# Biomimetic file 212: Inductive Thinking

## How inductive thinking can lead to strategic risks reductions

Highlight: “In biomimetic or biologically inspired design, designers use analogical reasoning to compare similarities between biological phenomena and design problems, and then transfer analogous strategies to develop design solutions. Researchers observed that although several innovative solutions to engineering problems have been inspired by biological phenomena, challenges still exist in developing generalized methodologies for biomimetic design…a different inductive approach has been proposed…”

Insight: In mathematics, a type of reasoning is called “inductive”. The basics behind such rule of though is simple yet extremely powerful. Basically a typical inductive reasoning would look something like this:

• An event is true at some point in time;
• An even is still true at a further point in time;
• Because the event has been consistently true on many occasions, it is assumed that the event will continue to be true with a high probability of outcome (this probability can be assessed).

The downside of this type of reasoning is to fall within the trap of assuming that the events will always be true or in other words being overconfident. Perfect inductive reasoning while working in certain applications such as micro physics where predominant forces and little disturbances occur does not work flawlessly in our everyday world. Indeed, in business for instance a successful outcome may be replicable many times but there will  be exceptions where the outcome differs because of external disturbances (e.g. economic fluctuations, accidents, unforeseen events…). Noting the above such mathematical reasoning framework is still inspirational when forging business strategies because:

• If an event is replicable it is worth noticing and adjusting policies based on this high probability of outcome to improve processes;
• Knowing the probability of success will help forge stronger strategies and manage the risks;

We all use inductive thinking once in a while without being conscious of it. For instance every time we take a plane there is a very small probability that something may happen, yet most of us are willing to take the risks knowing that:

• This plane/company/aircraft type has been flying for x period of time;
• So far nothing has ever happen to this fleet;
• Based on the large number of flights without incidents there is a high probability that nothing will happen on my flight…
• Therefore, I’m willing to take the risk.

Are you facing difficult decisions that may have outcomes involving a long history? If so, remember to assess the probability of success based on historical records and take decisions after you know the probability of outcome…

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 or natural systems 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…

http://www.bluestrike-group.com/

# Biomimetic file 211: Relativity

## How our position in relation to a business affects our views of it

Albert Einstein’s general theory of relativity* is one of the towering achievements of 20th-century physics. Published in 1916, it explains that what we perceive as the force of gravity in fact arises from the curvature of space and time…

Highlight: “Quantum biomimetics consists of reproducing in quantum systems certain properties exclusive to living organisms…. Researchers at University of the Basque Country have imitated natural selection, learning and memory in a new study. The mechanisms developed could give quantum computation a boost and facilitate the learning process in machines…”

Insight: Relativity is actually an interesting inspiration for business. Indeed, where we stand: whether we are a potential customer of business services or products, a shareholder, a stakeholder, an employee or an executive of a given company would alter how we perceive that particular business.

Often people may like using a specific product which improves their lives and makes them happy but they do not know or do not which to know how this product is actually made. In certain cases knowing the latest would certainly alter if not reverse the perception that people have had of that product. Some obvious examples would include many food related items (e.g. processed meat) or electronics (e.g. the human sacrifices in production chains)…

Another point to make is that people who work within an organisation have a different perception than the general opinions perceived by the external stakeholders (which can be better or worst). Typical cases would include companies which are portrayed as “best places to work” and which in term may not necessarily turn out to be true once experienced from the inside (note worthy is that often such statements are true in a specific location such as the corporate headquarters but not necessarily the case in overseas offices which often struggle to replicate the culture and standards) or vice versa companies which may have been portrayed as “evil” by the stakeholders but which are actually decent places to work. All in all perceptions are relative and clichés should be taken cautiously and left to personal judgement…

Lets illustrate the above point with the following case study: George, a teenager, has been a big fan of his mobile phone brand for many years. One day his school organises a competition to which the winner would get to go overseas visit the actual manufacturing site, all costs paid by the company. Very exited at the prospect of visiting his favourite mobile brand’s facilities, this student studies extra hard and ends up winning the challenge. Soon after he travels to China and gets a warm welcome and several guided visits of the facilities. At first everything is as he expected: huge scale productions, state of the art engineering, modern facilities; George is really impressed and he even gets to make friend with one of the production line manager, Chen, during his lunch brake. Before his departure Chen invites George to have dinner with his family in a nearby modest suburb. After a friendly meal, he starts to tell George a different side of the story: that many members of his family who have worked in this company have perished of lung cancer because they have long been asked to handle heavy metals without adequate protections; that employees live in desperate conditions and are barely paid the minimum wage. He even tells that not so long ago the company employed many under-aged children in its production lines but were recently forced to comply due to law reinforcements in the country. He tells George that people in his country enjoy the products they make but that none of the products are intended for them; he caries on explaining that people simply do not know the truth about the poor management of this company when it comes to its workforce. Greatly saddened by what he has heard, George returns home and starts telling his entourage of his experience and Chen, he tells them that if he had not met Chen he would have remained uninformed and would continue to praise this company. Since then, George has stopped using this brand and has convinced many others to do so too…

Do you have an opinion about a product or a company that you have gained from  common perceptions? If so, perhaps take a step back and dig a bit more, this may alter your perception either positively or negatively…

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 or natural systems 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…

http://www.bluestrike-group.com/

# Biomimetic file 195: The Great Migrations

Image Source: BirdLife International

Highlight: “Nowadays, stress has become an integral part of our day-to-day life and hence everyone of us has to face it in one way or another. The stress is created by various factors known as stressors… They may be, environmental, physiological, social or cognitive…A critical study of the behaviors of some long-migrating birds provides some basic principles involved in the successful management of stress… Researchers have identified the basic principles as: 1. Principle of avoidance, 2. Principle of adaptation and 3. Principle of acceptance…”

Insight: Many species live a nomadic lifestyle constantly adapting to changing environments and moving with resources availability. In a similar way, businesses will increasingly be required to be mobile and adaptable in order to keep-up with the dynamic and unpredictable nature of the global economic landscape.

