In a previous post, I used a metaphor to explain the interplay between weak protocols and tools such as heuristics, rules of thumb and best practices. This metaphor was inspired by Fleming’s Left-Hand Rule, a concept from physics. Fleming’s Left-Hand Rule helps to determine the direction of force on a conductor carrying an electric current when placed in a magnetic field. It uses the thumb, index finger, and middle finger to represent three distinct vectors: the force, the magnetic field, and the electric current, respectively.
Currently, I am seeking additional real-world examples to illustrate these relationships. The Apollo 13 incident may be a candidate:
Weak Links: During the Apollo 13 crisis, the unplanned and diverse connections between different teams and areas of expertise became vital. NASA teams, contractors, and engineers, who under normal circumstances might not collaborate closely, had to come together. These weak links were instrumental in facilitating the sharing of information and innovative problem-solving, demonstrating the value of informal networks in crisis situations.
Weak Protocols: The situation presented by Apollo 13 was unprecedented, rendering existing protocols inadequate. Here, weak protocols - adaptable and flexible guidelines - allowed NASA staff to respond creatively, stepping outside their standard procedures to find novel solutions. This highlights the importance of having systems that can adapt and evolve in response to unexpected challenges, capturing the essence of weak protocols in managing complex situations.
Tools: The resolution of the crisis relied heavily on technical knowledge, simulations, and especially improvised strategies, such as the modification of the CO2 scrubber using available materials. These tools represent the practical methods employed to address and solve the specific, urgent problems encountered. They illustrate how tangible, pragmatic solutions are developed and implemented within the context of weak links and weak protocols.
This scenario demonstrates how weak links facilitate essential communication and the exchange of ideas, how weak protocols provide the needed flexibility to deviate from standard procedures in unusual circumstances, and how tools offer the practical means to address and resolve immediate challenges.