Professional deformation: why all your problems look like nails

clous : ombres et lumière / nails : light and shadows

Thanks to Dave Stone for blogging about Déformation professionnelle – the expression that brilliantly describes:

a tendency to look at things from the point of view of one’s own profession and forget a broader perspective. It is a pun on the expression “formation professionnelle,” meaning “professional training.” The implication is that all (or most) professional training results to some extent in a distortion of the way the professional views the world.

I’m very conscious of this effect, so I seek out conflicting points of view and the opinions of people from other industries.

My awareness of déformation professionnelle encourages me to blog negative views of SEO (twice) and social media.

I love this quote from Wikipedia’s déformation professionnelle article:

When the only tool you have is a hammer, every problem looks like a nail.

Thanks Dave!


  1. That is really a good thought, the only tool is hammer, then every problem looks like a nail.

    We use the hammer to fix the nail as we want, right?

    Comment by kitano — October 23, 2009 @ 7:34 am

  2. Well yes… we use the hammer to ‘fix’ the nail, but we often use the hammer to fix screws, staples, pins and things that aren’t even broken.

    Comment by Leif Kendall — October 23, 2009 @ 8:17 am

  3. Credit Sydney J. Harris, columnist for the Chicago Daily News and the Chicago Sun Times for coining the term ‘professional deformation’ in the late sixties. His was the earliest reference I know of to this concept of seeing the world through the blindered eyes of your particular professional training. He was a brilliant observer of human nature.

    Comment by Bethany Frasier — April 11, 2013 @ 4:03 pm

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