In a comment on the previous post, vonjd brought up the famous quote from Abraham Maslow:
It is tempting, if the only tool you have is a hammer, to treat everything as if it were a nail.
Sometimes you don’t just have a hammer, you have an array of hammers. You have rock hammers, claw hammers, and sledge hammers, all in numerous sizes. You have a variety of wooden and rubber mallets too. You’ve even got a gavel. Because you have such an impressive collection of specialized hammers, you think you’re broad in your problem solving, but your basic instinct is still only to beat on things.
7 thoughts on “An array of hammers”
Wow, obviously you were inspired by my comment – I feel flattered! Thank you! :-)
…but when all you have are nails, nothing looks like a hammer.
View from my workshop:
So that’s what that is!
That’s not the worst part.
What I’ve come to discover over several years is that half-assed engineering actually works, actually produces results. It’s not as good as competent engineering, that’s for sure, but it’s capable of producing things that are of significant value (meaning billions or trillions of dollars worth). So yes, a worker with a lot of hammers is going to pound things a lot, but sometimes they can still make amazing things that way (things that other folks would not use hammers to make). I’m not sure if this is frightening and disheartening yet, I haven’t had time to work out all the implications.
One implication is that the potential paths to success are far more varied and less orderly than we might naturally imagine, and that when Edison quoted the 90/10 perspiration/inspiration ratio for genius, he was dead serious. The 10,000 hours rule continues to carry impressive force. This can be maddening if you see elegance as the only “true path” to success. I have instead come to see it as my preference – I just don’t like pounding out lots of disorganized junk that still amazingly works, and much prefer elegance, organization, and clarity. And for some projects those are true requirements, like for going to the moon. But for most things, especially corporate projects with a 5 to 10 year shelf life at most, sometimes cheap slop really is sufficient.
experience with hammer leads to skill?
something like, “don’t nitpick them. let them do it the way they do it.”