Guest post by by Gary Graham, Chief Reinvention Officer at futurefit.co.za.
The Bridge to Nowhere
In Honduras, the New Choluteca Bridge, also known as the “Bridge of the Rising Sun”, was completed in 1998.
On October 22, 1998, what began as a tropical depression, quickly escalated within 4 days to “the deadliest Atlantic hurricane” in over 200 years. It struck Honduras on October 29, wrecked 35,000 homes, killed approximately 7000 people causing more than $3.8 billion in damages.
About 70% of the population lost access to fresh water. 70% of the crops were ruined. An estimated 80% of the transportation infrastructure was destroyed, including secondary roads and most bridges.
While the 484m long, steel suspension “Bridge of the Rising Sun” survived, unaffected by this devastating category 5 beast called Hurricane Mitch, the roads on either side completely disappeared. The river though, had moved and no longer flowed under the bridge. It became known as the “Bridge to Nowhere”, straddling dry land, connecting nothing to nowhere.
Why it matters?
The bridge’s ability to withstand extreme weather was celebrated. Yet it was rendered useless by a storm that swelled the 349 km river to six times its normal size, and forever changed the route of the river the bridge was built for.
It was designed and built to last, not to reinvent.
In business as in life, approaches, mindsets, operating models, strategies, best practices, qualifications, and tactics, to name a few, work for a time, not all time. Whether we like or not, metaphorical storms will force change, rendering our well-designed, celebrated, and hard-earned solutions useless! When we are attached to our ‘bridges’ without appreciating that the problem itself could change, then our best solutions will be a bridge to nowhere, straddling dry land, connecting nothing to nowhere.
What can you do?
• Acknowledge your own bias to change and disruption. After all, we can only shift what we recognize.
• Let go of arrogance, especially when you think you do not have any.
• Accept that yesterday’s successes are exactly that- yesterdays.
• Understand that none of the old tools, mindsets and techniques are inherently bad, but being attached to them is.
• Be clear about the outcomes you are chasing, but flexible about how you get there.
• Forget ‘built to last’. Build to reinvent – deliberately.
• You cannot force a river to flow where it does not want to or wish that it comes back.
• So, move where the river flows, when the river flows.
• Reinvention is a contact sport. When action is coupled with a reinvention mindset, shift happens.