Linking long-term business success to nature’s best practices
As managing director of an ever evolving company, one of my strategic guidepost has been “will this enable our company to last 100 years?” so naturally when this TED talk popped up on my news feed I was delighted to see Mr. Reeves began to link long-term business success to life and death in nature, honing in on six principles that support life. At B3.8, we call these Life’s Principles, or nature’s best practices, and regularly reference the principles as part of our daily operations. This TED talk reinforces that biomimicry goes well beyond product design and proving to be a tremendous resource for organizational development and strategy.
Learning from birds’ songs to adapt to climate change
We need a plethora of strategies to adapt to climate change. Once again, life surprises us with new innovations. Zebra finches are singing to their eggs and the tune they choose dictates the size of the developing embryo in the egg, according to this Smithsonian Magazine article. Smaller chicks need fewer resources and cool off more easily. How can our warning calls literally result in more adapted future generations?
Frey Architekten has designed a passive housing complex based on its holistic Five Finger Principle that brings ecology, affordability, integration, innovation, and profitability into the design process. I’d like to learn more about this approach because many of the project outcomes are in alignment with an Ecological Performance Standards design mindset. According to this inhabitat article, the building will be energy efficient, will clean the surrounding air, and produce food.
Bees are among the most masterful and most efficient routemakers of the Animal Kingdom, so it make sense that one entrepreneur looked to bees to create a new software system that can help delivery companies do what they do better. According to this Fast Co. article, Routific has developed an algorithm based on bees’ navigation methods, and it’s set to help companies from UPS to a local flower delivery shops save time, money, and cut emissions.
Looking to evolutionary mechanisms to spur innovation
Most things in nature were not created for the specific use they end up performing. They get “exapted” or used for a different function. Many inventions originally had a different purpose. The process by which technologies become the building blocks for new technologies is mirrored in exaptation, and helps explain the high levels of creativity and innovation in dense, diverse social systems such as cities and large research labs. This article in Industrial and Corporate Change asks, “How do companies keep their competitive advantage in the face of technological change?”
Scientists at Penn State are developing textiles that self-heal like skin. Proteins from the sucker ring teeth of squids are incorporated into a multi-layer coating on fabrics, according to this Penn State News article. When water is applied to a tear in the fabric, the squid proteins adhere to each other, effectively “healing” the fabric, albeit with a visible scar. The squid-inspired self-healing system might also be used in other applications, such as mending underwater fiber optic cables.
Looking to extremophiles to clean up industrial processes
Organisms that thrive in extreme environments (extremophiles) offer potential new strategies for life-friendly innovations applicable in the extreme conditions of some industrial processes. One example is the ground-nesting bee, A. squammulosa, (detailed in this Bio One article) that lives just meters from the crater of the active Masaya volcano in Nicaragua where toxic sulfur dioxide (SO2) levels are 10 times higher than at Europe’s most atmospherically SO2 polluted site downwind from a copper smelting plant.
Scientists are taking a closer look at the glittering, metallic hairs of the Saharan silver ant, and they’ve found that the hairs perform multiple function to keep the ants cool in the blazing desert heat, according to this Science Friday article. The hairs are elongated prisms with alternating corrugated and flat sides that allow air flow. The hairs also reflect light–and that’s just the beginning of their fascinating beat-the-heat adaptations.
Science-based metrics crucial to climate change fight
This is the third article in a Sustainable Brands series about the need to use science-based metrics to help set our climate change goals. These articles are focused on carbon and talk about the “what” and “why” of science-based metrics. As Biomimicry 3.8 continues work with ecological performance standards (setting performance goals based on how reference habitats perform), I’m happy to see that the term science-based metrics is seeping into business language.
The enormous potential of biomimicry to solve the challenges of our modern industrial society is bolstered each time revelations of the inner workings of nature’s molecular machinery spring forth from the new tools invented by human ingenuity. One such tool, single-molecule force-spectroscopy, is detailed in this JBC paper and is revealing new secrets about the stability of folded proteins—the workhorses of all living things.
Instead of “throwing energy at the problem,” engineering researchers at the University of Cambridge are imagining future cities made of materials that mimic bone and eggshells. Laboratory reports that these researchers are testing materials prototypes for scalability.
Researchers developed a device that imitates the functionality of neurons for storing and processing data at high speeds using very little energy. Rather than storing information digitally as 0 or 1, these devices use the phase change of a material between an “amorphous” and a crystalline state, according to this Science Daily article. The artificial neurons have been shown to sustain billions of switching cycles.