"Together, HOK and Biomimicry understand that the solutions we provide for our clients depend heavily on accepting a new paradigm, a shift in their way of thinking: To fall back to old habits would undermine all of the work we have done for (or with) them. To that end, I want to raise the question of how FIT, Life's Principles + Biomimicry can work to help organizations maintain the ability to adapt and evolve while enabling them and their communities to flourish. The talk today proposes a kind of 'design thinking' approach (slightly different from the FIT model) to solving this very challenge, with a few examples at the end of how this approach could work by looking at major challenges faced by many of todays leading organizations."
Here is the goal – Create a world empowered by natures genius -When I think about Biomimicry, FIT, and what we are accomplishing – it really is creating a world that is empowered by natures genius. Not an easy job – but I really do think through learning, respecting, and emulating natures systems/processes we can (and have) achieve incredible results. So, How can we do this for organizations?
First - One of the great strengths Biomimicry is the common ground. Like the wise owl here (Wendell Berry) tells us – everyone can relate to nature. This is hugely important – and central to how we can start to think about incorporating Life’s Principle for improving organizations –But let me tell you a story about the Biomimicry Dream Team.
Let me tell you a story – This is the ‘Biomimicry Dream Team’ for any/every challenge – It doesn’t exist –But to tell the story I have created Very sterotypical rolls:The Engineer (with ruler/square) – Asks HOW can we achieve our visionThe Designer/Architect (with Cape) – Asks What are we building?The Business Person (with tie) – Asks where is the Value?The Philosopher (with cane, or crook) – Asks WHY are we doing this?The Biologist at the Design Table – Says LOOK – LOOK to see HOW nature builds somethingLOOK to see WHAT nature buildsLOOK to see the VALUE that nature providesLOOK to see WHY nature does or does not do somethingIn reality –so far we don’t use biomimicry to look at each of these questions – maybe just one or two.Inherently the role of BIOMIMICRY (and everyone at the table is a Biomimicry Expert) –is help the entire team internalize the genius of nature’s strategies – HOW DO WE DO THAT?
SO, we recognize we all have common ground – and we know the types of questions we can ask, and who could be at the table with us. In working with many different types of groups, I have noticed 4 things that can lead to success – I consider these as filters or requirements for Biomimicry integration – andI think they apply universally.
Organizational Commitment – This is when the entire leadership structure of the organization is committed to engage in innovation through biomimicry. (project managers, designs, CEO) – If just the CEO is interested it is a top down directive that falls flat. If it is a bottom up excitement – lot’s of work can go intoa project before it is quashed.Team Confidence and Diligence –Typically we have seen that successful integration occurs when the team is self-assured, and taking on the challenge. (individuals are confident in existing abilities and want to add on another layer for interest, or next big thing). Ability to Prototype – Capability to rapidly move to prototype, to see concrete results of process. Ability to experiment and play – without this the idea’s sit on shelves.Lastly- I have found this idea of a resonant or aligning organism/system or strategy fascinating. Especially when working with a small group that is going to engage a much bigger audience (user groups, or general public) I have found that finding those concrete examples (told as stories) in nature help ground and reconnect everyone to nature, while at the same time engaging around an abstract idea.This is central to communicating Life’s Principles – which are often abstract ideas – instead of trying to engage those directly – this process looks to find the resonant organisms – and see where we are relating to Life’s Principles.
A very common problem in emerging global organization is geographical distance. How can we begin to align our global organization? The way a Biomimicry Professional might approach this, is to ask How does Nature align Individuals?
What the Biologist (trained in Biomimicry) tells us is that one way organisms align is known as Swarm Intelligence. Birds, Locusts, Ants Schools of Fish – all have ‘swarm intelligence’ – and always this intelligence is created by following a few simple rules. Such as ‘Keep the two closest birds about 2 feet away from you – not further, not closer’.This creates starling swarms that move and dance as if aligned by purpose- can rapidly change, but always heading together.RESONANT ORGANISM _ STARLINGS – HOW DO THEY WORK? CAN WE DO THAT?
Well- combine it with the understanding that People Flourish through increasing social Relationships- (and using Design thinking model of building on existing social norms)
Translating this into a human system –What if at every location you had ‘buddies’ social rules. Such that you connect with one person at two different sites regularly to chat, play games, work on projects, etc. While you only work with two people- they also work with two people –and so on- you create a flock- that begins to move together regarding latest thinking, and directions for the organization.
A problem for any organization – is how do they communicate complex information?We can start to ask very simple questions from nature – and get to interesting places- How does Nature communicate?
The Cuttlefish is a master of camoflauge – their skin can rapidly change color to match backgrounds – and as a chunk of protein floating around in the ocean – they need to be. But they can also use their mastery of color to communicate – specifically with other cuttlefish. When they do this – they will strobe, or turn bright white, or black – or flash crazy patterns. A few things here are worthy of note:They are using a signal that every cuttlefish is VERY tuned in to – highly specific channels (they are not humming, or giving off pharamones)When they communicate, as far as we know, they send context information – Danger, Excitement, Anger… - it is context for behvior, not to do lists.
People are pretty smart – but sometimes we need to see it to believe it. This is an info-graphic from David McCandless. Infographics are really starting to mature in today’s media, and information rich environment – because they take 6 months or more of data and boil it down to one understandable image – They succeed because they put things in context. (This billion or gram – puts different spending into perspective)
The last issue I want to try to get us to consider today is that of EGO – This is a tough one to consider going to biology –How can Biomimicry help us with something as human as Ego. How can we continue to encourage creative cooperation?
One thing that popped to mind was play – We have proven that many animals ‘play’ and the reason is why? Build social networks, have fun, but also to creative problem solve.
Elizabeth Gilbert gave a wonderfully sensitive TED talk about genius. She is 40, and wrote ‘Eat,Pray,Love’ which became a runaway wild success. And she realized that it can be success that drives writers mad- to drink, and prevents people from being creative again and again- or at the very least prevents them from trying. Because we place a huge weight ont eh shoulders of those who succeed – or anyone who invinvents .Which didn’t use to be the case – she calls for a cultural change. Much like how romansviwed Genius as doby (the house elf) who visists, it is outside oursleves – we do have fragile ego’s and they need to be protected from the burden of genius.
Biomimicry itself does this- Moves from Ego-system to EcoSystem – but separating ourselves from the ‘genius’ label – we wallow in natures genius, and what sticks sticks! Looking to nature may increase creativity and save us from ourselves.
LP Slide –Shows where each of the three solutions fits into life’s principles. Life’s Principles is an exploration – and increasingly as I approached these it seemed to make sense, or feel right that these design solutions worked, because I knew they satisfied LP. It is not a linear process that I describe here – all of the components stew together (The Biology, the Social Insight, and Life’s Principles) For example the Buddy network- is not only resilient, it also helps people flourish – not the direct goal, but a context of life’s principles is that they help the system thrive! In this case people are system.For the info graphic – it is clear that we are using context to it’s advantage – people have evolved to see patterns, If you see it you believe it. Using this to target complex information help spread ideas, enables them to move quicker, and faster to new audiences.Biomimicry itself – the idea of a culture change that moves us away from an ego-centric point of view of creativity – to one that looks to nature can help us as people thrive, and engage.