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Viewpoint: Borrowing Brains

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Can I borrow one of your tools? When you work as a technician, you hear this phrase far too often. Sometimes, it is a legitimate need. They may be asking for a tool that they need in a pinch and they might buy the tool for next time. But, you always have the chronic borrowers. This person will not spend the money for their own tools and views fellow technicians’ tool boxes as their own. If you do not loan them the tool, they make a big enough stink with other technicians, shop foreman or owner, that it is almost easier just to let them have the tool without a fuss.

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As new skills are required to fix more complex vehicles, we are seeing a different type of borrowing — the borrowing of another person’s mind. This involves a person trying to get something done for them because they are uncomfortable with a new technology or just do not want to learn. This is just like borrowing someone’s tools on a whole new level. Also, the chronic aspect of the behavior follows the same conscious and sub-conscious motivations of borrowing tools.

In our internet-based information industry, being able to find and navigate web pages is critical. Some websites become tools. Like physical tools, some are easy to use and some are not and require a certain amount of skill at navigation. Also, like some tools, it can leave the user frustrated and looking for help.

The frustrated user can either invest some time and learn how to use the tool, or they can borrow the brain of someone else. The second approach may take less time, but there is no long term pay back and it must be repeated over and over to get additional results.

We have all been in the position of lending our brain. It is like the old saying: “feed a man fish, he will eat for a day. Teach a man to fish, he will eat for a lifetime.” But, in the case of the brain borrower, they want you to fish for them the rest of their life.

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How they do this is to transfer the frustration of not being able to do a task into you being frustrated by having to show them every single time. You eventually give up and just perform the task in order to be done with it. This arrangement is how the person wanted it in the first place. Sometimes changing and educating them is near impossible.

You become their crutch or enabler allowing them to operate without having to visit the “tool truck of learning” that is permanently parked outside the “repair shop of life.”

Let’s face it, we are moving to a PC-based world. When the average shop owner comes into the office, the first thing they are firing up is not the coffeepot, but the computer system.

Not being able to operate the basic operating system and core applications will leave you dependent on other people. Also, every technician should have the basic skills to install and update software and hardware. Not being able to do this will put you at a distinct disadvantage in repairing vehicles.

Comfort Level and Death
Many people have their excuses like: “I do not feel comfortable,” “I might damage something,” or “I fix cars and not computers.” What some of them are really saying is: “I am not willing to learn or possibly fail because I might feel inadequate or stupid.”

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I am not trying to insult or talk down to some people. It’s just either become comfortable with new technology or plan to retire. After all, the greatest tool box a technician has is their mind, and when people borrow tools without returning them, it sucks.

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