Monday, November 28, 2005

Multidisciplinary education and "man with a hammer syndrome"

Over the years, Munger has always preached the importance of learning -- and then using -- all of the big disciplines, such as math, science, psychology, etc. To him, this just came naturally:
For some odd reason, I had an early and extreme multidisciplinary cast of mind. I couldn't stand reaching for a small idea in my own discipline when there was a big idea right over the fence in somebody else's discipline. So I just grabbed in all directions for the big ideas that would really work. Nobody taught me to do that; I was just born with that yen.

If one doesn't embrace all multidisciplinary thinking, Munger argues, then one is likely to fall into the trap of:

"man with a hammer syndrome." And that's taken from the folk saying: To the man with only a hammer, every problem looks pretty much like a nail. And that works marvelously to gum up all professions, and all departments of academia, and indeed most practical life. The only antidote for being an absolute klutz due to the presence of a man with a hammer syndrome is to have a full kit of tools. You don't have just a hammer. You've got all the tools. And you've got to have one more trick. You've got to use those tools checklist-style, because you'll miss a lot if you just hope that the right tool is going to pop up unaided whenever you need it.


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