As a child, I always thought it is a wonder that the birds while returning to their nests, formed a V shape and flew together..
In my sustainability class, I learnt that it is actually for a reason and governed by a rule that nature operates by: Thou shall not be useless or in other words, everything has a purpose, be in a gecko’s tail or the birds’ specific formation in the sky!
The V formation actually allows the birds to be fuel efficient. And this is a principle that military aircraft use in their formation as well —
How many years have humans been on earth and now, compare that number with the time that nature, with all its diverse beings, has been around? Nature has perfected its art to a much much much ..(much multiplied by 10000)..more efficient and sustainable scale than humans have. It has refined its processes down to the tiniest detail in beings, big, small, predatory or herbivores, living or non living. It pays to work alongside nature and imitate its processes in the following three ways:
- Nature as a Model: Imitating nature’s processes for example photosynthesis à la solar energy system. Nature’s closed loop system can be replicated to design footballs that use friction to produce energy.
- Nature as a Measure: Nature knows what’s ‘right’. The righteousness depends on how it interacts within the ecosystem. Judge for yourself if a plastic bottle is the right thing given the havoc it is creating in the sensitive ecosystems.
- Nature as a Mentor: Nature is not just for extraction but valuable learnings :) Recall the 9th standard biology when we learnt about symbiosis- how the bees collect the pollen to make their honey and in turn enable seed dispersal for the plants.
In order to learn from nature, let us look at the biosphere rules:
1Energy Conservation Nature uses shortcuts to conserve and preserve energy. It’s in our wiring to choose the path of least resistance to fulfill a given goal.
2Everything has a purpose within the system
Evolution over the thousands of years has ensured that all of nature’s creations have some role to play in the grand scheme of things.
When an organism dies, nature recovers its constituents and puts them back into the production process. Nature repeatedly uses and resues these materials in its growth and development. For instance, a dead bird can be reincarnated as a tree because nature reinvents the remains into other production cycle of other high value items.
Typical anthropological systems designed by humans involves down cycling wherein the product loses its quality or performance, for example a plastic bottle is melted to make a speed bump.
There’s no concept of waste in nature. A waste for one organism is food for another. For example, eagles feed off dead remains, fishes love poultry droppings.
5Use of Parsimonious elements
Out of more than 100 elements as seen in the periodic table, nature uses just four — carbon, hydrogen, oxygen, and nitrogen — as major building blocks of all living beings.
Aristotle says, “The more perfect a nature is, the fewer means it requires for its operation.”
6Use of Platforms for Diversity
7 billion people on earth and countless other species and yet, everyone is dissimilar even though they’re made of the same blocks and share a common design. How does that happen? Nature’s design is a platform that uses long chain DNA and its power of combinations to lend diversity to nature’s creations! This DNA is responsible for production of proteins, 20 amino acids that go into the building block of living beings.
In the corporate context, Microsoft platform, that is used to build MS apps from word, PPT to media player, can be likened to this phenomenon
7Functionality by Virtue of Design
Ever seen the design of coniferous trees that are made to withstand the winter snow?
The cone shaped design withstands the snow way better than the temperate climate based trees.
Simple materials and simple rules, very few in numbers but abided by all its beings without fail. For example, birds’ V formation on their way back home.
Warren Buffet has 2 simple rules for investing:
- Never lose your investor’s money
- When in doubt read 1
Simple but binding rules make life easy!
Nature finds ways to come back to equilibrium
Nature’s systems are designed to become ordered by itself. Its collectives such as bee hives or ant colonies lead to properties that are different from the individual components of the collective. These groups typically do not have a leader and a collective behavior takes place.
11Use of Benign Processes in Manufacturing
We heat the sugar to make sugar syrup.
How does a pearl gets developed in an oyster? Happens without heating. The fake ones are built through the process of heating, beating and treating. Nature uses gentler technology to manufacture things!
A few instances of nature inspired designs
What can businesses learn from Bio Mimicry?
- Thinking in terms of verbs rather than nouns
Examples: Interface recognized the customer need to walk on the carpets and not necessarily owning them. Moreover, companies were used to sending billions of pounds of carpets to landfills after the wear and tear of even the minor parts of the whole carpet. And to address that, it launched a floor covering service rather than a seller of carpets.
a. Evergreen Lease: leasing of the floor covering services monthly with a fees
b. The damages if any are detected and replaced part wise that means the carpets were modularized and only the parts that needed tending were repaired increasing the life of the carpets
- Rethinking designs in the view of biosphere rules
When consumers also become a part in enabling supplies of inputs by way of take back programs for example
- From compliant employees to committed members of Social Networks
- Multi-disciplinary thinking
Consider the case of sea shells:
To build shells and skeletons, marine organisms extract calcium ions and carbonate ions from seawater, combining them into solid crystals of calcium carbonate that are laid down to make shells.
Now consider a hypothetical case of a factory located near a sea beach for its water supply: The pipelines that connect to the sea’s water face the issue of salt sedimentation inside of the pipe’s surfaces that overtime increases and leads to a reduced water supply per unit of energy.
How can the factory learn from sea shells that eventually stops the deposition of solid calcium carbonate crystals?
To solve such problems, a cross disciplinarian view is required and an open mindset to understanding phenomenon in systems and conceptually.