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Problems with adding Supply Chain people, thinking like procurement instead of spatial intelligence

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How many of you are frustrated with your purchasing department?  I had a short stint at Apple in the Purchasing group.  The purchasing group had a staff of technical project managers who would work with the product development teams on peripherals for Apple products.  During this time is when I got a peak into mindset, the way people approach the task of purchasing/procurement, but this is anecdotal.  Harvard Business Review has a post on “The Problem with Procurement” with a sample survey.

If this sample is representative, then we can hardly be surprised if many c-suiters think that procurement is a backwater. And we can hardly expect young high-flyers in most industries to see it as a career path of choice.

Looking ahead, procurement managers will have to change the way they approach suppliers and business peers; being a strategic business partner means so much more than negotiating a discount.

One comment in the post tries to target the problem.

My admittedly limited experience with corporate and governmental procurement functions is that they focus on compliance and price, as opposed to effectiveness and value.

The focus on compliance and price makes sense as most of the time procurement is part of a finance function, not engineering.

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Many of the things that Procurement buys are physical things.  To an engineer the physical things have meaning in spatial terms, not just price and compliance.

Spatial thinking “finds meaning in the shape, size, orientation, location, direction or trajectory, of objects,” and their relative positions, and “uses the properties of space as a vehicle for structuring problems, for finding answers, and for expressing solutions.”

And it is hard for non-spatial oriented people to understand spatial people as most of the systems ignores them.

Nearly every standardized test given to students today is heavily verbal and mathematical.  Students who have the high spatial and lower math/verbal profile are therefore missed in nearly every school test and their talent likely goes missed, and thus under-developed. What’s more,spatially talented people are often less verbally fluent, and unlikely to be very vocal. Finally, teachers are unlikely to have a high spatial profile themselves (and typically have the inverted profile of high verbal and lower math/spatial), and although they probably do not intend to, they’re more likely to miss seeing talent in students who are not very much like themselves.

There is a point that being spatial is not idolized in society.

Today we idolize creative actors, dancers, artists, musicians, and writers. But when was the last time someone raved to you about a creative engineer or mathematician? Why isn’t STEM considered creative or cool? Longitudinal research has made a solid link between early spatial talent and later creativity. Yet for whatever reason, we don’t appreciate the highly creative nature of science, technology, engineering, and mathematics.

In the technology world though, the spatial thinkers are idolized.  Having young kids are you driving your kids to be actors, dancers, artists, musicians or writers? STEM (science, technology, engineering, mathematics) may not be cool, but it is creative and you can get paid really well.  You may not be idolized by the paparazzi.  But you can be idolized by your peers.

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