I recently became aware of Maslow’s Hammer, an idea first suggested by Kaplan:
“Give a small boy a hammer, and he will find that everything he encounters needs pounding.”
The image of the non-stop hammering little boy made me grin. It also got me thinking about the consequences of having powerful tools, especially the ones we wield intuitively. Have any of my favorite toys become a crutch? Am I applying this technology because it improves things, or simply because it’s handy?
At first I offered myself this challenge: As I encounter my work, how might my perception change if I hold a different tool? This could mean any kind of tool — plugins, templates, workflows, collaborators, platforms, OS, etc. But I think Maslow’s Hammer is less about simply swapping implements and more about thinking beyond the tools. The greater challenge is probably: Can I strip away the obvious methods that individual tools enable and imagine better ways to work?
Let’s take a practical example. Audio folks have been known to ask, “Which is better for recording and mixing music: ProTools or Logic?” A comparison of features usually follows. Instead of focusing on better ways to work, we get bogged down in which product has superior “hammering” ability. Don’t let the technology dictate how to get it done. Sometimes we need to back away from the toolbox and exercise some lateral thinking. Consider end results and new paths for reaching those goals first, then choose appropriate implements to enable the good work imagined.
See Noise Jockey’s follow-up to this article: How Tools Shape Our Creations
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