The Law of the Instrument

Image created with Midjourney. Image prompt:
Image created with Midjourney. Image prompt: Visualize The Law of the Instrument: A figure holding a golden hammer, surrounded by various objects that are shaped like nails, representing the over-reliance on familiar tools. The figure should appear eager to use the hammer on everything. Use a minimalistic 2D style with a neutral color palette, with emphasis on the golden color of the hammer.
If all you have is a hammer, everything looks like a nail.

Abraham Maslow

I call it the law of the instrument, and it may be formulated as follows: Give a small boy a hammer, and he will find that everything he encounters needs pounding.

Abraham Kaplan

The Law of the Instrument, sometimes referred to as Maslow's Hammer, is a cognitive bias that involves an over-reliance on a familiar tool. In Abraham Kaplan's words, "Give a small boy a hammer, and he will find that everything he encounters needs pounding."

In digital software product creation, this phenomenon can manifest in various ways:

Programming Languages

A developer skilled in a particular programming language may tend to use it for all tasks, even when another language might be more suitable. For instance, using Python for an application requiring high performance may not be the best choice, even though Python is an excellent tool for many other tasks.

Software Development Methodologies

A team accustomed to using a particular methodology like Agile may insist on using it for all projects, even when a different approach might be more suitable for a given project's requirements.

Technology Stacks

An organization might favor a particular tech stack because of familiarity, even when a different stack may offer better functionality or efficiency for a specific project.

The Law of the Instrument in software product creation

Design and Development

Teams might overuse familiar tools or frameworks, missing out on the benefits of other potentially more suitable technologies. This over-reliance can result in less efficient or less effective solutions.


Over-familiarity with a certain tool or approach can narrow our view when troubleshooting, leading us to overlook better solutions that may be available with other tools or methods.

Innovation and Creativity

Over-reliance on familiar tools can stifle innovation and creativity. By always using the same tools, teams may miss out on the benefits and unique features offered by newer or different technologies.

To avoid falling into the 'golden hammer' trap, it's essential to keep learning and stay open to new tools and approaches. Encourage continuous learning within your team and promote a culture of experimentation and adaptability. Remember that the best tool for the job is often the one that is most suited to the specific task at hand, not necessarily the one we are most familiar with.


In conclusion, being aware of The Law of the Instrument can help us make better decisions in software product creation. By striving to use the best tool for the task, rather than just the most familiar one, we can create more effective and efficient software products.

See also