When you are a hammer all of your problems look like nails.

The phrase “When you are a hammer all of your problems look like nails” is just one version of a group of statements that refers to the phenomenon that the French call déformation professionnelle which refers to looking at things from the point of view of one’s profession.  This behavior is more commonly know in the psychological field as the “Law of the Instrument” and was purposed first by Maslow.  A simplified version of his concept is thus: an individual that is incomplete in their knowledge or training, tends to propose the same type of solution to every problem they encounter.  They opt for the more familiar solution to one that may be more effective.

People unconsciously fall back on what they are comfortable with and where they have been trained instead of stepping back and looking at the whole picture to find the most rational solution.  For example, a cardiologist might automatically assume left arm numbness or tingling as an issue with ones heart, a systems engineer might identify poor scanned image quality as incorrect software settings when in reality the issue could be in an hardware issue with the scanner.

This situation can happen frequently with content management support as most ECM systems (ie. Oracle UCM, Oracle IPM, Kofax, ILINX Capture) are large and complex requiring support to have knowledge in several areas including but not limited to; Networking, Engineers, Development, and Scanner Hardware Repair.  Each department will rely on fixing issues based on what they are trained in.

In addition to proper training one of the best ways to combat this behavior is to simply be aware of it.  If we are conscious of our behavior it will help us to avoid our unconscious actions.  Psychologist Carl Jung said “Man’s task is to become conscious of the contents that press upward from the unconscious.”   Eventually, the desired behavior to see a problem from another person’s perspective will become habit and will alter our automatic response.  One must also seek to look at all system behaviors for anomalies, even if they seen normal to the user.  If an abnormal behavior has gone on long enough it will become normal behavior.  Pulling someone else in to get a second opinion can also be helpful on finding the irregularity patterns.  Its best to look at the whole picture and try to hypothesize what is really going on.  The main point to keep in mind as you are diagnosing issues is whether the behaviors and/or symptoms that you are seeing in a system and your hypothesis of the cause truly fit together, if they don’t you are running the potential of falling victim to getting clubbed by the “Hammer”.

Co-Authered  by:
Brandon Konen
Support Engineer
ImageSource, Inc.

Random McParks
Support Engineer
ImageSource, Inc.


I truly seem to agree with pretty much everything that was written
in “When you are a hammer all of your problems look like nails.
« Technical Support for ECM”. Thanks a lot for all the actual information.
Many thanks-Caren

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