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Are you ignoring the Invisible Hand?

Tom Wall Published on 19 March 2012

As much as I’ve always enjoyed reading, my short attention span makes it impossibly difficult to finish really long books like Adam Smith’s The Wealth of Nations. And chances are you’ve never made it all the way through the 1,208 pages either.

But if you ever took a basic economics course in school, you’re probably familiar with the economic term from Smith’s timeless writings called “the Invisible Hand.”



Now, I’m definitely not an economist. But if you don’t mind, humor me as I attempt to give my simple understanding of how the Invisible Hand works. Essentially, it represents the way human nature affects how the economy functions ... whether it’s humankind’s self-interest, fear, competitiveness, greed, uncertainty or even common sense, the Invisible Hand is our basic humanness at work.

It’s why online auction sites like eBay and 4 a.m. Black Friday sales work. And it can also help explain housing bubbles, inflated used-car prices after Cash for Clunkers, tax-deductible donations and $100 Beanie Babies.

At the risk of sounding like I support laissez-faire economic policies (I don’t), I believe the Invisible Hand is always at work and almost always right.

In spite of the many attempts to control the market through government policy and regulations, human nature and its power in the marketplace cannot be ignored. As hard as the political elites try, their attempt at controlling the outcome of a free market is foolish at best and dangerous at worst.

Okay, I’ll get off my soapbox. So ... how does the Invisible Hand affect your dairy team’s dynamics? Some people say it doesn’t or shouldn’t.


I’ve talked with numerous dairy owners and managers who say: “People should just do their job correctly because it’s their job.” And you know what? I agree with them.

But then again, cows should always do what you need them to do also. After all, you’re only trying to help them, right? But to expect cows to reason like we do would be to ignore the fact that they’re animals. And to expect humans to set aside our humanness would make us robotic.

Almost every sales person (myself included) would love to simply tell you to “just buy what we’re selling because it works and we know it will help make your job easier and make your dairy more profitable.” But, of course, we don’t say that. You see, most people (including you) don’t like to be told what to do.

If the “people part” of business was truly that effortless, you could just hand your new employees a binder full of protocols, a list of rules and your phone number in case they have any questions. After that, you could put your employee management duties on autopilot.

And speaking of protocols ... I’ve seen a lot of “good” standard operating procedures and policies. “In theory” they should work fine. But the problem is that you and I don’t work “in theory.”

Instead, we work in the real world. In the real world, some people look for loopholes in SOPs and tear them apart if they’re not perfectly constructed.


You see, just because a protocol makes sense “scientifically,” it still needs to pass the real-world “people test” and deliver the expected results.

Like most people, you’re probably not a big fan of dealing with the psychology part of your work force. But unfortunately, the human factor is always at work and can’t be ignored. Like a vibrant free market economy, your dairy’s performance depends on these invisible forces to keep it running. PD


Tom Wall
Dairy Interactive, LLC