Enlightening concepts

28 September 2011
Renata Towlson is senior buyer (best practice) at Nottingham University Hospitals NHS TrustTwo events happened this week that shook my world. First, the discovery at Cern in Switzerland of a new particle which can travel faster than light and that E might not equal mc2 after all and second, when my nine-year-old son suggested that shops should offer discounts on free things which meant that we would actually get paid for buying things! My scientist cousin who works in the Cern Institute tells me that if the first discovery is validated it will change everything we know about the universe so far. And my son’s idea turns business concepts upside down. Cern’s experiment costs billions of dollars, while my son’s comment was just a throwaway childish remark: but are they so different after all? Both could offer a new way of looking at things, stripping away our safe and guarded theories of the past: indeed if Einstein could possibly be wrong, is it also possible that my son’s theory of ‘getting paid to buy things’ could actually be right? It sounds crazy, it wouldn’t work, it is nonsense, and it is so ridiculous that it isn’t worth a mention – yet here we are reading about it. There is an equivalent of E=mc2 axiom in the public sector marketplace and it is called ‘fairness, transparency, equality’. I have not as yet met one procurement professional who was able to take into consideration and harness all of the variables of a truly fair, equal and transparent competitive process, axiom of EU market concept. To do so we would have to understand and define much better all the variables of such a process or maybe mirroring the upheaval in physics, we could simply accept that axioms might or might not be right and focus our attention on practical applications of ethical and moral concepts. We are all particles who can easily defy everything we think we know. Not only the physical world but all the market and social concepts are more shaken today then ever before. Our evaluation criteria of procurement decisions need to respond better to current challenges. We cannot, unlike Cern’s project scientific team, convince any European body to pay billions of pounds to validate our big procurement picture, but we can focus our attention on our local businesses, their problems and everyday issues. The solution may not be as radical as my son’s proposal but it will certainly be as innovative and unique.
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