Big Ideas Summit 2017: Pay Your Bills

It’s not about the money, money, money… except that it kinda is. Barclays Chairman, John McFarlane, reminds us that we need to pay our supplier bills on time!

At the Big Ideas Summit 2017, we once again challenged our thought leaders to share their Big Ideas for the future of procurement.

Our attendees spoke about everything from creativity to politics, from cognitive technology to workplace agility, current affairs, economics and the future. Whatever your industry and wherever you are in the world, there are some top tips to takeaway!

If You’ve Got Bills You Gotta Pay – Pay Them!

Barclays Chairman, John McFarlane, has a simple but utterly  fundamental Big Idea to share for 2017:  Procurement pros must pay their bills on time!

John acknowledges that  it’s a  great time for people working within procurement. There are now global marketplaces, the online arena continues to grow exponentially and power has transferred into the hands of consumers. This is a truly unparalleled period for the function.

But despite all the changes  that are occurring, John was keen to remind procurement professionals that suppliers really matter and the importance of paying bills on time should never be underestimated. If you don’t pay  when you should,  you’re accountable for endangering a perfectly good customer.

Looking after your  long-term interests and nurturing your relationships is more valuable than always thinking in the short-term.

Want to find out more about Big Ideas 2017? Join the group on Procurious.

You’ll find all of the Big Ideas Summit 2017 videos in the learning section on Procurious. If you enjoyed this Big Idea  join Procurious for free today ( if you haven’t done so already).  Get connected with over 20,000 like-minded procurement professionals from across the world. 

Are You Ready For The Gig Economy? Some Of Us Have Already Taken The Leap

Kishwar Rahman, guest speaker at the upcoming Women in Procurement conference in Melbourne, Australia, shares her thoughts on the upcoming shift to a gig economy, the need for digital transformation, and the importance of networks for women in procurement.

Thriving in the gig economy

Rahman, a digital transformation lawyer, has recently completed a project as policy lead for the digital marketplace in the Australian Federal Government’s Digital Transformation Agency. She has now progressed to a lead role working for the National Disability Insurance Agency (NDIA) to assist in setting up an e-Marketplace for the organisation.

“I’m a classic example of the gig-economy professional”, says Rahman. “I’ve moved from project to project, offering my professional skills. Businesses are increasingly looking to hire the right people at the right time for project-based employment.”

According to Rahman, the whole notion of the permanent role is becoming less appropriate as businesses transition towards a consultancy model where experts move between businesses or different projects within a large organisation. “It’s very different to the concept of the ‘job for life’ that existed in our parents’ generation, and still an expectation of employment in the public service.”

So, what can organisations and individuals do to prepare for the gig economy? From the organisational side, it pays to be prepared for an upcoming transformation. A gig-economy office, for example, will look very different to workplaces of the past. They will be structured around a fluid and ever-changing group of professionals coming into the business, working with others on specific projects, then departing for different roles when they have completed their projects.  One obvious symptom of this is the disappearing concept of the employees work station which is now being replaced by lockers for personal belongings and individual desks in quiet areas and larger tables for collaborative work.

Businesses also need to future-proof their customer-facing policies that currently favour clients with permanent roles. “Take banks, for example” says Rahman. “If you’ve ever applied for a home loan, you’ll know that they prefer to lend money to people with permanent roles. Unless they reassess their lending criteria, they’ll soon find that they won’t have enough clients as permanent roles become a thing of the past.”

Individuals, on the other hand, can prepare themselves for the gig economy by examining which of their skills could be put to use across multiple businesses, honing their expertise in those areas and becoming a member of a multi-disciplinary and multi-forming teams that move from one project to the next once they have achieved their outcomes and completed their deliverables.

Digital transformation – getting stakeholders on board

Rahman’s experience in driving digital transformation has led her to pick up essential change-management and implementation skills. “Getting people on board with a technological or process transformation is always one of the biggest challenges”, she says. “The most effective means of persuasion is to show them the efficiency in terms of speed and cost benefits. We live in a culture that expects extreme responsiveness and near-instant results, so simply highlighting speed gains will always be more effective than going into detail about improved workflows and processes.” Similarly, organisation want to find cost savings by digitising manual processes.

Another effective way to win stakeholders over to your transformation improvement is to find some common language on the benefits of the change. “Look for a benefit that everyone can relate to. A digital transformation, for example, will almost always lead to the automation of administrative tasks, which will free people up to do more creative and meaningful work. Reskilling and retraining will also be critical to this gig-economy.   Education and training will also have to change in form and shape of delivery with consumers demanding the option to shape a course and its mode of delivery and study at their own time and pace to fit it around paid work and personal commitments”.

