Tuesday 7 March 2017

A different perspective on the challenge of Talent

I asked for your procurement challenges. You shared them with me in order for me to demonstrate the different perspectives the unconventional tools I use in my work could provide to these challenges.

The first post was a general 'Viewing challenges from different perspectives', and insights can be applied to any challenge in any discipline.

Today's is a quicker process - for me to write about as much as for you to read. Not necessarily less insightful, and its use was prompted by someone's response that 'talent' was the challenge that needed resolving. Others went on to elaborate on what specifically about talent was the challenge but for today I'm just going with the word 'talent'.

The Procurement Challenge - using unconventional tools to provide alternative perspectives (ie when the conventional way of solving a problem means the solution is still eluding you, and an alternate perspective may just be the thing you need to jolt you back on track) 
  • Challenge 2: Talent (You might want to think about your relationship to this challenge so that you can make most sense of the insights and perspectives shared later. You could also choose any other challenge to apply this tool to too. It's certainly better to have an issue to apply the demonstration to than just read about it. Which I suspect would leave most people cold and unable to see the benefit of it - a bit like reading about making a chocolate cake, with no pictures, and not then having the chance to eat it :-))
  • Unconventional tool to be used: Metaphor - if you're not sure about the use of unconventional tools you may want to read my post 'what has convention ever done for us?'
  • Unconventional (potential weirdness you might feel using it) score: 3/10
  • Things that will help you get the most from this post: Read the guiding principles - these provide the aims of these posts, and identify things that will help and hinder you getting the most from them. I think an important principle is: Have fun, accept the absurdity, laugh and play lightly with the tool and insights. 
Metaphors are great because they invite us to set aside what we think the problem or solution is and look at what the solution would be in other contexts. By doing this we keep our minds more open and therefore more able to see alternative and perspectives we might have been closed or resistant to previously.

Other posts I'm sure will use metaphor in other ways, so too address talent from a different viewpoint, today I'm simply going to choose a number of 'things' (weather, busses and dancing) and describe them.

After we've had fun doing that then, and only then, we'll see how these descriptions might apply to the real life situation ie talent (or what ever you've chosen to bring to this exploration).

What observations can we make about weather?
  • There's lots of different sorts of weather
  • What's cold in Scotland is a different sort of cold from in Greece?
  • We need an accurate forecast - short, medium and long range
  • To wear appropriate clothing
  • Take appropriate clothing/tools with us - umbrella, sun cream, hat, coat, wellies etc
  • Embrace what ever weather we're getting 
  • Learn how best to cope with different weather conditions
  • Singing in the rain comes to mind (we could spend time exploring insight from the movie - or even try some of Gene Kelly's dancing to get our minds and bodies into a more creative mind set) 
  • I do wonder how seriously anyone took the policeman in the famous 'singing in the rain' scene 
  • Decide to do something different - ie stay in when the weather is really bad, or go out when it's lovely
  • We could move if we preferred a different climate 
  • Or perhaps undertake different activities in different locations dependant on the weather - ie not perhaps swimming in the sea in Scotland but skiing instead?
  • Does everyone like the same weather - how do we get agreement on what to do about the weather
  • What about climate control (which could take us down a whole other tangent of ideas)
  • I wrote about how Supplier management is like a thermostat last year and rereading it reminds me to ask - who's responsibility is it to control the impact of the weather 
  • We need to make sure our home is designed to protect us from, and make appropriate use of the weather  
The issue with doing this myself is the answers soon peter out - if we were doing this as group we'd be able to get silly and absurd much more easily. (I get a sense of that as I'm writing this blog, and keep returning to weather even though I've moved onto busses and dancers). 

We could just decide to stick with weather and keep going, but I'd like to see what happens if we use others 'things' as metaphors.

Please do make a note of any other additional suggestions that come to mind they might provide you with an alternate solution to the challenge you're facing currently. I'm certainly not going to have all the answers. Our unconscious's are very good at communicating to us potential solutions via metaphor - so let the communication begin with yours and start listening and writing.

It's also a little too easy when doing this to try to think every time we come up with an answer "how will this will apply to talent". The biggest insights will only be achieved by staying with the metaphor, getting absurd, allowing our unconscious to provide some answers that we can make sense of later. 

Judging ideas too soon means we're stopping our creative juices from flowing - it's likely the best ideas will only come after we've spent some time on this, started to relax and started to have some fun! I can certainly say that 10 mins in to writing the post and I'm getting more ideas as I get into the 'groove'.

Busses or trains

What observations can we make about busses or trains (Although the picture reminds me that we could ask what observations can we make about trains and weather together?)
  • They need to be well maintained
  • Be driven by a competent driver
  • Driven on well maintained roads/tracks
  • With a varied and wide timetable
  • Timetable that is communciated
  • With agreed routes
  • Be able to get us there and back
  • Be clean
  • Feel safe when we're on them 
  • Keep emissions low 
  • Enough parking along side the station/stop - I have to drive to a different station further away just to get a parking spot 
  • Close proximity of stops/stations to home/destination 
  • Value for money prices
  • Alternatives exist to either walk, cycle, drive or even fly (there's even something about feet do the walking, bikes the cycling, cars the driving, and planes the flying but can't quite get my head around the insight there (how annoying) 
  • Ease to book/buy tickets - location and options available (cash, card, contactless or in advance)
  • Have enough room (enough carriages)
  • Be able to flex room available - I remember standing in a carriage into Edinburgh when there was a Scotland/England rugby game at Murrayfield that was interesting to say the least!
  • Ensure we have the right leaves, snow to allow them to operate on the route
  • Rules of the track/road - ie speed limits etc
We could also have chosen other disciplines to learn from.

What observaions do we have about dancers:
  • Most dancers start from an early age
  • They need access to great dance teachers
  • They never stop learning 
  • It's not just about dancing but also about looking after their bodies and general health
  • They practice every day
  • They have a style of dance they excel at - ballet, tap, street, contemporary and so on. So whilst So you think you can dance invites them to be good at all styles generally they concentrate on the one style 
  • They warm up before every performance
  • They get applause after every performance
  • They're used to the success and failure of the audition 
  • They can branch out to be singers or even actors.  
  • Many become teachers themselves
  • They need to keep their muscles warm 
The idea is to keep going on one or all of these metaphors, and stop just before you start getting bored!

Once we've listed all the ideas we then apply them back to the original problem ie talent. Which for me brings to mind (in no particular order):
  • Getting universities and schools interested in procurement  
  • Warm up every day to get into the right state of mind and body for the task in hand - something we rarely do just taking what ever state of mind and body we're in into every meeting.
  • Practice procurement skills every day - not assume we know how to - but practice as a group on specific routines   
  • Show appreciation for the work done regularly 
  • Ensure people teach each other how to do things - ie openness to learning
  • Ensure we offer an environment that attracts the talent
  • Ensure we offer locations close to where people want to be 
  • Ensure the parking, canteen and other essentials don't put people off working there.
  • Allow people to specialise and understand what specialisms we need - ie let's not try to be all things to all people
  • Match peoples' skills to the activities they're asked to do
  • Ensure people feel safe to say they don't know, or need help 
  • Ensure everyone understands the tools available, when to use them and when they're not appropriate
What about you? What additional insights did you get - please do share them in comments so we can truly understand the richness of the process when done as a group.

I'll share another unconventional tool applied to a challenge later in the week - I'm adding them all to an index to provide a reference of different perspectives to dip into when facing any future challenges - personal, procurement, or organisational. 

Alison Smith 
The Purchasing Coach
Unlocking personal, procurement and organisational potential using unconventional tools

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