Biomimicry is about using insights from natural systems and applying to human challenges. Here are some ideas for how we do this in Business Consulting.
Business environments are challenging and getting more so, our current paradigm of top down design led solutions don’t work that well, but nature resolves similar problems with flair….
Application to Business
Biomimicry informs much design in technology engineering. Chip design, neural networks, game development, genetic algorithms, biological computing etc. These are examples of in which design is inspired by copying things in nature.
Emulating the systems of nature exploits biomimicry at the meta level. In human sciences, like business consulting, we can apply the same systematic principles.
For example: Economics solves a resource distribution problem effectively using capitalism (at least more so than any centrally planned solution). Market economies are decentralised, decisions are taken at an atomic level, that of a consumer or business. ‘Fit’ businesses, products, and skills are rewarded and copied, poor business models die. Efficiency is enforced by survival, the economy changes and responds to changes in supply and demand,
There are many possible applications to the challenges we encounter and solve with Capgemini’s Business Information Architecture (BIM) service line. Biomimicry is an approach, not a set of solutions. This is great when each problem is different. Here are some examples.
Change Management: Use feedback to test content as soon as possible. Agile development methodology, Rapid Design & Visualisation (RDV), and even collaborative work are mechanisms that use feedback to validate good ideas as soon as possible and eliminate bad ones.
Application Architecture: User Interface options can change based upon past behaviour of the user and that of other users – ranking reports, insights, or selection parameters according to feedback on previous searches –Google applied to design – allow what’s useful and relevant to ‘float to the top’. Building in alternate logic paths creates resilience. Allowing multiple parallel solutions then choosing the best creates competition feedback.
Design Approach & Culture: Design organisations to devolve decision making to as low a level as possible. Leaders don’t specify grand designs – they create a framework for rapid iterative and evolutionary devolved design. Measure the performance of decisions and create opportunities to fail early. Create a culture in which innovation, and so failure, is permitted. Have parallel paths of design. Gamify to create a rewarding environment for design.
Role of Information & Big Data: Information underpins any system and may act as a throttle upon design evolution. A feedback mechanism requires information to measure the success of a particular design evolution; in nature terms this may be on a scale of thousands of years. In business we want to test ideas much more quickly. Business Intelligence and Analytics is the tool for enabling rapid feedback. Big Data means that we have greater opportunities than ever to capture and present this information.
One approach is to adopt the Biomimicry 3.8 Institute[i] ‘Design Lens’ as a structured approach for applying biomimicry thinking.
First understand why we use biomimicry as an approach. Recognise the ethos; respect for nature. We connect, which means that whilst the problems of technology or business seem far apart from nature they are not. We then emulate the principles, patterns, strategies and functions found in nature.
Life’s principles are fundamental design lessons from nature and represent the overarching patterns found amongst species that are thriving on earth. We work from here to model innovative strategies and benchmark our approach.
In addition to these I add ‘Make Motivation Consistent with Survival’; individual component elements of a system must be motivated to act in a way that is consistent with success for the complete system.
Thinking provides the where, how, what, and why. ‘Thinking’ is a methodology used in a structured workshop environment.
Following the specific steps within each phase helps ensure the successful integration of life’s strategies into innovative ideas for solving business problems.
Adopting a Biomimicry perspective, through a structured method, will help us unlock problems in unexpected ways. It is challenging to apply ideas such as feedback systems, competition, and devolved decision making. Mostly though it is a challenge to us to think differently.
In future blogs I’ll discuss emergent complexity – how complicated systems evolve from simple atomic agents following simple rules –and I’ll wonder how we can apply this to business problems.