Networking with women in procurement

One of the reasons Rahman is attending Women in Procurement 2017 is out of curiosity. “Before last year I didn’t know there was a separate forum for women in the profession. I’m interested in seeing who’s going to be there, who’s participating, and who are the female leaders in the field. Additionally, the procurement profession, just when it has started to be recognised as a profession, is also being reshaped by the gig-economy. What will procurement look like in the future and what are the skill set that young women will need to participate in this profession in the future”.

The networking opportunity is also crucial. “Historically, women have had a lack of access to networks. Events like this can connect you with a pool of expertise – peers who you can ring up and share ideas with and problem solve.”

Kishwar Rahman and other leaders in the profession will be speaking at Quest’s Women in Procurement 2017 event in Melbourne on 26-27 April. Visit Quest Events to download a brochure and find out more. 

World Trade and Procurement in the Trump Era

Trump’s trade  policies will greatly affect our global supply chains. How will increased protectionism and bilateral deals impact the procurement function?

Frantically attempting to understand the new modern world, commentators and experts are struggling to digest the political earthquakes of 2016. It remains wholly unclear what binds together the widespread nationalism, populism and division in countries around the world.

The threat to global supply chains

Trump has a clear dislike of international trade, preferring to shield the USA’s economy from competition. He has a disdain for businesses moving operations to other countries.

Whether or not organisations source much directly from non-domestic sources, they are dependent on global supply chains and networks. These networks are responsible for sourcing the goods and services to meet the needs of stakeholders. Threats to free trade pose challenges to procurement professionals and their ability to source goods and services efficiently and cost-effectively.

For many years, there has been a trend for opening up procurement markets. This trend has entailed removing tariffs on imports, opening up non-discriminatory bidding on public contracts to non-domestic businesses and harmonising regulatory regimes to make cross-border trade less bureaucratic and more efficient. This has allowed procurement teams to drive down costs and increase competition and product choice.

Trump’s abolition of free trade agreements

Since inauguration, Trump has honoured his commitments to abolish pending free trade agreements (FTAs) with the European Union and eleven Pacific Rim countries. Both contained provisions which would have opened up the procurement markets to non-discriminatory bidding for businesses across participating countries. This eases importing processes.

Trump also vowed to renegotiate the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) with Canada and Mexico, which has been critical in creating and sustaining supply chains in North America.

With this move away from free trade, what are the prospects for continued integration of procurement markets in the Trump era? There are two points to cover – new bilateral FTAs including the USA and the movement towards free trade driven by powers beyond the USA.

The prospect of new bilateral deals

Firstly, whilst Trump has expressed a strong distaste for multilateral FTAs such as TTIP, TPP and NAFTA, he has sung the praises of bilateral deals. This has been strongly signalled with the UK in particular.  Trump has made some ambitious comments that there is a  deal ready to sign once the UK departs the EU.

If this were to happen, tariffs and perhaps other barriers would be removed, with the intention of easing cross-border trade.

The prospects for this are not great, however. With Trump’s “America first” agenda, it is not clear how easily any deals could come to fruition. FTAs are based on compromise, whereby countries grant reciprocal access to each others’ economies. For American companies to gain the ability to win public contracts as part of a deal with another country, access to American government contracts would need to be provided to businesses from the other country.

It is far from clear whether the new administration would accept the American government awarding contracts to more foreign companies, effectively moving the jobs associated with that contract to other countries.

China could be the driving force behind liberalising trade

The second topic is perhaps more pertinent then; this is the possibility that other countries or systems will emerge as the force behind liberalising procurement markets to replace a more protectionist and isolationist USA.

China’s global economic influence is steadily increasing. The TPP’s death presents China with the opportunity to be the leader in free trade. It is the lead behind the proposed Regional Comprehensive Economic Pact (RCEP), which includes sixteen countries, such as Australia, Japan, India and South Korea. In total, RCEP covers 30 per cent of global GDP and around half of the global population.

The agreement focuses on tariff removal, with some harmonisation of standards and intellectual property rights. RCEP is not equivalent to TPP in integrating procurement markets in different countries, however. Whilst procurement teams would benefit greatly from cheaper imports from elimination of tariffs, RCEP does not include detailed provisions of government procurement – non-discrimination does not look likely to be included. The eventual, and lofty, ambition of RCEP is to create a free trade area across the Asia Pacific.

Driving integration in procurement markets

Aside from China, multilateral institutions are perhaps the most likely to drive integration and liberalisation of procurement markets over the coming years. The European Union has long been a driver of liberalisation of procurement markets.

In 2016, the EU signed a detailed FTA with Canada,   including detailed provision for procurement.  It has pending agreements with countries such as Singapore and Vietnam and is in long-term discussions with an array of countries and trading blocs.

The World Trade Organization’s (WTO), Agreement on Government Procurement (GPA), consisting of 47 members (including the EU28), reciprocally opens procurement markets. It is looking likely that Australia will accede to the GPA in 2017 and discussions of China becoming a full member, further opening up procurement markets.

