How does using the “Clocks and Clouds” analogy theory help us to think, talk about and learn from past events? To find out, read this excerpt from the “Desire and Responsibility to Learn” section of Learning in the Wildland Fire Service.
Clocks and Clouds
Philosopher Karl Popper mused that anything we study can be divided into two categories: clocks and clouds.
Clocks are easily broken down into individual parts, what each component does and precisely how changing that component will affect the clock’s performance. When trying to find out why a clock is not working properly it is simply a process of finding the malfunctioning part.
In contrast, a cloud is made up of numerous components whose individual contribution is random and unpredictable. In describing the formation of a cloud, one can only describe the conditions leading to the cloud’s formation without fully knowing exactly to what extent each component contributed.
Apply this analogy to reviewing incidents and accidents on the fireline. Are we dealing with clocks? Sometimes. Mark III pumps and aircraft engines are certainly “clocks”. But looking at an entrapment scenario is much more like a “cloud”.
When using past events to learn, thinking and talking about this distinction—of clocks and clouds—can be helpful.
2 thoughts on “Clocks and Clouds”
pretty broad philosophy that fails to cover much of the basis of study in any regimen.
Most assuredly, this is a cryptically written article and therefore rather ambiguous for myself and likely others.
You stated: “Clocks are easily broken down into individual parts, what each component does and precisely how changing that component will affect the clock’s performance. When trying to find out why a clock is not working properly it is simply a process of finding the malfunctioning part.” on your way to asking us to “Apply this analogy to reviewing incidents and accidents on the fireline. Are we dealing with clocks?”
Fires will always signal their intentions in spite of this latest post-Yarnell emphasis that the fire environment is so complex that we are unable to make competent, and timely safe decisions.
I say most times and especially involving “looking at an entrapment scenario” because know, understand and follow the and principles of the tried-and-true Rules Of Engagement, i.e. Ten Standard Fire orders, and LCES while knowing, recognizing, and mitigating the Watch Out Situations; as well as knowing and applying the principles of the Downhill Checklist and the Common Denominators.
Therefore, I disagree with your contention that “our need to is much more like a “’cloud.’”
So then, “When using past events to learn, thinking and talking about this distinction—of clocks and clouds” can be both “helpful” and harmful, especially when ignoring the true lessons learned from all of the fatality fires and accepting the Party Line and the “no blame, no fault, just an accident FLA” instead of earnestly and honestly delving deep into why they occurred, especially the June 2013 Yarnell Hill Fire.