The Choluteca Bridge ‘Build to Adapt’ Metaphor

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Instagram worthy, the above image of the Choluteca Bridge, isn’t it?

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Woah, but wait, something does not seem to fit in. Something’s wrong. There are a bridge and a river, alright. But, they are not where they should be! So what changed? And why is this messed up bridge popping up on my feed?

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The above image shows a 484-metre-long bridge on the river Choluteca located in Honduras, Central America. In 1996, the government had some brilliant architectural minds construct the bridge to withstand storms and hurricanes. No sooner than it was opened to the public, it became a symbol of pride for the nation and its city and was known to survive through any hurricane.

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Two years later, Atlantic’s second-deadliest hurricane struck Central America. Hurricane Mitch caused over 11,000 fatalities in Central America, 7,000 in Honduras alone. There were 75 inches of rain in four days, which was an equivalent of what the country would normally receive in six months. Sure enough, The Bridge stayed put and maintained its pride. While the Hurricane wiped away roads and wrecked bridges, The Choluteca Bridge emerged as the last-bridge-standing, that too in an impeccable condition. Had this been a last-man-standing pro-wrestling match the bridge would have partied all night. For a moment, it had seemed so. But the match had ended in a no-contest the moment the Hurricane had hit the country. In its place, another battle had ensued.

Unlike the previous battle which had demanded survival, this battle demanded adaptation which the bridge failed to deliver. This was because of two occurrences. Firstly, the hurricane swept away the roads leading to the bridge and rendered them as good as nonexistent. Secondly, the heavy rains caused the Choluteca river to change its course, such that it no longer flowed below the bridge. Instead, it created a new channel and flowed beside the bridge. Therefore, the bridge lost its initial purpose. It then became a ‘bridge to nowhere.’ (Although it was connected to the highway later in 2003)

The Choluteca Bridge 'Build to Adapt' Metaphor
en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Choluteca_Bridge

Despite being an architectural marvel, this bridge may not make it to your travel list. But if you’ve read this far, I’m assuming the bridge’s metaphor is dawning upon you. Which is why, I think it will make it to your cognizance, if not your travel list.

We all have come across the line that ‘change is the only constant in this world.’ The current circumstances in which we are living is a walking testament to this revelation. Who could’ve possibly imagined work from home and online classes would become the norm? But, here we are! The world is changing at an incredible, unfathomable speed and it’s not just about survival anymore. It’s about surviving and making it to the top. As Prakash Iyer puts it in his BW Business World column, “The challenge for us is that we get focused on creating the best solution to a given problem. We forget that the problem itself might change. ‘Built to Last’ might have been a popular mantra, but ‘Built to Adapt’ could be the way to go.”

READ PRAKASH IYER’S FULL COLUMN:  https://twitter.com/prakashiyer/status/1290874327487803393

No matter how good our current solutions maybe, we need to be far-sighted and focus on the larger picture, as well. The course we’re taking, the business we’re starting, we need to ask ourselves where is it all going. We need to consider whether we’ll be able to adapt if things go wrong. In short, we need to be resilient in the face of change. Even after so many technological advances, humans are still at the mercy of nature. It’s Charles Darwin, all over again. We may work hard and end up building the mightiest bridge ever. But our prudent colleague may work less hard on the bridge and focus some of his abilities on analyzing the prospects of the river underneath. Be it natural, cultural or economic changes; all corners of the world prize adaptability and adjustment skills. And the Choluteca Bridge is a metaphor for the same.

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