A 484-meter-long bridge was built over the river Choluteca in 1998 in Honduras. It was designed to withstand and sustain natural disasters, for, the region is notorious for storms and hurricanes. The bridge became Choluteca’s pride and joy.
In the same year, Hurricane Mitch hit Honduras, there was 75 inches rain in four days, equivalent to what they receive in six months. Mitch was so devastating that it plundered and flooded the entire region, thousands of lives lost and all bridges in Honduras collapsed, except one – Choluteca.
But there was a problem in the offing — the flooding was so enormous that river Choluteca changed its course and flew in a different direction, creating a new channel, thus the river flowed beside the bridge and not under. The bridge was strong enough to sustain such a massive hurricane but became irrelevant because the river changed its direction.
Today, the story of the Choluteca bridge has become a case study and the most talked about in business parlance, raising the critical question — Why build to adapt is as important as build to last.
Often, when we decide to build a project, business, or career, primarily, we focus on long term prospects, ignoring the most important aspect – Adaptability. We focus more on designing the best solution to a problem, which is fine, but we also need to remember the problem itself might change. Just the way the river changed its course and direction, the markets may also change with times. And this is precisely where adaptability comes into the picture.
The lessons to be learned from this bridge is more relevant in these trying times than ever before. The world is changing dynamically in many ways than we ever imagined. Build to last will always be important, along with it, build to adapt is paramount.
Long back I read somewhere that Bill Gates hung a picture of Henry Ford in his office, to remind him how the mighty can fall. A picture of the Choluteca bridge on our desk can become a stark reminder on how to plan and navigate through troubled times.
Perhaps, what Charles Darwin said centuries ago is still relevant
“It is not the strongest species that survives, nor the most intelligent that survives, it is the one that is most adaptable to change”– Charles Darwin