Bridges, Bridges, Everywhere

Maybe you’ve noticed, but there are a lot of images of bridges around here. Take a look at the MM in our logo of a suspension bridge.  There’s an important reason for this imagery, but there are two key things you should know about bridges and collaboration.

Bridges Connect

Bridges, especially the large suspension bridges bring people together. They connect people separated by water or gulfs. They connect cultures and ideas. They make commerce better, they join the past with the future and make the world smaller. Bridges are a way to progress, to peace, and to prosperity.

It may seem obvious, but its and important visual metaphor.

Suspension Bridges

When you look at a suspension bridge, you’ll notice that the towers reach upward with cables suspended between them. Suspension cables hang from the main cables to support the weight of the bridge itself. The towers essentially dictate the strength of the bridge and its height.

If you wanted to make a bridge stronger or higher, you’d focus your energy on the towers. You wouldn’t spend any time on the suspension cables hanging from the main cables. These cables are the thinnest, weakest, least load-bearing part of the structure. Each contributes a small amount to the whole of the bridge.

Collaboration and Suspension Bridges

When you are trying to make improvements in your life—or, if you are collaborating with someone that’s different from you—it’s temping to find weaknesses and try to improve them. The problem with this approach is that it’s like trying to lift a bridge by addressing one small suspension cable at a time. You’ll end up breaking the bridge and you’ll get nowhere. It’s the same with people. Focusing on weaknesses only breaks people and doesn’t really make things better.

If you want to be better, or if you want to collaborate effectively with others, identify strengths; identify the towers that make the bridge what it is. If you improve your strengths, everything else improves with them, including your weaknesses. When you allow someone else to contribute with their strengths, and you contribute with yours, you are maximizing the strength of your collaboration. It’s like making a stronger, higher suspension bridge by building stronger and higher towers.

This approach is more effective, more rewarding, and more fun. People respond to this approach far better than the constant focus on the negative.

So, the next time you see a bridge, remember these 2 bridge metaphors and their importance.

What do you think? What other productive metaphors can we get from bridges?