Also within the WTO, the Trade in Services Agreement (TiSA) is a proposed agreement to ease trade in services. This would include 50 countries, including the EU countries and the USA. With this, trade in services between the countries would become  frictionless and there would be elimination of preference for domestic suppliers, which might apply without a minimum value threshold for all government agencies.

Access to global markets is core for procurement

Globalisation continues to be much maligned by electorates and the media. But for procurement teams who rely on sourcing goods and services from around the world, either directly or indirectly, access to global markets is core to maximising value for money and ensuring public services are as effective and cost-efficient as possible. Without engaging in the broader political debates, it is clear that one industry needs access to suppliers of goods and services, without unnecessary barriers – the procurement industry.

Not just about Trump’s Tower: Procurement in Azerbaijan, the Land of Fire

Azerbaijan has hit the headlines today with allegations that a Trump Tower hotel project in Baku involved a deal between the Trump family and a “notoriously corrupt” Azerbaijani oligarch with ties to Iran’s Revolutionary Guard. 

Trump, towers, and corruption aside,  Procurious recently interviewed one of our own community members, Fidan Amirbekova, about working in procurement in Azerbaijan – a tiny Caucasus state that has suddenly found itself in the international spotlight. 

With its unique cultural heritage, ancient origins and shared border with Iran, the history of the former Soviet state of Azerbaijan makes for fascinating reading. But what’s it like to work in Procurement there? Procurious member Fidan Amirbekova shares why the most important asset in Azerbaijani business is your personal network.

Welcome to the Procurious community, Fidan! Can you tell us a little about your country?

I live and work in Baku, the capital of Azerbaijan and a thriving city on the coast of the Caspian Sea. The town’s origins go back to Roman times, with the earliest written evidence of its existence dating from 84AD. Today, it’s an incredible mixture of ancient buildings and modern skyscrapers. The town’s most recognisable buildings these days are the iconic “flame towers” (pictured).

Azerbaijan, also known as the Land of Fire, is the largest of the three South Caucasus states and is bordered by Russia to the north, Georgia to the north-west, Armenia to the west, Turkey to the south-west, Iran to the south, and the Caspian Sea to the east. Our culture has been defined by our location at the cross-roads of Russia and Persia (later Iran), and Azerbaijan has been a part of both empires at different times in its history.

Although the country has a Shiite Muslim majority, Azerbaijan doesn’t have an official religion, and all the major political forces in the country are secularist. The official language is Azerbaijani, although many of us speak Russian and English as well.

What kind of organisation do you work for?

I work in procurement for Bakcell, the leading mobile phone operator in Azerbaijan. The telecommunications sector is one of the biggest and most innovative in the country, and the role of procurement is significant. I’ve worked at Bakcell for almost 13 years now, with six of them in the procurement department. Specifically, I’m responsible for Marketing and Sales procurement and specialise in services purchasing.

As a profession, procurement in Azerbaijan is quite new, but it’s growing rapidly. Most of the large companies (especially the international ones) require procurement specialists in their teams. There is no developed manufacturing chain in the country, so we need to import almost everything.

Are there any challenges involved with moving goods across borders?

Yes, there are sometimes difficulties with moving goods across borders, but experienced professionals can always find a way. Doing business here is about who you know – personal relationships play a very important role in every field in Azerbaijan. You will succeed if you have a large network – it doesn’t matter if your connections are business-related or personal. In my experience, a wide circle of friends and acquaintances solves everything. That includes online social and business networks like LinkedIn – and Procurious!

Do you source anything from Iran? 

There is some trade over the shared border between Azerbaijan and Iran. Personally, I haven’t yet had to source anything from Iran. The two countries have a shared history and there are many Azerbaijanis living in Iran, and vice-versa. We have stronger business and personal relationships with Turkey. Our languages are similar, and Turkish students come to Azerbaijan to study. We import a lot from Turkey, and there are many Turkish companies here, both small and large.

What pathways are offered to get into procurement in Baku and the region?

As I said earlier, procurement is relatively new here, although it’s growing fast. At present, none of our higher education institutions offer courses in procurement. There is, however, a small consulting company which represents CIPS in Azerbaijan and offers training courses and CIPS qualifications. Many procurement professionals here are actively seeking new opportunities and professional development, so having the CIPS qualification is becoming increasingly popular.

Overall, I think procurement has a great future in modern Azerbaijan. Businesses here understand that we can make a great contribution.

Procurious may be an English-language business network, but our community members come from all over the globe. We’re looking for more stories to build a picture of the unique challenges faced by procurement professionals internationally. If you’re interested in sharing your story, please leave a comment below.

