Biomimicry — Not all sharkskins and honeycombs
Over recent years at our Workplace Trends Conferences, we’ve been lucky enough to welcome leading lights Michael Pawlyn and later Richard James MacCowan to speak on biomimicry, as well as Bill Browning and Oliver Heath on biophilia.
They enthralled audiences with tales of how the natural world can solve human problems through design solutions (biomimicry) and by satisfying our innate need to connect with nature (biophilia).
But biomimicry is more than just the famous design solutions we hear about like the stability, aesthetics and economies of the Eden Project’s bubble raft shapes, or Sharklet Technologies printing sharkskin patterns onto adhesive film, which repels bacteria and so is ideal for installation in schools and hospitals, or harvesting water in the desert like the Stenocara Beetle.
Biomimicry casts its net wider than just design. The human race has only been here a fraction of the time that nature has. We can look to the wild world for tips and best practice on people management and leadership. Just Google and learn — from the hierarchies of wolf packs to how beehives operate and ant colonies manage themselves.
Most interestingly is that nature never throws anything away, unlike our largely linear econo my (make, use, dispose).
In a 2010 TED talk, ‘Using Nature’s Genius in Architecture’, Pawlyn illustrated a ‘close-looped system’ (circular economy) with the ‘Cardboard to Caviar Project’. Put simply, restaurant waste was turned into horse bedding, then fed to worms, which were fed to fish, whose caviar was then served at the same restaurant. Nothing is wasted, and the whole process is economically and environmentally profitable.
As well as pondering the budget sheet, we need to take a hard look at the contents of our bins at home and work. What things need never be in existence at all (over-packaging, I cry!), what might be reused, what might be properly recycled? Food for thought indeed.