Reading Notes - CorkScrew Solutions

CorkScrew Solutions: Problem Solving With a TWIST
by Clarke Ching

The Theory of Constraints is not a topic I usually read about, who have I to thank for this mind-expanding choice?

Corrado! My first real manager 20+ years ago, and a good friend since.

Corrado De Sanctis organizes a few agile communities between London and Milan and I try to follow his suggestions closely1. This book, and in general Clarke Ching’s work, comes from one of his suggestion/events.
If you are interested in agile and digital transformation, I encourage you to join one of these communities:

CorkScrew Solutions

This is a book about how to solve (seemingly) impossible dilemmas using a couple of concepts:

  • a simplified, user-friendly, version of Eli Goldratt’s Evaporating Cloud
  • EveryDay Integrative Thinking (EDIT)

I’ve never encountered the Evaporating Cloud concept before, but Clark Ching’s “user-friendly” version resonates with me.

At the core of Ching’s version is CorkScrew BoB, where BoB stands for the Best of Both.

Dilemmas

What is a dilemma?

DILEMMA is a seemingly impossible choice between two good (or bad) alternatives

The book has multiple dilemmas used as examples, a few are used as a breadcrumb across the whole narrative. The one I’m covering here is about W. Churchill decision during World War I about the need to modernize Britain’s navy from coal to oil-powered engines. If you want to know more about this particular topic, there’s an article on Naval War College Review that covers it: “WINSTON S. CHURCHILL’S LEGACY TO THE ROYAL NAVY, 1911-1915”.

The book uses evaporating clouds and CorkScrew BoB to analyze this dilemma and then present Churchill’s solution.

This is not a book about history, but a book that uses history (and stories) to explain strategies to overcome dilemmas and achieve the Best of Both options.

Every Day Integrative Thinking

Another important topic covered is the EDIT framework:

EDIT Every Day Integrative Thinking

English is not my first language (not even the second given that it was common at home to speak in the local dialect when I was a kid), so I’m going to start clarifying, to my future self, what is meant here with “Integrative Thinking”.

INTEGRATIVE THINKING holding two diametrically opposing ideas in your head (without panicking) and produce a synthesis that is superior to either opposing ideas.

So, the IT part in EDIT stands for Integrative Thinking. ED stands for Every Day and it is as important as the other half. Personally, I’m a believer in the importance of consistency over time and this resonates with me.
Here the author also managed to overlap on this acronym the concept of editing; citing the book:

With each cloud, you’re editing your present and rewriting yourself into a new future.

4 Friends

The book also introduces a few characters:

  • the Librarian
  • the Pattern Maker
  • the Editor
  • the Why Finder

These are used to frame our thinking process on how to “solve” an evaporating cloud.

UpThinking

A key concept to solve a cloud is the UpThinking process. A concept tied to Ching’s “user-friendly” version of the cloud that goes bottom-up from the two conflicting alternatives.

UpThinking the process to define, starting from one of the alternatives, what benefit we’re going to get out of it.

In other words, starting from one of the alternatives, we “look up” to decide what are we putting in the box above it:

Vertical Evaporating Cloud

Closing

Maybe because most of the presented concepts were new to me, but I found this 150-pages book, jam-packed with useful information.

Overall this was a great investment of my time!

Video recording

Corrado pointed out that a recording of the session with Clarke “the bottleneck guy” Ching is available on YouTube: “CorkScrew Solutions” UK book premiere.


  1. Knowing Corrado he would argue that it is much better to talk to people and try things first-hand instead of reading a book. But we don’t all learn in the same way. You should pick your option based on how you learn best. I’ve to ruminate on topics, having the time to look at things from different angle to appreciate them before getting the benefit from talking with someone about an idea. At least, this is how I feel confident learning new things. ↩︎


See also