How To Stop Writing ‘Like A Girl’ In The Workplace

Are women inclined to be more apologetic and less definitive in the workplace than men? Is a woman’s language and writing style more likely to be unassuming, uncertain – and possibly even self-deprecating?

As part of the Bravo campaign, Procurious will be hearing from a number of high profile procurement leaders on the topics of diversity, equality and women in procurement.

I’m a staunch feminist. Career driven, financially independent and proudly vocal about gender equality.

But I am also a copywriter and corporate trainer – a profession that forces me to scrutinise the way people write in the workplace every day. And although I routinely come across all types of business professionals who write poorly, I recently wondered: do women have specific bad writing habits of their very own?

So I did some quick research, and within a few minutes my hunch was confirmed.

According to Leadership Coach and Strategist Ellen Petry Leanse, women are three to four times more likely to use the word ‘just’ in their emails and conversations at work.

‘I am just wondering if you are available to discuss…’
‘Just following up on that report…’
‘I’m just writing to let you know that…’

So what’s wrong with ‘just’?

As Leanse explains, it’s a permission word. An apology for interrupting. Or a shy knock on a door before asking a question we have every right to ask.

Why do women feel the need to undermine the importance of their requests before even making them? I suspect we’re scared of being labelled overbearing, controlling – or god-forbid bossy. And so we overcompensate.

But here’s the more important question: What’s the consequence for women who use this weak, hesitant language at work? My hypothesis? Slower, fewer and less substantive responses to our requests… and ultimately, lower levels of respect from colleagues and clients.

(And trust me, women don’t need extra help when it comes to subtle sexism and gender inequality in the workplace.)

However, using the word ‘just’ is not the only writing crime females are more likely to commit than males. Here are some more email writing habits that could compromise your credibility at work.

  1. Overuse of qualifiers

Words such as ‘might’, ‘probably’, ‘maybe’, ‘somewhat’ and ‘possibly’ weaken your message and reveal a lack of confidence in what you’re saying.

If you don’t believe what you’re writing, why should your reader?

Before: You might want to reconsider our financial targets as I think they are probably a little too low.

After: I recommend we increase our financial targets.

  1. Unnecessary apologising and over-justification

Although apologies are appropriate on certain occasions, think twice next time you want to use the word ‘sorry’.

Do you really have something to be sorry for? Or are you simply asking a colleague to perform a task that falls comfortably within their job description?

Before: I am sorry for the inconvenience as I know you are very busy, but can you please pop by my workstation when you are next available as my computer seems to be quite slow today.

After: My computer is very slow today. Can you please come to my workstation today to have a look?

And be careful not to apologise for something that’s outside your control – or for not fulfilling an unrealistic request:

Before: I am so sorry but I wasn’t able to meet your deadline. I had too many other commitments and I need to get up really early in the morning. I tried my best but just couldn’t manage it. I hope you understand.

After: As suspected, I wasn’t able to meet your deadline. I will call you tomorrow morning to discuss next steps.

  1. Asking superfluous questions. Seeking permission.

Questions such as ‘is that okay with you?’ and ‘am I making sense?’ show a lack of confidence in your own opinions, suggestions and accomplishments.

If you need to ask whether or not you’re making sense, then you either already know your email is confusing – or you are revealing that you’re unsure of yourself and your ability to communicate effectively.

Before: ‘Would you like to see a summary of my research? You may find it quite surprising.’

After: ‘Here is a summary of my research. It contains many surprising findings, including…’

  1. Overly polite and waffly

What’s wrong with being polite?, I hear you say.

Nothing. But many of us take it too far, which can dilute the core message we’re trying to communicate.

Before: I hope you are well and that you had a really great weekend. I am just writing about our catch up next Friday and was wondering if we could possibly reschedule to the following week? Is that okay with you?

After: I have a conflict next Friday and need to reschedule our meeting. Does the following week suit you?

So, c’mon, ladies. Let’s stop undermining ourselves. It’s time to ditch these words and phrases from our emails and earn ourselves the respect in the workplace we know we deserve.

Vikki Maver is a specialist web content writer, marketing copywriter and writing skills trainer. This article first appeared on her website, refreshmarketing.com.au.

Join the women in procurement conversation in the Procurious Bravo group. 

 

Be Bold For Change On International Women’s Day 2017

Did you know that 80% of presenters at Procurement conferences are male? How can this possibly help promote female leadership in the profession? If you’re looking for a rallying place to #BeBoldForChange on International Women’s Day, Procurious has launched Bravo! to celebrate and motivate women working within procurement.

Join the Bravo! group and take part in the discussion today!

International Women’s Day (IWD) is celebrated on 8th March each year. The first ever Women’s Day event of this kind was observed in the US in 1909. Since then, people from around the world have united to celebrate, empower and motivate women with the ultimate aim of achieving gender equality and fair recognition for women’s achievements.

