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To a man with a hammer, everything looks like a nail.

Updated: Oct 17, 2023

“If the only tool you have is a hammer, you tend to see every problem as a nail.”

This month my Managing Director kicked off the new year with a “Welcome Back” meeting for all staff at JointMedica, where he was able to deliver key messages and information to align the entire team with the company goals for 2023.

To begin the meeting two teams were given a tray each of “instruments”, both containing quite different items. One held a potato peeler, a tin opener, and a claw hammer; the other contained just a claw hammer.

Both teams were then tasked with hammering a nail into a piece of wood, peeling a potato, and opening a tin of soup. The first team selected the appropriate tools for each task and was able to reach the desired outcome quickly and efficiently. The second team, although apprehensive about using the hammer, for anything other than beating a nail into the wood, persevered and eventually managed to not only peel the potato with the claw hammer but also open the tin of soup...

With both teams arriving to the same general outcome should we question why a hammer is not more commonly used in the kitchen? This question may sound absurd but leads to the saying If the only tool you have is a hammer, you tend to see every problem as a nail”- (Abraham Maslow). In this practical exercise, we can see using the same tool for any given task is not always the most effective or efficient. There are often other suitable ways to arrive at the same, if not better conclusion.

Being new to the Orthopaedic industry this fun assignment set by our boss, made me think about what I have observed, read about, and experienced when visiting several orthopaedic meetings, as well as discussions with hip surgeons in various settings.

Maslow’s concept commonly known as the ‘law of instrument’ or Maslow’s Hammer, refers to an overuse of a familiar or favourite tool. We see this too often with hip surgeons who fiercely rely on total hip replacements (THR) to solve a patient’s pain, and rarely (if ever) consider alternative methods or tools.

It makes sense to me that Hip specialists should routinely be offering patients a therapy that is bone-conserving, resistant to dislocation, allows more normal function, reduces post-operative mortality, and ultimately is the right treatment for the patient’s specific condition.

I guess Hip specialists must ask themselves, although you can treat most patients with a THR, is it always the right tool for the job?



Maslow, Abraham Harold (1966). The Psychology of Science: A Reconnaissance. Harper & Row. ISBN 978-0-8092-6130-7

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