Apr06

Want to build an organization that lasts? Create a superorganism.

photo-1430933964450-0aefb85717c8
By Tamsin Woolley-Barker, PhD

For the past 25 years, I’ve studied everything from baboon cooperation in Ethiopia and orca whale innovation in the Bering Sea, to the Argentine ant invasion in my kitchen, and my colleagues at work (not nearly as interesting!), all through an evolutionary lens.

Today, I use that lens to help companies evolve.

I’m a Biomimicry Professional, and a Biologist at the Design Table, and the teams I work with develop biologically-inspired solutions for a Global 500 clientele. We search for the technologies that make life—and business—go.

As an evolutionary biologist, a businessperson, and a biomimic, I’m always looking for the deep patterns in life, trying to find out what lasts. And here’s one thing I know is true:
Organizations can’t keep growing the way we structure them today.

It’s simple math. Like dinosaurs, organizations keep getting bigger, but they need huge bones to support the weight of all that complexity. The more weight, the more bones; the more bones, the more weight. It’s a catch-22. Management is the ponderous skeleton that keeps organizations from collapse. But as they grow, the costs of management rise, and the ability to adapt declines. When sudden change comes, there’s not much a company can do—it’s a sitting duck (or dinosaur) for the next cosmic collision. Hierarchies can only scale so much—we can’t grow bigger bones forever.

There’s nothing inherently wrong with hierarchies. In fact, nature uses them all the time—to stop change from happening. Scientists tell us that cells go rogue in our bodies every day, but a hierarchical system usually stops those cancers from growing. Hierarchies are important and useful. But they aren’t the right structures for adapting to change, and they inherently limit growth.

Change is coming—with shifting supply chains and customer needs, upstart competitors and technologies, resource scarcity and volatile prices, change is sudden, unexpected, and potentially calamitous. Multinationals span many divisions and fractured market segments, their teams cross cultures, languages, time zones, and governments. All of it held together by management. Between technological advances and social revolutions, climate change and peak everything, companies inhabit an unpredictable world of their own making. They are bound to topple and fall.

Meanwhile, they have a mandate to maximize shareholder return. Companies that are beholden to this short-sighted maxim require infinite growth. What happens when they hit the limit? Something has to give.

As an evolutionary biologist, I find myself asking—who inherited the Earth in the dinosaurs’ place?

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Oct10

Urban mobility reloaded: Planning our future cities

Subway_System

By Dr. Arndt Pechstein

Our cities are constantly growing and an ever-rising number of people live on a very small fraction of the world’s surface area. By 2050, about 70% of the world’s population is expected to live in urban areas. Half of the population of Asia alone is predicted to live in cities by 2020. Over 60% of the land projected to become urban by 2030 remains yet to be built. Mobility no longer remains an optional luxury for an elite but has transformed into a non-negotiable to participate in society. Consequently, smart mobility solutions are gaining importance. How do we tackle such a challenge of global dimension? How do we serve people’s needs for mobility while simultaneously sacrificing neither biodiversity and environmental values nor human health and well-being?

The light bulb was not invented by improving the candle.”

Urban mobility Dr. Arndt Pechstein

Reinventing the wheel

Despite our pride of having invented the wheel (which is, by the way, not entirely true given that the golden wheel spider has been using wheel motion for millions of years before us) humans are not the only species tackling mobility challenges. In fact, mobility is an inherent phenomenon shared by all living systems. Everything alive moves, from cells to organisms to entire ecosystems. Over billions of years, organisms and systems have evolved to be remarkably adaptive to their surroundings with regard to transport, mobility, and logistics.

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May22

Top 5 reasons why you should be at SXSW Eco this October!

EcoLightGarden-AaronRogosin-Bigtop

The Biomimicry Institute, Biomimicry 3.8, and members of the Biomimicry Global Network are joining forces with SXSW Eco to curate a brand-new conference track, focused on nature-inspired ideas, designs and technologies.

Nature, Innovation, and the Future of Design, will explore the intercepts of science, technology and design that are inspired, mentored, and measured by the standards of our natural world.

Playtime at SXSW Eco Light Garden, 2014

If you are in the social innovation and regenerative design space, then this track is where you will meet other social innovators, entrepreneurs and cutting edge leaders thinking about how we can re-align our companies, cities, products, policies and business practices with those of the natural world.

“Creating that marketplace for exchange of ideas and progressive thinking is what South by Southwest Eco is all about.”
Forbes

Here are the top 5 reasons why you should be at SXSW Eco this year:

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Apr24

Call for Proposals! Biomimicry at SXSW Eco This October

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Calling all nature-inspired innovators! The Biomimicry Institute is teaming up with SXSW Eco this year to present a special biomimicry track entitled “Nature, Innovation, and the Future of Design.” And their call for proposals is now open!

SXSW Eco - a party in a conference setting.

SXSW Eco – a party in a conference setting.

 

SXSW Eco, “creates a space for business leaders, investors, innovators and designers to drive economic, environmental and social change”. Their annual conference which follows SXSW Interactive, attended by over 30,000 per year, “celebrates innovation in technology and design that positively impacts the economy, environment and society”.

“Creating that marketplace for exchange of ideas and progressive thinking is what South by Southwest Eco is all about.” – Forbes

This partnership will help to shepherd biomimicry into mainstream culture and allows for the pollination of cross-sector, cross-industry collaboration within an annual gathering focused on innovation for good.

Interactive playtime at SXSW Eco 2014.

Interactive playtime at SXSW Eco 2014.

The goal of this biomimicry track is to inspire and create bridges beyond a very close-knit biomimicry community. With 7 hours of programming, the conference track focuses on finding the most unique 60 or 90 minute sessions that are interactive, engage the audience and will leave attendees wanting to not only learn more, but take that next step in creating partnerships, collaborating, and bringing biomimicry to the world.

