Cloud Set

The Cloud is a TOC thinking tool that analyses the details of a conflict, assists in taking meaningful action or making a decision in a fair, concise and non provocative way.



How much stress is there in our daily lives from the drama arising out of conflicts that have not been effectively resolved - in the home, classroom, workplace and our communities?  

There are many unsatisfactory ways in dealing with conflicts: Avoidance, denial, bullying, unsatisfactory compromise, tug-of-war, and more… These responses usually result in one side wins, the other side loses. Many times it’s lose-lose for both parties. Unresolved conflicts often lead to escalation and deepening of the conflict. Attempts to settle disputes through compromise frequently leave all parties dissatisfied because important needs were compromised. Frustration, blame and bad feelings often remain. For many this can lead to walls of distrust, broken relationships and in some cases impulsive and less desirable behaviours which cause further conflict with others and with themselves. Many feel at a loss at what to do. Sometimes it is a downward spiral.

The Answer: Win - Win Conflict Resolution

The TOC Conflict Cloud is a structured, graphic and practical tool enabling people to effectively analyse internal and external conflicts whether they are in a textbook, on the playground or within a school management team.

Conflict clouds can be constructed for any situation where there is a choice or a decision to be made.

conflict cloud

Instead of you and me fighting over what we WANT, we can tackle the problem together so that we both satisfy our NEEDS, leading to a win-win conflict resolution. 

Applied to curriculum the Cloud enables students to relate content to their everyday lives and to actively engage in more focused and meaningful classroom discussions regardless of their level of academic skill.

Applied to behaviour the Cloud enables students to think for themselves and make more responsible decisions.

 The Cloud analyses the detail of the conflict by asking five guiding questions:

  1. What do I WANT?
  2. What does s/he WANT?
  3. What is my NEED?
  4. What is her/his NEED?
  5. What is our Common OBJECTIVE?"
  • The Cloud's structure is built of five boxes connected by logical arrows. Each box answers one of the five questions to help describe the conflict.
  • The broken arrow symbolises the conflict - the WANTS cannot exist simultaneously.
  • The NEED is the reason why each side insists on getting what s/he WANTS.

The COMMON OBJECTIVE is a situation both sides wish to have, but in order for it to exist each side must satisfy his/her NEEDS.

Additional guided questions are provided for deeper analysis to reveal the underlying reasons or assumptions in the logical connections between the boxes. These assumptions are needed to provoke the thinking required to create simple and practical solutions.

Win - Win Solutions using the Cloud Technique

Win-win solutions enable both sides to satisfy Win - Win conflict resolutiontheir significant NEEDS. The problem is that in order to satisfy the NEEDS each side insists on getting conflicting WANTS. Thinking win-win requires us to shift the focus from getting what we WANT to satisfying what we NEED.

When students analyse curriculum content using the Cloud, they also learn to think and communicate more effectively. They can learn curriculum content and a life skill at the same time.

 Behaviour Applications:

  • Counselling
  • Peer mediation
  • Classroom management
  • Life management skills
  • Conflict resolution among staff
  • Parent conferences

Applied to behaviour, the Cloud enables students to think for themselves.

It can be used to analyse both, internal conflicts in order to enable more responsible and satisfying decisions and choices, and external conflicts to resolve disputes peacefully.

Benefits of using the Cloud in behaviour situations:

  • Enables understanding of problems from all points of view
  • Enables more responsible decisions and choices that accommodate the NEEDS of others
  • Creates ownership of responsible solutions and commitment to their implementation
  • Develops emotional understanding and empathy
  • Improves clarity of language and focuses communication
  • Turns the problem away from 'you against me' to 'you and me against the problem'
  • Develops initiative to responsibly solve own problems
  • Substantially improves relationships

Curriculum Content Applications:

  • Analysis of narrative and informational text (oral or written)
  • Development of communication skills (oral and written)

Applied to curriculum content, the Cloud provides a scaffold to assist students in analysing conflicts, actions and decisions in narrative and informational text in a way that deepens their understanding and enhances their ability to communicate what they have learned.

Benefits of using the Cloud in content applications:

  • Enables students to clearly and succinctly retell and remember key points of text
  • Enhances ability to pull inferences from text
  • Focuses thinking beyond a literal interpretation
  • Enables students to understand deeper and broader perspectives of all sides of a problem or situation.
  • Relates existing curriculum to students' daily lives
  • Enables students to apply new knowledge to authentic situations
  • Evokes classroom discussion that is more focused and meaningful
  • Enables students to identify essential, yet less obvious details in text by surfacing assumptions underlying main ideas
  • Enhances ability to improve existing solutions and create new ones

With permission Kathy Suerken, International President TOC for Education