Biomimetic file 163: machinery in nature

Why doubting ones creativity is increasingly a necessity

machinery in naturePicture source: Malcolm Burrows. A part of the physiology of the legs of Issus insects look exactly like a mechanical gear that one would see in rotating machinery.

Highlight: “The practice of engineering items based on forms found in nature (biomimetics) has been ongoing- it is however less common to discover things in nature that were thought to be human invention. Some insects look like living machinery, as their joints look more like something manufactured by man…Recently it was discovered that the Issus, a small plant hopping insect, has a biological gear. This is the first time anyone has discovered a natural gear…The Issus is only 2 mm long and when it jumps it reaches forces of 400 g’s, which is about 20 times the maximum a human can endure…”

Insight: Real innovations are rather rare nowadays. It is quite common in modern society to come with an idea and to think it is new when in fact it has already been thought of. Often successful products or services are not based on new findings, it is just that they have succeeded in exploiting an existing concept to fit with current societal needs. We should not confuse concepts with concepts engineering…

A good and very common example has to do with naming newly set companies or products. As an illustration lets imagine that a marketing team of an American shoe company meets up to discuss the name of their new product: “The Cheetah”. All agree that it is a great name that perfectly portrays their product colors, looks and functions and that the association with speed will appeal to the sport consumers. Very proud of their creation, the team manager jumps out of the office to inform the Chief Marketing Officer which happens to be meeting with the CEO. Busy with production issues the two quickly agree to launch the campaign assuming that standard product launch procedures were followed. Little did the CMO know that the team did not do their due diligence well enough in researching similarities with global competitors and unfortunately It appears that a small startup company in Kenya had released a sport shoe with the same name 6 months earlier and that the brand was spreading fast on the African market. It did not take long for this African company to come across the marketing campaign of the American product and notice the odd similarity. Jumping on the occasion, the African company lawyers file a case of copyright infringement which they win without much difficulties. This error ends up costing the American company USD150 millions in settlement…

Remember that we live in an increasingly “flat”world with a population of 7 billion individuals or so. Keeping this in mind, the likelihood of someone having thought of the same thing, no matter what the matter, is actually quite high…

Have you come up with great ideas/concepts recently? If so, perhaps do not rush too fast in claiming your creativity and take the time to do a proper background check to see potential similarities or even an exact match. This simple exercise may save you a lot of troubles at a later stage…

More information: here

What is Biomimetics: the field of gaining inspiration from nature first to solve some of our most difficult challenges. Instead of coming up with our own solutions to a problematic, the odds are that species on the planet already offer an ultimate solution. This simple fact is also another strong case to preserve species at all cost as the intellectual heritage contained within or through the study of species is both irreplaceable and invaluable…

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