Photo by Todd Quackenbush on Unsplash

The Law of The Instrument: Stop Using The Same Strategy For Everything

It’s Time to Use a New Tool

Will Bowles
3 min readFeb 27, 2021


The law of the instrument is a cognitive bias that says we have an over-reliance on a familiar tool or tools.

This law is also known as Maslow’s Hammer because it was Abraham Maslow, who once stated “If the only tool you have is a hammer, you tend to see every problem as a nail.”

I spent one summer helping my father’s friend with construction projects. I learned a lot during that summer. When my father’s friend had to get people to help he would ask them about the tools they use. I didn’t know it at the time but sometimes people think they can do construction projects with only a hammer.

I’ve seen people show up to constructions with only a hammer and say let’s get to work. So talking to people about tools they use was his way of weeding out people who only used a hammer. He wanted to know they had tools to get the job instead of a tool.

No shady to the hammer. A hammer is a useful tool and you need to have it in your toolkit, but it can’t be the only tool you have.

Everyone has a hammer in life. It’s what you know best.

Our habit to use what we know best, our hammer, is natural. But sometimes using our hammer isn’t the best…



Will Bowles

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