Has Somebody been spying on me?


This morning I read with interest and a growing sense of unease three posts on Linkedin. ‘Has somebody been listening in on me when I present the thinking behind our new Capability Tanks’? I wondered.

The first piece entitled “It’s not what you know, it’s how you apply it” was by IACCM CEO and recent keynote speaker at the PASA Premier ConfeX, Tim Cummins.

In the piece, Tim says “Increasingly, the people who are valued will not be knowledge workers, but application workers – that is, those who grasp the context of the issues or challenges they confront and can apply knowledge to achieve the right solution or result.”

“Why is this happening? Quite simply because knowledge itself is embedded in technology. Knowing things is of reducing relevance because it is so easy to look things up. The value comes in knowing when knowledge is important, understanding where to acquire it, how to validate it and then in applying it.”

Remarkably close to the argument I have been making in recent months about knowledge being readily available and that it is the application of that knowledge and knowing what to look for in the first place, that brings true capability. Put this one down as a coincidence.

As I scrolled through my updates the next piece I found was from procurement thought-leader Gerard Chick, a regular contributor on the PASA website. Gerard’s piece, entitled “Is Artificial Intelligence heralding the dawn of a post-professional era?” at face value didn’t ring any alarm bells.

However, when I started to read it, certain phrases resonated strongly. Hadn’t I heard myself saying almost exactly the same things recently?

In commenting on availability of knowledge Gerard writes: “For some time we have heard from various quarters concerns regarding the ‘commoditisation’ of (professional) knowledge; and perhaps this point of view is no longer is speculative. Much of what one needs to know regarding the erstwhile consultation of an ‘expert’ is today online; and available to all.”

Spooky, I thought. He then goes on: “People will deliberately bring judgment, intuition, creativity, empathy and values to a situation. In business the domain of commercial thinking and innovation, it is the collaborative and personal qualities of the professional which trump, every time, the credibility and reliability of the explicit knowledge provided by machine logic.”

The argument is familiar. Knowledge is readily available, it is how we apply it and the additional ‘personal’ qualities we bring to the table that makes us capable.

My eye was then caught by a post by Sarah Larkin, recently of Infosys Portland, and now at Locomote, entitled “Future Proofing Your Procurement Skills”.

Sarah describes the transition from tactical to strategic, value-adding procurement and the broad skills that will be required; “If you combine increased contribution, changing market forces, and broader responsibilities, you can clearly understand the need for procurement professionals to develop a much wider set of skills.”

She goes on: “What will remain is the broader task of acting and thinking strategically by creating and presenting innovative ideas that add value to the company’s bottom line.

The echoes of many of the conversations I have had with senior procurement leaders about Capability Tanks in recent times were by now ringing in my ears. How many times have we discussed the need to broaden perspective, develop greater commercial acumen, think more creatively, or discover our unknown unknowns, all of which are goals for those participating in Tank sessions?

By now I was feeling pretty spooked. Somebody must have been listening in on my presentation. But then another thought struck me, and a far more reassuring one it was. Perhaps the language and arguments just sound so familiar because they are right. That I have spent enough time in the company of and in discussion with some of the best thought-leaders on procurement around to actually understand the direction that procurement is heading, and that in developing the Capability Tanks concept I have simply tapped into that understanding.

Spooky all the same!

Nigel Wardropper
Managing Director

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Procurement and Supply Australasia (PASA) is the leading provider of information and education to procurement and supply professionals throughout Australia and New Zealand. PASA supports the largest community of engaged procurement stakeholders in the region, through its renowned series of events, publications, awards, plus various community and network building activities. PASA is a trading name of BTTB Marketing, for many years recognised as the leading producer of conferences and events for the procurement profession in Australia and New Zealand. Whether producing under the BTTB, CIPSA Conferences or now PASA brands over the last ten years, our events have consistently led the market in terms of both educational and networking opportunities.

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