Is the Practice of Bridge Preservation Heroic?
Author: Lorella Angelini, Angelini Consulting Services, LLC
A recent article published in The New Yorker magazine draws a parallel between the practice of incremental care in medicine and the preservation of bridges and infrastructures.
The author, Atul Gawande, characterizes these two practices, incremental care and preservation, as “heroism of the incremental”. They are both based on the concept of implementing policies that focus on a steady flow of repetitive actions rather than reacting on short notice to specific and often dramatic problems. The incremental approach has been proven to be economical and effective, especially in providing long term benefits. The author points out that with today’s technology, incremental practices can take advantage of the latest available tools, especially in the areas of tracking, planning and communication. At the same time Gawande underscores the fact that incrementalism is chronically lacking of funds, which may be related to the fact that its approach is not considered “heroic”, meaning that it does not produce “immediate and visible success”.
I cannot be more in agreement with the idea of incrementalism as it is described in the article. Incrementalism is based on a different mind-set than the reactive approach usually driven by an emergency. But it is still “heroic”. It only requires another type of hero, one far from the limelight, who works day after day to either provide care for people or maintenance to structures.