Several years ago my wife and I discovered Hobby Lobby, a great retail store to help us with the improvement of our home. While checking out at the register one day I saw a book entitled, More Than a Hobby by David Green, the founder of Hobby Lobby. I bought the book and found it to be a great resource.
As I read Green’s book, I especially found chapter six, What Computers Don’t Know, to be of great interest. One of the most interesting practices that I discovered about Green and his retail store was the fact that he did not use scanner technology at the register.
Green has a unique approach to his business. He trusts and relies on people, not machines, to get the job done. In fact, he quotes Peter Drucker when referring to technology when he says, “The computer is a moron.” He goes on to refer to another wise leader (whose man he could not remember) when he says, “The computer is like having an extremely precious eight-year-old hanging around your office. He’s very smart about a few things he knows in life, and he’s forever asking questions ---but sometimes you just want to tell him to shut-up!”
According to Green, people cannot be replaced or underestimated. This is why he refuses to use bar-codes at the check-out. He goes on to give 8 reasons to support this conviction:
- Human beings can’t read a bar code. This is not bad.
- A lot of Hobby Lobby’s products come from cottage industries that cannot mark their goods with bar codes if they tried.
- Inventory control by computer is not as accurate as you think.
- Employees take more pride in their work when they know they are in charge, not some faceless machine.
- Customer service is better.
- The time saved by a machine at checkout is minimal --- and easily squandered.
- Reprogramming the computer for sales would take a huge effort for a company that puts items on sale every week.
- 20 million dollars is a LOT of money. According to Green, this is what it would cost his company if the machines did the work that people are capable of doing.
A person encountering another person is the key for strong team development. Green believes that people have the best skills to deal with other people, not some machine. The development of a strong team calls for the leader to tap into the skills and gifts of the people on the team. A computer will never be able to do what those on your team are capable of doing.