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Lighting the path doesn't always mean walking the path

The sun rises and bee colony awakens, ready for a new day of pollen collection in order to make their treasured liquid gold, honey. To make the nicest honey, the bees must locate the best flowers. The best flowers have two key resources – pollen and nectar.

The female worker bees who are tasked with the job of collecting these resources set out from the hive and collectively try to find the best patch which is in season. This ‘Path of Discovery’, as we will call it, is not a straight line. It goes left and right and around and up and down and continues until the bee finally reaches her desired patch of flowers. Excited at the discovery, she heads back to the hive to recruit a bunch of worker bees to go to the flower and collect the required resources, with each bee specialising in the collection of nectar or pollen. On this return journey, the excited bee takes the B-line, a vector directly back to the hive in one straight line.

Upon returning to the hive, the bee performs a little dance for the other bees through which she communicates exactly the direction and distance of the flower patch from the hive as well as the number of bees which will be required to fully exploit these resources. The recruited bees set off excitedly toward the flowers via the B-line as described in the bee dance and they begin the collection process!

The bee who made the discovery of the day also heads back to the patch to assist with the collection efforts. But she arrives late. Because she’s taken the Path of Discovery again. That’s the only way she knows how and it’s not the most efficient, but she gets there.

What can we learn from this powerful metaphor? Some suggestions are provided below, but please take some extra time to think about how this metaphor could apply to your role as a mentor or mentee, in business or in life, and what you can learn from this.

  • Each path is different and sometimes the Path of Discovery needs to be walked, not the B-line. Encourage an exploration of the development process

  • To be a great mentor, you don’t need to have all the skills, resources and desires to get to where your mentees wish to go – you just need to be capable of holding a vision for them and open to exploring new ideas to get them there

  • The most valuable and influential contributions to an individual or firm may arise from an unconventional path toward an unknown goal. Only once the goal is reached is it possible to see that the process could have been more efficient. But the goal was still reached!


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