Organisational creativity exercise
Brief description of creativity technique
Bionics is a technique that tries to solve difficult technical problems and challenges by taking advantage of the knowledge of nature and biology. Bionics is much more than a method; it is also often referred to as an independent interdisciplinary science. In bionics, biological processes are directly transferred to a given problem and completely new possible solutions are derived. Bionics (also known as biomimicry, biomimetics or biomimesis) deals with the transfer of phenomena from nature to technology.
Exercise for skills at the level of:
Learning objectives of the exercise
Through this technique students will be able to apply principles that are found in nature to the process of creative thinking. The goal is to introduce a set of tools and core concepts that can help problem-solvers from any discipline begin to incorporate insights from nature into their solutions in order to learn how to create products, processes, and systems that solve our greatest design challenges sustainably and in solidarity with all life on earth.
Skills developed/enhanced by the exercise
In person: 2-3 hours (may vary)
Online: 2-3 hours (may vary)
How many people are needed?
One, or more
In person: sketch paper and/or camera, pencil, journal, template, PowerPoint, internet access, access to nature
Online: PowerPoint, internet access, devices, template, and students will use sketch paper and/or camera, and possible access to nature on their own or as homework
Instructions for conducting the exercise
Step 1: Introduce the concepts of biomimicry with examples from nature and its application to day-to-day problems
Step 2: Identify a problem or assign a challenge that needs resolving
Step 3: Biologize the question (What are nature’s best ways of solving the function?)
Step 4: Find natures best practices: Use observation skills, research, field trips, technology like microscopes or magnifying glasses, etc. Take notes on how the organism(s) observed accomplishes the goal of the function chosen and answer the question previously asked.
Step 5: Generate ideas: Using what you have learned from investigations, what new product ideas can you think of? Draw/design your ideas – use the materials provided. Explain how your product addresses the following criteria:
- Energy efficiency
- Production costs (cut material costs)
- Redefine and eliminate waste
Step 6: have a discussion with students based on the following three reflection questions:
- How does form impact function (and the reverse) in nature?
- How has nature, through evolution, created adaptations that are most suited for their environment?
- Why should we look to nature for models in our own design processes to solve human problems?
Case study from desk research
Beetle = water collection
The Stenocara beetle is a master water collector. This small black bug lives in a harsh, dry desert environment and can survive thanks to the unique design of its shell. The Stenocara’s back is covered in small, smooth bumps that serve as collection points for condensed water or mist. The entire shell is covered in a slick, Teflon-like wax and has channels, so that condensed water from morning dew is funneled into the beetle’s mouth. It’s brilliant in its simplicity. Researchers at MIT have been able to build on a concept inspired by the Stenocara’s shell first described by Oxford University’s Andrew Parker. They have crafted a material that collects water from the air more efficiently than existing designs. About 22 countries around the world use nets to collect water from the air, so such a boost in efficiency could have a big impact.
Birds = jets
Birds can boost the distance they’re able to fly by more than 70% though the use of V-shaped formations. Scientists have discovered that when a flock adopts the familiar V formation, when one bird flaps its wings, it creates a small updraft that lifts the bird behind. As each bird passes, they add their own energy to the stroke, helping all birds maintain flight. By rotating their order through the stack, they spread out the exertion. A group of researchers at Stanford University think that passenger airlines could realize fuel savings by adopting the same tactic. The team, lead by Professor Ilan Kroo, envisions scenarios where jets from West Coast airports meet up and fly in formation en route to their East Coast destinations. By traveling in a V shape, with planes taking turns in front as birds do, Kroo and his researchers think aircraft could use 15% less fuel compared with flying solo.