The day’s success is due, in part, to its lack of affiliation to any one particular group or authority. Rather, the day sees the bringing together of individuals, organisations, charities governments and corporations with a common cause.

 What can you expect from this year’s International Women’s Day? It all depends on where you are in the world and what takes your fancy. In some places, women are striking; in others they are holding conferences, festivals and exhibitions. You can guarantee they’ll be protests, concerts, special cinema screenings, comedy shows, online digital gatherings and award ceremonies aplenty. Certain countries, namely Armenia, China, Cuba, Russia, Ukraine and Zambia, even recognise International Women’s Day as an official holiday. Can’t wait for that to catch on elsewhere!

You can find out about everything that’s going on near you via the official IWD website.

Get involved with Bravo! on Procurious

 Procurious launched the Bravo! campaign last year in support of all women working within procurement. Our experiences with the global procurement community highlighted the gender disparity which still exists within the function. The talent pipeline might be full to bursting with superstar women at entry – mid level. But, at leadership level, that same pipeline is overwhelmingly stocked with men. In an article published on Procurious, recruitment expert Jennifer Swain commented:

“We need to get more women into procurement and logistics.  We need to raise awareness to young talent at college or university as to what an amazing career in procurement and supply chain can be.  If more females take entry level roles, it stands to reason that there will be more females climbing the career ladder.  Secondly, equalling out the gender ratios can only help eradicate any sexism still lingering in the industry.”

When we investigated the facts we discovered that in the majority of procurement associations, women account for 20-35 per cent of memberships. At procurement conferences, they represent 30 per cent of attendees and just 20 per cent of speakers.

Penny Rush, Program Manager for Diversity and Inclusion at PwC Australia, recommends that advocates for gender equality equip themselves with the facts. “It’s important to have the latest figures at hand to help us celebrate the gains we’ve made towards gender equality, but also to highlight the distance we still have to go”, she said. “For example, an Ipsos poll on attitudes to gender equality released yesterday revealed that one in five Australians believe men are ‘more capable’ than women, and eight in 10 women believe gender inequality still exists.”

Bravo! seeks to challenge and rectify this inequality by promoting strong and inspiring women in procurement and tackling issues such as diversity, inclusion and workplace sexism.

We’d love to hear your plans for IWD. How are you getting involved? What do you believe are the benefits of an event such as this? Have you, or your procurement team, been bold for change and, if so, what have you done? Let us know in the discussion board on Procurious or via the Bravo! group.

The origins of International Women’s Day

In 1909 the Socialist Party of America rallied to commemorate the 1908 New York garment workers strike, which saw 10,000 take to the streets to campaign. They protested for equal pay, shorter hours and better working conditions.

Throughout the years, the event has taken on many forms and been gradually adopted by different countries whether its to protest against war, set gender equality targets or fight for women’s education.

IWD has been celebrated on the 8th March since 1913 but was only officially recognised by the United Nations in 1975. Since then, each year has had a specific theme.

Of course, cultures and attitudes towards women have drastically changed, for the better, since the early 1900s. It wouldn’t be a women’s equality event without the usual cries of “But do we really need a women’s day? Aren’t things pretty much equal now anyway and, besides, there’s no international men’s day?”

Firstly, there actually is an international men’s day.

And secondly, things aren’t pretty much equal just yet. The original aims of IOW are yet to be achieved. Statistics show that:

Be Bold For Change

The theme, and official hashtag, for this year’s event is #BeBoldForChange :

“Whether it’s organising your own event or making a pledge to speak out about equality, we can each play our part in creating a fairer world. If you joined the Women’s Marches on 21 January, the day after Donald Trump’s inauguration, to protest prejudice, misogyny and racism, you’ll know that powerful feeling of taking action. Being bold for change means continuing that work and not staying silent.”

 In short, being bold for change means standing up for women, standing up for inequality and challenging sexism whenever, and wherever, you can. Every single person can make a world of difference by calling out discriminatory behaviour when they see it happen, in their personal or professional lives.

If you haven’t quite managed to keep up with all of Procurious’ Bravo! content, you’ll find some of the highlights below:

Join the women in procurement conversation via our Bravo group. 

The Unpalatable Update On Thinking The Unthinkable

It’s all too easy to avoid thinking the unthinkable when the unthinkables concerned are so unpalatable. 

Nik Gowing, BBC Broadcaster and Visiting Professor at King’s College spoke with Philip Ideson as part of Procurious’ Even Bigger Ideas, a 5-part podcast series sponsored by State of Flux. You can access the series exclusively on Procurious.

Nik Gowing introduced Procurious to the concept of thinking the unthinkable at last year’s Big Ideas Summit. Unthinkables are critical events that are not being considered or prepared for by organisations or by our governments around the world.

From Brexit to the election of President Trump;  from Putin’s invasion of Crimea to the upcoming European elections, unthinkables have been occurring frequently over the last few years.

