Constructing Bridges

Constructing Bridges by Dr. Robert Gerwig

Photo by Author

Swinging bridges made of bamboo, deep in the jungle! … Well, if truth be told, they were not deep in the jungle, but they did swing and they were made of bamboo (mostly). We were on our way back from seeing the Chocolate Hills of Bohol when we decided to stop and walk across the swinging bridge that crossed over the Luboc River.

For 10 Philippine pesos (about 25 cents), tourists bought a ticket and were allowed to cross over the river. And back, of course. It reminded me a bit of the swinging bridge in West Virginia that, as a kid, I begged my granddad to take me to every summer during our annual visit. There was a thrill of walking out on the bridge and jumping up and down. Or shifting our weight back and forth to see how far we could get the bridge to swing. Part of the fun was “scaring” my grandmother, or mother, or sister, or wife. None of whom felt as secure on the bridge as I. They might have been less risk-tolerant or maybe just smarter, who knows! Regardless, the bridge over the Luboc River brought back memories and was a fun diversion.

I paid the 10 pesos for each of our five family members and we crossed the river (which was surrounded by jungle, though not deep in the jungle). The bridge did sway and the bottom of the bridge was made of interwoven bamboo, very cool. It reminded me of some bridges I’d seen on a trip to the Amazon a while back. … Has there been a picture book published on swinging bridges of the world? Probably. … Anyway, we crossed the river, looked at some souvenirs, took some pictures and walked back. It was a fun way to spend a portion of our afternoon.

As usual, I thought about the bridge, its purpose, and how it paints a picture of world-class leadership. The bridge serves multiple purposes. It connects two opposite sides of the river enabling, or facilitating, communication, commerce, and relationships. Without the bridge, people and communities on each side would live in a more isolated fashion. They would have less exposure to the bigger world around them. They could not experience firsthand what lay on the other side.

This particular bridge also brought about economic benefits. Tourists came. Purchased tickets. Bought souvenirs. Drank fresh coconut juice. It brought commerce and well-being to the communities on both sides of the river.

Bridges within organizations, constructed by leaders, also add many types of value. They facilitate communication. Improve effectiveness and efficiency. Organizational bridges increase understanding of the big, strategic picture, enabling better solutions and service offerings. Bridges increase teamwork.

Bridge building in today’s environment is facilitated by breakthroughs in technology such as the internet, email, texting, Skype, smart phones, social media, the cloud, etc. Yet to construct bridges that add value and stand the test of time, requires leaders and organizations to identify the need for the bridge and build relationships of trust and mutual understanding that will welcome the bridge and utilize its capabilities.

Where do bridges need to be constructed in your organization? What are you doing to help identify the need for bridges? To construct them? To maintain them?

As always, the floor is open to your comments, suggestions, thoughts, and feedback.

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