Sunday, July 17, 2011

Biomimicry in the Workplace (Part 1)

I'm working with a client on some new ideas for creating a workplace to support them over the coming years. As we started thinking about concepts for creating the right environment moving forward, we looked to Biomimicry.

What is Biomimicry?
Biomimicry (from bios, meaning life, and mimesis, meaning to imitate) is a relatively new science that studies the models, systems, processes, and elements of nature, and then imitates, or takes creative inspiration from, them to solve human problems sustainably. In her 1997 book, Biomimicry: Innovation Inspired by Nature, Janine M. Benyus introduces the concept: “Our planet mates (plants, animals and microbes) have been patiently perfecting their wares for more than 3.8 billion years . . . turning rock and sea into a life friendly home. What better models could there be?”

This is the first of several posts explaining how we are looking to nature's principles (Life's Principles to be exact) to develop new ways of thinking about our workplace:

Evolve solutions, don’t plan them. As Kevin Kelly put it, "letting go, with dignity." This means, design without authorship – not the traditional process of artists and their works, but creating the right context for possibilities to emerge from. Iterative design is making multiple prototypes, user-testing them to find the favorites, then mixing and matching elements to create another generation of prototypes which are in turn user-tested, ad infinitum.

Examples from nature (and man-made structures inspired from nature):
- As the hermit crab grows, and becomes too big for it’s shell, it is susceptible to being eaten by predators. It will leave it’s shell and either find a new larger one or create a new one of it’s own. - In African villages, a young couple will build a single one-room mud hut when they marry. As they have children and money to expand their home, they build it, one room at a time. They don’t try and solve for everything at once. The village evolves naturally. Workplace implications:
- Don’t design for a particular person or particular group (they will change!)
- Think of workplace as opportunity for rapid prototyping (or rapid piloting)
- Learn from each project to create the next generation of prototypes


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"As they have children and money to expand their home, they build it, one room at a time. They don’t try and solve for everything at once. The village evolves naturally.".. Great comment.. Always walk before you can run, that goes without saying for most things in life. Expanding to quick makes no sense.

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