Unthinkables such as these disrupt everything that we presume to be stable and constant, they create an unthinkable environment and, unfortunately, they’re not letting up in 2017.

Nik Gowing returned to Procurious this year to speak in our podcast series, Even Bigger Ideas, and to give us an update on the current state of affairs. Why is the world struggling  to prepare for unthinkables and what can be done to change that?

The New Normal

In recent years we’ve endured one unthinkable after another and, more often than not, several at once. Nik firmly believes that this is to be the new normal. Leaders, whether they admit it or not, are worried about what’s coming next and what the future holds for their organisations.

“If  organisations don’t handle or recognise [unthinkables] then it could lead to them going out of business very quickly. Consumers and customers feel alienated by what a lot of companies are doing; what a lot of governments are doing.

A lot of the next generation, the millennials, don’t like what they see in companies or governments and of course this means that they don’t want to go into those companies. Therefore, there’s a succession problem as well.

We haven’t seen anything yet with AI and the internet of things coming down the track. What many thought would be unthinkable in twenty years, will probably be unthinkable in twenty months.”

Why are we failing at thinking the unthinkable?

Executive leaders are often  overwhelmed, under pressure and unable to think about unthinkables.

The latest Thinking The Unthinkable Report reveals nine conclusions as to why leaders have, so far, struggled to respond to unthinkables. Nine key words and conclusions were mentioned repeatedly by survey participants.

“One of [these conclusions] is denial, and another one is willful dissidence. There’s a hope that, ‘Well, this is only a blip. It isn’t going be like this indefinitely.’

Those who have made it to the top whether it be C-suite, CPOs or as chief risk officers are constrained in their way of thinking. As Nik points out “the conformity, which gets you the promotion and gets you to the top, in many ways, disqualifies you from understanding the enormity of the changes that are taking place.”

“In reality,  leaders must use every kind of idea that’s out there; coming from inside the company, outside the company, in order to actually understand, appreciate, mitigate and confront head on the enormity of changes coming”

It’s Time to Start Thinking the Unpalatable

Nik asserts that unthinkable events are often apparent but we choose to ignore the available evidence because it is so unsavoury.

“Thinking the Unthinkable is the title, but actually it should be thinking the unpalatable. In almost every aspect, there is  clear evidence out there [of what’s to come].”

“Before the migration crisis in Europe there was two years of warnings from the UN and the International Organisation of Migration. But companies, and certainly governments, did not want to listen to it or take notice.

“The unpalatable is this stuff that’s out there.  Organisations say to themselves ‘Surely, that’s not going to affect us. Surely, it’s not going to be that bad. Surely, we can ignore it.’ And, actually, they should be saying, ‘We’ve got to embrace this.’ ”

What can be done?

“Chief risk officers and procurement officers have got to think far more broadly. There’s probably an unpalatable, small incident or issue out there that is going to turn into something much bigger. We are too often seeing the attitude of ‘We’ll rule that out. We don’t want to know about that.’ Instead, unpalatables should be right at the top of the risk registry. ”

“Events that were once viewed as outlandish unthinkables would not even been considered as likely in the risk registry. It’s a bit like dealing with alcoholics. No one wans to admit they’ve got an alcohol problem until they get in the same room with a lot of people suffering from the very same problem. At this point they’ll say ‘My goodness, that’s me. We’ve got to do something about it.’ ”

“So what we’re in the process of doing at the moment is creating a community of leaders in government and corporates around the world who’re saying we’ve now got to change the way we do business. It’s about changing culture, mindset, and behavior. It’s not about spending money. It’s changing what’s in the human software up there.”

Procurious Even Bigger Ideas is a 5-part podcast series available exclusively to Big Ideas Digital Delegates. Sponsored by State of Flux, this series features interviews with five of the most intriguing power players at this year’s Big Ideas Summit in London.

“I’m Just Not Very Creative!” Three Ways To Unleash Creative Potential

According to Creative Change Agent James Bannerman, there’s no such thing as a lost cause when it comes to unharnessing creativity.

Bannerman spoke with Philip Ideson as part of Procurious Even Bigger Ideas, a 5-part podcast series sponsored by State of Flux. You can access the series exclusively on Procurious.

The stifling of creativity is a slow but inexorable process. Evidence suggests that humans are incredibly creative as children.  By the time we reach adulthood, however, we have often lost the ability to connect with our innate creativity due to a combination of upbringing, education, fear of criticism, the need for conformity and the boundaries of the corporate environment.

The good news is that innovation is now firmly on the agenda for businesses worldwide. Managers are pushing their teams to be more creative which,  for some individuals,  can be quite daunting, especially when you believe you’re simply “not a creative type”.

