Years before the green movement took root, I had the pleasure of seeing Janine Benyus speak about Biomimicry. I was just as inspired by her work then as I am now.
A biologist by training, Janine is a passionate proponent of using nature’s wisdom, based on billions of years of refinement, to discover “nonpolluting, energy-efficient manufacturing technologies” that can be applied to provide elegant design solutions for commercial enterprises.
In a recent article, Business Week noted that Janine was named Environmental Hero of 2007 by Time. Through a research nonprofit called Biomimicry Institute and a for-profit consulting firm called the Biomimicry Guild, Janine brings interdisciplinary groups of biologists, engineers, and designers together to uncover natural phenomenon that can be replicated in corporate and commercial applications.
As Adiel Gavish, who recently attended one of the Biomimicry Guild workshops, states in her blog “The Living Business:”
- These systems principles can especially be replicated in any business-small to multi-national, and in any industry. By unlocking the secrets of nature’s success, we can not only improve our business systems, but watch them adapt, grow and evolve like a living ecosystem or organism.
A number of big name corporations have worked with the Biomimicry Guild. A few specific examples will give you an idea of the power of this natural catalyst for innovation.
- Locusts’ ability to swarm without mid-air collisions provided Ford with the inspiration for an anti-collision system for their 2005 Volvo model.
- The abalone shell, and its way of assembling its shell, inspired IBM designers to use a similar process to develop processors using 35% less energy.
- The beak of a kingfisher became the model for the nose cone of Japan’s 500 Series Shinkansen bullet train. (See the Business Week article for illustrative comparison photos.)
Her current project, Nature’s 100 Best Technologies is a web collaboration between The Biomimicry Institute, The Biomimicry Guild, Zero Emissions Research and Initiatives, The World Conservation Union, and the United Nations Environment Program to “highlight the organisms and/or ecosystems around the world that have the greatest innovative solution potential in the areas of manufacturing, materials, health, energy, chemistry, agriculture, forestry, fisheries, building, economics, and more.” Interestingly this research focuses on organisms and environmental habitats that are in danger of extinction. The goal is to stimulate discovery and “reinvention of products, processes, and ways of living” while sparking conservation.
As these ideas gain traction in the business world, innovations are likely to happen in many areas of our economy. I encourage you to expand how you think of nature and it’s contribution to solving our current crisis. The answers are there…will we find them in time?