The hammer – the ideal metaphor for methods and procedures

The invention of the first tools is hidden in the invisible past. A long time before the first written evidence, means were invented that extended the capabilities of the early humans – for example chopping, cutting, levering, speaking and hammering. In the absence of evidence, film directors had recreated these moments. Stanley Kubrick demonstrated for instance in 2001 – Space Odyssey, how the first hammer was discovered. Most of the tools were perfected differently within thousands of years. Today we have new forms of tools beyond those – methods and procedures. For all these tools, the hammer is the ideal metaphor.


Tools have the following features that become apparent with the example of a hammer.

  • Function
    Every tool fulfills a certain task. The hammer takes effect with its handle, in order to create momentum to the heavy head and to concentrate thereby the developing energy at a certain point. That way something can be processed, smoothed, deformed, pressed in or simply destroyed. The comprehensive knowledge of the tool functions enables its meaningful use.
  • Specific usages
    One uses a hammer frequently to drive nails into a wall or wood. Specialists form stones with a chisel. Hot iron can be brought into a form with it when forging. A physician checks the reflexes of a patient with light impacts. The hammer can also be used to break something into pieces. Atypical applications are symbolic-ritual uses, like the judge hammer, the auction hammer or the foundation-stone hammer. With the ritual use a certain procedure is concluded. The use in as many as possible use cases increases the tool efficiency.
  • Practice makes perfect
    The use of a hammer requires a regular practice. The first nail that one tries, often does not function as desired, because we do not hit it correctly and it bents thereby. The experienced user hits nails with the appropriate momentum and a small number of strikes. Sculptors get the most fantastic forms from a stone with a chisel. It is not enough to possess the tool. One must use it again and again, in order to develop its complete potential with the exercise.
  • Scalable
    The task can be adapted to the required applications. A small hammer helps the watchmaker repairing a clock. A larger hammer drives the nail into wood. A sledge hammer tears down walls. A pneumatic hammer breaks the road surface. The possibilities to adapt the purpose of a tool to different cases, creates continuously new fields of application.
  • Automatable
    While the energy depended a long time on the strength of the user, new technical approaches extend the fields of application. Thus, also less experienced people can place nails with a nail gun. Pneumatic hammers replace the conventional chisel. The sledge hammer of an excavator is able to torn down houses. Tools have often the ability to automate their functions.

The regular use of tools and the accompanying exercise lead unfortunately often to the fact that the user develops a distorted and biased view. These coined hammer users see nails everywhere that must be placed.

Bottom line: The hammer is the ideal example for a tool. It shows the relevant aspects that are also valid for today’s methods and procedures. With the understanding of these aspects, today’s tools can be used much more effectively.