According to Bannerman, though, everyone has innate creativity. It’s simply a matter of re-educating ourselves and learning some tips and tricks to unlock your creative potential. “Our minds become so full of ‘you can’t do this’ and ‘you can’t do that’, and ‘that won’t work’, and ‘that’s been done before’, that a lot of our innate creativity gets squashed and stifled.”

Here are three tips on unleashing creativity from Bannermann’s interview with Philip Ideson. 

  1. Stop labelling yourself

There’s no such thing as a lost cause. Bannerman has worked across multiple sectors, unleashing creativity in teams including Aston Martin, Rolls Royce, and some space agencies. But you don’t have to work in a “creative” profession to be creative. “It doesn’t matter if people are nuclear physicists,  or accountants, or if they work in the world of marketing. The point is that creativity can manifest itself in many different ways.”

“I haven’t yet seen a completely lost cause. In fact, some of the best ideas I’ve ever come across have been from the people working in professions where you’d least expect to see creativity. The TV companies and the advertising agencies aren’t always the most innovative and creative because often they’re just regurgitating what they’ve done before. It’s in other groups, like accountants, where people generate ideas that make you think: ‘Wow’.”

  1. Stop trying too hard

“Trying to be creative is like trying to go to sleep. If you’re too busy focusing on going to sleep, you’ll stay awake because there’s all sorts of brainwave activity linked to beta waves that will keep you from falling asleep.”

Bannerman explains that there’s a sweet-spot that allows creativity to flourish. “We tend to be most creative when we’re focused but not over-focused, and relaxed but not too relaxed. You’re more likely to think creatively when you step away from your desk, and do something like go for a run, or go for a drive, or simply look out the window. If you say to yourself ‘I must come up with the best procurement idea ever right now’, chances are that you’ll become stressed and nothing will come to mind. It’s about finding that optimum state.”

  1. Make room to be creative

Bannerman has observed that creativity is often hamstrung by legislation, regulations and an atmosphere unconducive to lateral thinking. “There has to be wriggle room in a team’s dynamic. If people are too afraid of getting things wrong, or if they continually feel that everything has to be 100 per cent perfect straight away, then they’ll fall into a practical mindset. They’ll only do what they know will work, what has been done before, and will endlessly repeat old patterns rather than contemplating new patterns.”

“Any part of an organisation can be creative by looking at how it can improve itself, solve problems and imagine where it wants to be in two to five years’ time. Creativity can manifest itself in many different ways, depending on the context – it could just be about improving processes, systems or structures. It doesn’t have to be about inventing the next iPhone.”

Procurious Even Bigger Ideas is a 5-part podcast series available exclusively to Big Ideas Digital Delegates. Sponsored by State of Flux, this series features interviews with five of the most intriguing power players at this year’s Big Ideas Summit in London.

The Flaw At The Heart Of Trump’s America First policy

5.6 million U.S. manufacturing jobs didn’t move to China and Mexico – they simply disappeared with the march of technology. And that’s the flaw in America First! 

Trump’s stunning election win has been linked to his successful portrayal as both a friend of Corporate America and a champion of the working class. His business-friendly policies include large-scale deregulation, slashing tax rates and a huge infrastructure spend, which (in theory) are designed to boost jobs through trickle-down economics.

But the support of Corporate America isn’t enough to remain in power. In order to retain the presidency for another four years after the 2020 election, Trump will have to deliver on the key promise that won the support of the disillusioned working class – bringing industry home and reviving jobs in America’s once-thriving industrial rust belt.

However, there’s a miscalculation at the heart of the rhetoric around bringing jobs back from overseas factories.

Robots, not overseas workers, have taken 85% of manufacturing jobs

A recent study from the Centre for Business and Economic Research at Ball State University found that:

  • Employment in the manufacturing sector fell by 5.6 million between 2000 and 2010.
  • Productivity growth (automation) accounted for more than 85% of jobs lost in manufacturing in this period.
  • Only 13% of the overall job loss resulted from trade (including Chinese imports).
  • Meanwhile, U.S. manufacturing output has risen steadily, growing 17.6% between 2006 and 2013.

Simply put, American factories – and factories worldwide – are producing more goods with fewer people. Automation is rendering millions of low-skilled jobs redundant, yet Trump’s key policy aim to “bring back jobs” seems to be mistakenly focused on increasing trade protectionism.

Protectionism could backfire by further accelerating automation

ABC’s business editor Ian Verrender writes that even if Trump “slaps massive import duties on Chinese goods and forces his country to start producing everything at home via the magic of ‘America First’”, it risks leading to a domino effect where business will be forced to find efficiencies in order to survive.

  1. The loss of access to low-cost labour would drive up the cost of consumer goods, meaning Americans would find themselves unable to afford the goods to which they’ve become accustomed.
  2. This lack of affordability would spark demands for wage rises.
  3. Firms would respond by pushing even further into automation, using robotics and AI to cut costs.

