By Taryn Mead
Following my previous post, I’d like to dive deeper into the use of biomimicry within corporate innovation. Many companies that seek consultants in biomimicry “want to do biomimicry” or “be a biomimetic company” with only a cursory understanding of what this means. One way framing this conversation is to understand the sustainable innovation infrastructure of a company and how it can be leveraged for biomimetic breakthroughs.
The innovation infrastructure of a company is the processes by which new ideas make it to consumers. Add “sustainable” to that and it is the process by which new ideas that supports values of sustainability make it to consumers. After several years of consulting with companies from various sectors, I have noticed a general blurriness around internal innovation processes, making it difficult to recognize where new innovations are most possible and most likely. One of my primary goals as a biomimicry consultant is to bring some clarity and definition to a company’s sustainable innovation infrastructure where biological strategies can provide insights.
When approached with the question “How can we do biomimicry?” the team must first analyze where biomimicry can possibly play a role. By defining the scope of the problem and the potential scope of the solutions, we can have a productive conversation about what we are trying to accomplish and what limitations there are to our progress. The leverage points, as Donella Meadows put it, must be at least partially defined as a team. Is the entire team trying to solve the same problem? And if so, what are the collective goals?
It can be very helpful to visually map the options for biomimicry to move through the product development process as the engagement begins. Perhaps nature’s strategies can inform material development and selection or the form and function of a new product. Perhaps it will lead to advances in the production process or the creation of a waste-to-raw-material network with partner organizations.
Each company will have a unique pathway for assimilating biomimicry and sustainability within their existing processes and environmental criteria and it is best that is best defined at the outset of an engagement with the entire project team engaged. And at the end of the process, with new innovations in hand, team members can tell the story of the day that nature helped them see things differently.
Taryn Mead is a biologist, sustainability strategist and Certified Biomimicry Professional who has consulted with over 30 corporate, municipal and nonprofit clients using biomimicry as a tool for innovation and sustainability. She is the founder of Symbiosis, a biomimicry consultancy.