Originally published in the February 2011 issue
In the lead-up to the nation’s last most significant financial calamity, the Great Depression, legendary American humorist and homespun philosopher Will Rogers had this to say about President Herbert Hoover:
“It’s not what he doesn’t know that bothers me.
It’s what he knows for sure that just ain’t so.”
Most people will usually acknowledge:
- What they know they know (e.g., the final score of the Jets-Pittsburgh playoff game), and,
- What they know they don’t know (# of miles to Saturn).
Where people tend to get into trouble is when they think they know, but in reality they don’t:
- “If you sail far enough, you’ll fall off the edge of the earth!”
- “This is the best source for this product!”
- “No business can sell for a lower price!”
End users and stakeholders often believe they have already optimized the supplier selection process. Either objectively or subjectively they have made a decision to use a particular supplier — and in their mind that supplier does what no other supplier can do.
This of course leads to two issues. First, if you don’t think you can always do better, you can never improve. Second, markets change!
Maybe last year the supplier was the optimal choice, but this year someone else might have come along hungry for business and with new ideas and new ways to compete.
Thinking that you “know” when you don’t recognize these two factors will get you into trouble.
Continuous Improvement requires continuous learning.
However, accessing and interpreting market intelligence for all the goods and services you buy is unreasonable if not impossible. Outsourcing this function to a company that works in those markets every day for a multitude of customers generally makes the most sense.
To be successful in sourcing and in business, challenge not just what you don’t know, but also what you think you know.
As Will Rogers would say, “It’s what he knows for sure that just ain’t so” that just might be the biggest challenge!