Starting a Fire

Do you know how to start a fire?  I am not talking about charcoal briquettes, or the use of combustion material such as  lighter fluid, gasoline, or those special wax products that can be used in your fireplace, no propane or gas used either.

I’m talking about the fires we make in the woods when we go camping. It is okay if you do not know how, in fact my life as had quite a few times when my boy scout experiences have been a benefit to more than my family or those with whom I am camping.  My son and I have made many campfires for cooking out or roasting marsh mellows. Before this, I had camped out without a tent and used the fire for warmth (and to keep away the vermin while we slept).  We have started fires when the material may be damp, but that is not to suggest that it is easy to start a fire even when the material is not damp, surprisingly, it is not so easy.

It is even more difficult if you do not have a source for the spark, in this case we will say we have matches, and that we are not using flint and steel to start the some other survivor type of fire starting. To be successful, we will still need to follow some broad rules.  We do not just go into the woods and and get some logs and stack them up and strike a match and viola, camp fire!  To be sure you can try that over and over again, but the results will be disappointing.  To be successful will require we start in the small, specifically small key actions, and small material.  When you see how this works, you will understand how from small things large fires are born.

We first need to find things that are easy to ignite, leaves for example,.  Leaves catch quickly but will not burn long.  Then we will need material that is slower to catch fire, but will burn a little longer, we can this kindling, very small sticks.  We will stack this up very carefully. The leaves in a bundle and the sticks stacked like a tee pee.  We will build these stick vertically around the leaves connecting them at the peak, but leaving a gap that will allow us to get the match into the center.  It is important to not put too much material here, too many leaves or too many sticks, we need to account for the space for air.  Before we attempt to fire this thing up, we will also need to ensure we have additional material near us when the fire begins to take form, we will need more small, intermediate and perhaps some medium to large sized pieces near where we are working. When this starts to catch, we do not need to be rummaging though the forest to ensure we have the material we need to continue to build this fire to the point we desire.  When we have this done, we can now put the match to the leaves in the open space.  As we put the ignition source into the center of our fire we watch how things are catching on fire, and what is getting consumed. As we see signs of sustainability we put some larger twigs, still not logs, onto the fire in a way that still allows for good airflow.  Aw the strength of the fire increases, so to does the size of the material we put onto the fire, always keeping in mind how the fire moves, and the need for air to keep the fire growing.

So what the hell was the point to a blog about fire on a product development site.  Well, first of all, I have helped many people out in the woods to build their fires, and would like to help others that do not have the benefit of being old, having parents and friends that enjoy roughing it in the woods in the olden days, as well as being in scouts.  The other reason is to point out how this is not much different from developing things, and even people.  It is not prudent to throw everything at developing the product, there is much we do not know, or worse yet, we may think we know. To that end we should proceed with some measure of care. The same is true for people.  We cannot just deluge a person with new things and information, that approach reminds me of a saying from a professor in my undergraduate degree taking a class over the summer to ensure i would pass the following year in the fall. They said summer school is like drinking water from a fire hose, you open your mouth and take all you can and hope that it does not kill you.

Like starting a fire and the staging of material, we will need to do just enough planning, that goes for the material staging to the degree that what we need, we have, as we are in need of that material.  The same is true for learning, those that are new to this work, we will need to prioritize what they need to know and learn through the work, lest we end up treating them to a drink from a fire hose.  To paraphrase Albert Einstein, we should plan as much as needed and no more (“Make everything as simple as possible, but no simpler.)”

We have to be patient and work with the situation as things develop. This is true for the fire, people and product development.  We respond to situations as they arise taking whatever prudent action we deem appropriate.  We cannot pile the logs up and expect the fire to start. We cannot pile up the requirements and attempt to build the product in one pass- there is learning that will happen and that will require us to adjust all manner and type of parameters we encounter.

There is much to learn by making a fire. Fires seldom just start, and without some catalyst take more effort than we think to bring to fruition. We will need to diligent, patient, and respond to circumstances as we become aware.


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