When was the last time that you looked to the sticky feet of a gecko for inspiration on a work problem? Or how about considering the irridescent qualities of a peacock feather in an attempt to solve a puzzle? I admit that sometimes cutting edge theory or science can be too far removed for me to tie my brain around and presented in any other context, the idea of biomimicry might have been one of those stretch concepts.
But here I was sitting with a cup of locally roasted java at our Downtown Public Market across from Joe Zazzera, a well-known Green Guru and the Founder and President of Plant Solutions. Joe’s an active participant in our community and passionate about his work of interior plant design. He was excitedly telling me about the concept of biomimicry.
It seems that biomimicry promotes learning from and then emulating natural forms, processes, and ecosystems to create more sustainable and healthier human technologies and designs. Makes sense, doesn’t it? Nature has been actively building solutions and solving problems for 3.8 billion years without excess waste or devastation so we might tap into some of that knowledge in order to resolve current issues.
Joe pointed to Interface Carpet, the company that studied the organized chaos of the forest floor which inspired the creation of carpet tiles with random patterns that can be laid out side by side or reorganized even though no two tiles are exactly alike. He went on to describe the toxic chemicals often found in carpet adhesives and how the company examined the feet of a gecko and their ability to adhere to a wall in order to create a more sustainable but equally sticky solution that required minimal application.
I hadn’t considered the concept of biomimicry before but looking back, I’ve heard tales about things inspired by nature. Wasn’t there the burr in a pet’s fur that ignited the creation of velcro and how about those winged drawings that Leonardo DaVinci drew despite the fact that he wasn’t the first person in flight? I’m enthused by what I find at the Biomimicry Institute; a material saving PET bottle design derived from whitebark pines, the Arnold Glas company designing windows that reduce the opportunity for bird collisions after looking at the UV reflecting threads of a spider’s web, and how the color of a butterfly’s wings led Qualcomm to develop electronic displays that remain bright even in daylight.
What’s most exciting to me about biomimicry is that by providing a completely new context or way to approach a problem, it enables transformational breakthroughs. That’s so refreshing when most of industry is worried about achieving year over year incremental gains. Suddenly I find myself thinking about this at my home and my office. Are there places where we’re looking for a solution and the answer has already been discovered?
Give it a try. Next time you’re facing an issue, ask
What Would Nature Do?