The Parable of the Trolls and the Bridge


Once upon a time, a group of trolls looked across a wide bay.  On the other side there was a wonderful pasture.  It offered more land so each troll could have his own farm.  It also had tall forests with which to build new homes and fresh pastures for their herds.  It was a troll paradise.

But it was far away.  There was great peril in trying to reach this land for the bay was wide and deep and the current was swift.  It would quickly sweep any fallen troll into dangerous rocks and probable death, for trolls, while great runners, are poor swimmers.

But the trolls were committed to their vision of getting to the other side, and so they began to consider how to build a bridge to reach this promising new land.  With great determination, if not with caution and trepidation, they assembled the adult trolls to build their bridge.  All the adult trolls worked diligently.  They collected rocks and lumber and began construction.  The bridge was very narrow, since its design could not bear much weight.

The teen trolls of the village, anxious to help, came to the work site every day, but they were told they needed to hone their herding skills.  Therefore, they were sent to collect vines for the construction of corrals for their cows, sheep and goats.  The young trolls did as they were told, focusing on the task assigned.  Soon they had the best corrals ever made.  They even sold pre-packaged coral kits to neighboring ogres who had a problem restraining their sheep (whose wool they used to make knitted soup holders under the brand, “Crock-Argyle Sheers®.”)

Meanwhile, the adult trolls continued to work on the bridge. There was slow progress, unfortunate loss of lives and the daily dispatching of the younger trolls to tend their herds, even though they were anxious to share in this vision.

Eventually the trolls grew frustrated with their lack of success.  One by one, the adult trolls returned to their village.  While they still believed in the bridge, they could not risk their lives for its uncertain completion.

As the foreman sat on the shore, a small teenage troll named Urloff, who had watched the construction each day, went up to him and offered a humble suggestion.  He spoke carefully and directly, saying, “Excuse me, but wouldn’t it make more sense to use these vines to construct nets for the safety of those on the bridge, rather than corrals?  The pressing issue is to build the bridge, and since our hope is to bring our herds to the other side, why waste time investing in the construction of corrals which won’t be used after we move, anyway?”

The foreman agreed with this young troll.  Urloff and his young team quickly constructed strong nets for the safety of the builders. Once the adults saw how strong and effective the vines were as nets, they realized they could aggressively pursue construction without risk or fear.

With the protection offered by these sturdy nets, progress accelerated.  As each troll was less concerned with their own safety, teamwork increased, new ideas were constantly developed. They leveraged the strong vines as cables, enabling the construction of a larger, wider and stronger suspension bridge than originally conceived.  And the wider bridge opened up other possibilities such as the creation of a toll booth to charge ogres, gnomes and knights for their use of the bridge.

Soon the trolls had completed their bridge and moved their families to the other side of the bay. Because of the plentiful forests, they were even able to develop a new industry which was a boon to all in the forest:  Trollete paper.

The Moral?   When organizations remove the perceived risks of new ventures and align resources around what could be, rather than what has been, the results can be a de-vine revelation  ( or at least a “net-net” win).

Want to rock the boat without getting fired?