I was once given a piece of sage advice. I can’t remember where it came from or from whom. It went something like this …. “If your lawnmower breaks down and you don’t know how to fix it just keep looking at it until you see the solution. You will be amazed at what you can work out”.

Years later, I came across a thinking tool called a “conflict cloud” also known as an “evaporating cloud”. The “cloud” tool is a rather elegant graphical means of displaying and solving an apparent conflict or dilemma between two actions. Using the tool allows us to look at the assumptions that cause the conflict or problem. If we look at the assumptions long enough, find and replace the one that seems least logical, we can often evaporate the cloud and resolve the dilemma. We can literally evaporate the problem.

At first, I thought “cloud” was an unusual name until I heard that the developer, Dr Eliyahu Goldratt, had named it after reading a book by Richard Bach, the author of Jonathan Livingston Seagull.

After hunting around, I found a few quotes from Richard Bach that may have been the source of inspiration:

“If you really want to remove a cloud from your life, you do not make a big production of it, you just relax and remove it from your thinking. That’s all there is to it.”

“A cloud does not know why it moves in just such a direction and at such a speed, it feels an impulsion… this is the place to go now. But the sky knows the reason and the patterns behind all clouds, and you will know, too, when you lift yourself high enough to see beyond horizons.”

I recently told a colleague of mine about my lawnmower lesson and the cloud tool. She said that her husband had recently experienced something like that.

Her husband was mowing the lawn when the mower just stopped. He tried and tried to get it running again to no avail. After standing back and looking at it for over half an hour, he finally saw the solution. He needed to add petrol. Problem solved!

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