Travelling Salesman Problem

It’s official. The humble honey bee has greater brain power than a field rep.

How many sales managers will groan with agreement? Not sure how those of us pounding the streets will take this revelation, mind you.

As the above linked article states,

The conundrum involves finding the shortest route that allows a travelling salesman to call at all the locations he has to visit.

Computers solve the problem by comparing the length of all possible routes and choosing the one that is shortest.

Bees manage to reach the same solution using a brain the size of a grass seed.

It takes even the fastest supercomputer aeons in processing time to solve what takes the bee a mere flap of the wing.

So perplexing is it that a bee can effortlessly switch from re-visiting flowers in order of discovery to the most energy conserving flight path, that there’s much work dedicated to its understanding.


Time and Territory Management isn’t many road-based salesperson’s favourite topic, I know. But what this jokey aside reminds us, is that in the same way that an optimum physical route plan can be elusive, the way you keep calling on your existing clients or long-haul bid clients can have similar repercussions when it comes to the totally wasted energy of losing a deal.

How can you re-evaluate your call plan structure to ensure your ‘flying’ is kept to a minimum, and earns the biggest reward?

Can you do it in the metaphorical millisecond it takes the bee to twang it’s muscles to take flight?

And beware. It might not be as simple as you think. As the wikipedia page sets out, working out the best way to visit 15 places means running through a mind-boggling 43½ billion combinations.

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