaders from business and politics, and  titled "Thinking the Unthinkable", is that leadership is failing to do just that and is unprepared for the turmoil in the world today, whether that is the growth of Isis or commodity price swings.

Business is underestimating the rate of change it is facing, and is not factoring this environment into business decisions. One of Gowing's arguments is that the conformity required to get to the top then holds people back once they get there - that certainly rings true, and even within a procurement function we should try and avoid groupthink and get some different voices and different ideas coming forward.

There was some pushback to Gowing - which he handled very well. Is the world today really more dangerous and fast-moving than previous times, or do we just have more access to instant information, so it seems a more dangerous and turbulent place? And is the lack of confidence in our leaders more cultural than intellectual - compare today with the days of the British Empire when chaps were brought up with a sense that effortless leadership was their birthright!

This session was a good example of the strength and uniqueness of the Big Ideas event, with a level of debate and questioning  from the audience that is very stimulating. But did we get anything that was truly unique, amazing, innovative and different from the day? I'm not sure - we need to watch the videos and see what nuggets are there, and indeed go back through our notes again. There was a lot to take in over a few short hours, but  it was an enjoyable and thought-provoking day, and you can't really ask for much more than that.

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