The Fable Of The Three Bridge-builders

An excerpt from our article on Quartz.

It all started with three bridge-builders, competing to cross the mighty rivers.

Those rivers had held back the trading people for so long but the time of prosperity was coming. The traders were ready to expand around the world. And they needed the bridge-builders. They needed engineers to give them better ways to go.

The first bridge-builder saved her money from trading, and worked tirelessly on her bridge. She negotiated well at each step, getting the best price for wood and screws. But the bridge collapsed before it was ever complete. The wood and screws were of poor quality and her focus on conserving her savings had distracted her from engineering a solid structure.

The second bridge-builder knew she could double her resources by working with the foreign road-layers, who had profits to invest. She negotiated with one road-layer after another, making sure that she would get the most profit from the tolls. But when her bridge was complete, the road-layer had no more money to continue his road, so the bridge lead nowhere.

The third bridge-builder stayed focused on her main goal — she wanted her people to prosper. She worked with the road-layers, asking one to help with the bridge, the others to continue roads to different towns on the other side. When she negotiated, she made sure everyone made money. She kept them all focused on quality.

At first, the third bridge-builder was worried about competition. She was working with the suppliers that the first bridge-builder had rejected for being too expensive, and was dealing with road-layers who were making too much profit from her work. What if they succeeded with their bridges and had more money than her?

What saved her was that she wasn’t just thinking about her first bridge, but many bridges after that. That’s what it would take for her and her people to really prosper. Trying to take all the profits from just one bridge seemed a waste of time. She would make more money overall with more bridges, and could only do that with a network of prosperous suppliers supporting her, and road-layers funding her — and everyone making money.

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