Verrender comments: “Where once corporations scoured the globe for low-cost labour, and duly shifted their operations, they [would] now seek ways to eliminate labour altogether, particularly in manufacturing.”

Accelerating automation is inevitable

The loss of jobs to robots is only expected to broaden and accelerate. A report from two Oxford researchers found that an incredible 45% of U.S. jobs, across all sectors and professionals, are vulnerable to being automated within the next 20 years.

For example, self-driving technology alone could lead to the unemployment of 1,000,000 truck drivers in the U.S., along with approximately 160,000 Uber drivers, 230,000 taxi drivers and over 600,000 bus drivers.

Some of the big names to comment on the coming social disruption include Stephen Hawking, who wrote last year: “The automation of factories has already decimated jobs in traditional manufacturing, and the rise of artificial intelligence is likely to extend this job destruction deep into the middle classes, with only the most caring, creative or supervisory roles remaining.”

In February, Elon Musk asked the audience at the World Government Summit in Dubai: “What to do about mass unemployment? This is going to be a massive social challenge. There will be fewer and fewer jobs that a robot cannot do better [than a human]. These are not things that I wish will happen. These are simply things that I think probably will happen.”

Bill Gates commented: “You cross the threshold of job-replacement of certain activities all at once. Warehouse work, driving, room clean-up – there’s quite a few things that are meaningful job categories that, certainly in the next 20 years, [will go away].”

What’s the answer?

Marc Benioff, chief executive of Salesforce.com, warned the World Economic Forum in Davos of the “digital refugees” that would be created by AI. “This is the moment … when we have the highest level of anxiety because we can see advances in AI that are beyond what we had expected,” he said. “It’s happening at a rate and a capability that we are worrying about how it will impact the everyman, the broad range of workers around the world . . . There is no clear path forward”.

One hopeful sign is that a public discourse on the disruptive effects of automation has begun. Thought-leaders have already put forward some solutions, although they may seem politically unpalatable at present. Elon Musk recommends that the U.S. adopts a universal basic income (such as that being trialled in Finland) to keep the economy going and guarantee a standard of living for the millions of workers expected to be displaced by automation. Bill Gates has suggested taxing robotic workers to recapture some of the money displaced workers would have paid as income tax. Education, too, will need to transform to equip future generations with the skills needed to find work in a highly-automated future.

Although Trump appears to be currently focused on the wrong job-stealing “villain” (China), there is hope that leaders will listen to the likes of Bill Gates and Elon Musk and start planning ahead for the social upheaval of what has been dubbed the fourth industrial revolution.

In other news this week:

France passes “duty of vigilance” supply chain law

  • Last week, France passed a law that pushes for accountability for multinational companies sourcing from global supply chains.
  • The “duty of vigilance” law requires companies to establish safeguards designed to ensure that labour rights and other human rights are respected in the production sites they source from.
  • The law requires large companies based in France to create a document that sets out their procedures for evaluating suppliers and mitigate human rights abuses. Violating the “duty of vigilance” law can lead to a penalty of up to €10 million.

Read more at Supply Chain Dive

Trump seeks historic increase in military spending

  • President Trump’s first budget seeks to boost military spending by $US54 billion. The US currently spends about $US584 billion annually on defence.
  • If passed by Congress, the 9% increase will be funded by cuts to non-defence spending, including environmental programs, diplomacy and foreign aid.
  • Last year, the rest of the world combined spent a total of $US317 billion on defence. The highest-spending countries under the US were China ($US146 billion), Saudi Arabia ($US82 billion), Russia ($US66 billion) and the UK ($US56 billion).

Read more at ABC News

Big Ideas Summit 2017: Understand Your World

Every procurement pro needs somebody to tell them the world weather forecast so they can figure out when they’re going to need an umbrella! 

At the Big Ideas Summit 2017, we once again challenged our thought leaders to share their Big Ideas for the future of procurement.

Our attendees spoke about everything from creativity to politics, from cognitive technology to workplace agility, current affairs, economics and the future. Whatever your industry and wherever you are in the world, there are some top tips to takeaway!

Be Sure To Understand Your World Weather Forecast

Justin Crump, CEO at Sibylline thinks that procurement organisations need to become more worldly wise in order to better manage future risk.

At present, larger organisations might be competent at managing risk but often this is very much in silos. This makes it very hard to fully understand what they are facing as a result of global events.

Given the rate at which technology is evolving and how global events are impacting the world, it is increasingly difficult for companies to keep up without considering risk in real-time.

Intelligence about the world we live in drives business operations and the better informed we are the easier it is to drive progress.

Justin urges us to gain a clear view of the world to measure against so the we can focus  our resources on what world means to us.

Want to find out more about Big Ideas 2017? Join the group on Procurious.

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