Seven bridges over troubled water

Strategies to get from A to B in the best way

Drawings and text by Frits Ahlefeldt;

From diets to disruption – A collection of strategies and bridge metaphors we use to get across a difficult place or gap.

Drawing of two bridge builders
The Practical Bridge – getting things done

Practical bridges

Societies, companies, institutions, cities and people all build practical bridges. These practical bridges might not be pretty, but they work just fine. A practical bridge can be a relationship, software, a tool, marriage, car etc. something you don’t care much about, as long as it works.  Practical bridge-building can be seen when people find a compromise or path forward, that few really like that much, but most can accept just enough to continue their daily routines without dipping their toes in the water.

Passion bridges

Two people standing on top a heart shaped bridge building it
Passion bridge, feeling good while getting across

When the bridge is not only about being a practical solution, but about feelings and passion, bridges tend to look different. A Passion Bridge is a more emotional and demanding version of relationship between two sides. Passion bridges need not only to work, but to “feel good” to be on or watch. The classic example is how we look at modern marriage, or when Apple changed how people looked at the computer, from being a practical tool that could get things done, to be a loved piece of one’s identity.

Where practical bridges is about getting from A to B, passion bridges is also about identity and emotions.

Change bridges

Bridge of change - here diet seen as a food bridge with vegetables
Change Bridge – going across to become something new

When people go on a diet, start training for a marathon, buy a 12 weeks self-realization web course, or sign up for meditation… Or buy the: “All new, innovative, magical Nano-magnetic belt”, that  TV-shop promised could make them 58% more attractive and successful in just two weeks, they step onto a Change Bridge.

Change bridges will not only get you to the other side, they will help change you, while you make the passage from A to B. Preferable by getting you to a better place… But a lot of Change Bridges promises something else than they deliver ( drugs, miracle cures, job-offers etc. )

Word bridges

Bridge of words, spelled with letters
Word bridge, talking your way across

Building bridges with words is what a lot of meetings, Powerpoint presentations, therapy, counselling, debate, lectures, conferences and brainstorming sessions try to do every day. And the amount of words we globally use now, the amount of reports, books, briefs, resumes, information and theory published every year is growing at a staggering speed, as more and more people all over the world get into the art of building Word Bridges.

Can we talk and drink coffee all the way across to a better understanding? Word Bridge-builders believe we can.  Connecting with words, stories and explanations actually works… sometimes. Unfortunately it is often impossible to see the difference between a word-bridge that works, and a Word bridge that will fail you.

Using a word-bridge you are almost as likely to end up where you started, as somewhere else. So the odds are often just slightly better than just jumping… ( Though the short term risk is much lover, when all you do is talk)


Bridge and wall builders working at the same place
Wall bridge – competing building both walls and bridges

Making walls and then bridging them seems to be a very popular activity today. Wall-Bridges use a similar logic to that often seen in sports: Dividing the playing field and identifying people as either them or us. Two hard working teams of insiders and outsiders. Allies and competitors.

Wall builders divide, then the bridge builders come in and connect. These Wall-Bridges can keep a lot of people busy and help keep whole societies occupied for a long time. Wall-Bridge Games can finance a lot of businesses, construction work, consultants, managers and law-firms so there is a lot of interest in “keeping the ball rolling”

The challenge is often that all focus is on the game, the wall and the bridges, little energy and resources is left to figure out what is beyond the playing field, the wall or the two teams.

Disruption bridges

People on top of a half build bridge wanting to do something else
Disruption bridge – doing something else instead

Why build a bridge at all? – Let’s do something else instead, somewhere else… Going back to Zero, starting on a fresh, disrupt and brainstorm is getting fancy.  It is the “Lets burn this one down and go to planet B instead” solution on a global scale. And the “Now let’s all be open and think outside the box” strategy on a more local scale.

Today “disruption” is becoming one of the favorite strategies and words for both a lot of politicians, start-ups, consultants, spin-experts and miracle doctors. The reason could be that it is so much easier to tear things down and start from scratch, than to continue on a structure, company, society, marriage, job or endeavor, when things get tough or difficult.

Network and peer bridges

Group of people becoming a bridge helping a man in the water
Network and Peer bridge, becoming the bridge together

Some ants (yes the insects ) have an amazing ability, if their home gets flooded, they all get together and attach themselves to each other, so they become a vessel in the most crazy transformer like way. Then together, as a community, the ants can float on water and move on to new ground and rescue each other at the same time… And if ants can do it…

Bridges of people might be the most ancient kind of bridges we have. 50.000 years ago our brains were as smart and large as today, the only difference is that we have come to rely more on external build bridges and structures, and less on the dynamic community, peer, tribe and storytelling bridges and structures that supported our ancestors.

Three reasons to build network bridges

But the old structures still work and today these Peer Bridge-building techniques and traditions are being reinvented, supported by new technologies. There are at least three reasons for this:

First: Our reality change so fast today, that nobody really know what kind of bridges we need tomorrow, or where.

Second: It is much cheaper and easier to have people create solutions together themselves, instead of building permanent structures around them to support their movements and thrive.  Among the places these “people bridges” are being used today are in all kinds of communities and in recovery: Veterans, school-teachers, doctors, parents, patients and seniors are getting together to support, and help each other in networks of peers today.

Third: Peer and network bridges are more fun and engaging to make, they help us relate, support and laugh, overcome challenges and tell stories together, in a very unique and enriching way, that none of the other bridges can do.

Learning from the tiny ants when facing troubled water

From practical bridges to passion, to change, to words, to walls, to disruption to network bridges. Somehow all these bridges use the same bridge-metaphor to visualize how to get from A to B, across a difficult passage, situation or lack of understanding.

For many years modern society has focused on building practical bridges: Infrastructure and institutions that could safeguard the citizen’s passage through life and reality. But today this reality is changing faster than new physical structures, rules and firewalls can be put up. We simple don’t know what to put up instead of church-marriage, classic blackboard schools, steel-armored armies, courthouses, wig wearing judges, and horse-shoe-chaired democracy when reality moves online.

The most flexible of the bridges strangely seems to be the network-peer bridge. It’s the oldest, and even those tiny ants know how to make it: To connect as a community, and together become a vessel, a rescue-chain, a dancing machine, or a bridge, depending on where our new online reality might take us. Best part is that to build this takes practice, and that practice builds better thrive, relationships, and is more engaging and fun for all.

Text and drawings by Frits Ahlefeldt

See all my community drawings here on

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