Special Biomimicry Track Themes

  1. Nature’s Hidden Patterns: the patterns and processes that are always there, but elude the human eye (rapid fire presentations) – also open to poster displays during lunch hour
  2. New Insights & Discoveries: learning from related fields and science visualization
  3. Business as Nature: new models of decision making tools
  4. Beyond Biophilic Cities: solutions rooted in genius of place (a series of rapid fire presentations)
  5. This slot is reserved for submissions that do not fit into the above, but are a crowd favorite.
SXSW Eco 2014 welcome party.

SXSW Eco 2014 welcome party.

How to Submit Your Proposal

Because SXSW Eco utilizes a unique crowd-sourced system, each submission must go through their Panel Picker process.

The Biomimicry Institute will post additional information and submission guidelines shortly, so keep checking their page for more info.

In the meantime, if you have questions, please contact Adiel Gavish or Kathy Zarsky.

 

Re-printed from the Biomimicry Institute. Photo credit: Aaron Rogosin
Mar26

Tapping into Nature: Launch Event

TAPPING INTO NATURE: THE FUTURE OF ENERGY, INNOVATION AND BUSINESS

Bio-Beers Event BiomimicryNYC + Terrapin Bright Green

TAPPING INTO NATURE: THE FUTURE OF ENERGY, INNOVATION AND BUSINESS

Join us for a special Bio-Beers event celebrating the release of Terrapin Bright Green’s newest white paper on bioinspired innovation.

Monday, April 13th, 2015
6:30 to 8:30 pm
Pier A Harbor House, the Loft Space

22 Battery Place
New York, NY 10280

Enjoy gorgeous views of the Hudson River from the Loft Space of the Harbor House while mingling with like-minded professionals and enjoying light hors d’oeuvres.

The evening will feature a brief introduction to the paper by the coauthors. Terrapin will also provide a limited number of printed copies of Tapping into Nature  for attendees.

This event continues BiomimicryNYC’s BioBeers network building series and is co-sponsored with Terrapin Bright Green and the Open Space Institute.

Eventbrite - Tapping Into Nature: Launch Event

Mar23

Biomimicry Track at SXSW Eco 2015

Nature Innovates

Mark your calendars for October 5-7, 2015 in Austin, Texas!

The Biomimicry Institute and members of the Biomimicry Global Network are joining forces with SXSW Eco to curate a brand-new biomimicry track at the SXSW Eco conference in October 2015.

This track, called Nature, Innovation, and the Future of Design, will explore the intersections of science, technology and design that are inspired, mentored, and measured by the standards of our natural world.

In addition to the biomimicry track, the Biomimicry Institute will offer a series of pre-conference workshops for educators, and networking opportunities for biomimicry practitioners and enthusiasts. More info to follow soon!

Find more information about the SXSW Eco conference here.

Re-posted via the Biomimicry Institute.
Mar13

Biomimicry in Your Pajamas! 7 Free Webinars for Social Innovators

Food Challenge webinars

The Biomimicry Institute is offering a series of 7 webinars, free and open to the public, focusing on how to apply biomimicry and nature’s regenerative patterns to solve global food system challenges.

The webinars are being offered as support for social innovators, entrepreneurs and those passionate about changing the world, who are participating in the annual Biomimicry Global Design Challenge, a competition sponsored by the Ray C. Anderson Foundation which will award $100,000 to the Challenge winners through their “Ray of Hope” prize.

March 17 and 18 webinar_Johnson

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Jan08

Crafting the Ultimate Post-Industrial Design Brief Using Biomimicry

Janine Benyus Paul Hawken at VERGE 2014

By Adiel Gavish

“What the industrial age has done is take life away from the planet and turn it into goods and services,” Paul Hawken stated at the 2014 VERGE Conference in San Francisco this past December. The annual event put on by Joel Makower, a former Biomimicry 3.8 Board Member and GreenBiz.com brings corporations and entrepreneurs together around the convergence of energy, buildings and transportation technologies which will “…enable radical efficiencies and huge opportunities.”

Mr. Makower interviewed both Janine Benyus and Paul Hawken around the idea of “running the industrial age backwards” and how nature can teach us how to undo the damage caused by unraveling the fabric of Earth’s balanced resources.

According to Paul Hawken the Industrial Age essentially takes “…concentrated materials, primarily from the lithosphere and from the biosphere and disperses them everywhere on the planet: in the oceans, in our atmosphere, in our air, lungs and everywhere else.”

He continued, “What we know from biomimicry, and looking at how life works is that, what nature does is, concentrate … What we’re talking about is technologies that imitate nature in the sense that they re-concentrate what the industrial age dispersed into our water, our soil, etc.,” and in a way that is beneficial to the planet, as opposed to degrading.

Janine explained, “In the natural world, what’s abundant is golden … life is really good at concentrating photons, grabbing fog and humidity out of the air, or collecting phosphor,” for example. Benyus then outlined the ultimate nature-inspired design brief for essentially any product in a post industrial era, in order to undo the damage already caused.

“It has to be made out of local, abundant, non-toxic, raw material,” she said, “cheap, and available everywhere. You’ve got to be able to recruit those materials at the end of their life. It has to be able to be repaired or self-healing, or so ubiquitous that it can be replaced easily … I think it’s very important that it’s built to shape – it can be made on a printing press. And that’s another reason why I’m excited about additive manufacturing and 3-D printing. If we get it right and use truly local, raw materials, we build them to shape. We add structure that we find from the natural world – because that’s what life does with fairly simple, raw materials.

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