The traditional business settings which have prevailed most of the 20th century are becoming obsolete. That is the type of businesses with well established and preset employee behaviors as well as expensive fixed facilities and office spaces. Instead, the new leaders are quickly arising as enterprises with a mobile workforce and open mindset on employees geography and work arrangements.

There are many roles out there (especially anything to do with some type of consulting) which only require employees to hold a laptop computer and be constantly on the move and available. After all we live in the era of long distance communications where many new options have become possible and efficient. All is required is strong self discipline and trust between employers and employees.

A simple yet robust framework can be set:

1. Set up a client work plan involving clear deliverables and deadlines;
2. Always submit work on time and within the expected standards (or else be subject to disciplinary actions: a) a verbal warning, b) a written warning c) dismissal from the company);
3. Make yourself available for face to face meetings when required and given a reasonable notice;
4. Keep people you need in the loop (e.g. your employer/clients) on communications such as email exchanges ;
5. all others, up to you and following a “that is not my problem” mindset, whether the work is done in a library, at the beach, at a cafe or from home, as long as rule 2 is stringently met…

Too many companies (including large corporations) have gotten their priorities wrong still strongly stuck with hold fashion concepts such as the belief that staying in an office from 8am to 6pm daily is synonymous with productivity (this is especially apparent in Asia) ! A number of successful startups are already applying “new age”  frameworks but few if any have really applied the concept to its full potential. An obvious limitation is that many people still require the comfort of an office or are in desperate need of social interactions; so offering a choice to talented employees between a small smart office setting or a fully flexible work plan is still advised.

Are you planning to set up a business? If so perhaps consider a next generation business model described above, you may be surprised of the outcome. However in the end, regardless of new or old business models, success comes down to the trust (it can only be confirmed with time) you put in the people you hire and their ability to deliver; make smart choices..

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 or natural systems 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…

http://www.bluestrike-group.com/

# Biomimetic file 193: Leapfrogging

## How innovation increments management is crucial to keeping a competitive edge

Image source: pinterest.com

Highlight: “To improve the maneuverability and agility of jumping robots, several researchers have studied steerable jumping mechanisms…This steering ability enables robots to reach a particular target by controlling their jumping direction… The key design principles were adopted from the frog-hopper’s power-producing hind legs and the moment cancellation accomplished by synchronized leg operation…”

Insight: Frogs are known for their ability to move by making significant jumps. Unlike many species which would use a more energy saving linear type of motion, frogs focus their energy on a few but distance covering moves to secure their escape from preys.

This type of leaping motion is inspirational and can be applied to business innovation strategies. Indeed, the need to innovate is a constant battle for corporations that need to keep themselves ahead of the competition. There are three possible options: to make regular small improvements to their existing products (the most commonly seen), to make very significant improvements (or even provide a completely new approach) but at less regular intervals or sometimes a mix of the two.

The reality is that true innovations can only come from significant leapfrogging improvements which in terms push others to top-up their games. Game changers are less common and industrial wars through practices such as reverse engineering are all too common leading to the small increments (low innovation) model that we observe in the market place.

Are you planning to release an upgrade? If so, perhaps think of your strategic objective; if the idea is only to keep yourself competitive and follow the flow, than choose the small increments strategy. However, if you intend to be a game changer go towards the leapfrogging alternative. Noteworthy is that revolutionary improvements are also associated with a significantly higher risk factor as they will disrupt and possibly confuse the consumers as opposed to the much safer small increments strategy which appeals to an already convinced customer pool…

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 or natural systems 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…

http://www.bluestrike-group.com/

# Biomimetic file 191: the art of attraction

## How familiarity and likeness are key attributes to business marketing strategies

Image source: Scienceline. Attraction*: the action or power of evoking interest in or liking for someone or something

Highlight: “Carnivorous plants, among them tropical pitcher plants (Nepenthes spp.), have always fascinated people due to their remarkable ability to attract* and feed on animals…these plants are now used as model systems for various biomimetic applications…a current cooperative project between the Zoological Institute at the Kiel University and the Institute of Chemistry of New Materials at the University of Osnabrueck aims at the development of hierarchical anti-adhesive materials by mimicking the slippery zone in N. alata pitchers…”

Insight: An interesting aspect of carnivorous plants is their remarkable ability to attract animal prays despite their obvious disadvantage of being mostly static as opposed to their highly mobile prays. It appears that one key strategy besides having developed various ingenious physiological traps is the art to attract prays in the first place. For instance certain species make use of sugary solutions to attract such substance loving insects…

These species adaptations offer an inspiration for business marketing strategies. Indeed, in order to attract customers a proven successful strategy is to develop products that have an obvious similarity (or clearly assimilates) to something which people are already known to like and be familiar with. As a matter of fact the reference to specific species or wildlife traits is omnipresent in products marketing and branding campaigns such as various luxury car brands built on fast and powerful animals…

Are you planning to launch a new product? If so, perhaps ensuring that it reflects obvious similarities to something that people straight away recognize and like could give a significant hedge over the competition. It appears to be basic customer psychology that in order to attract one must first inspire confidence and likeness; products that are “too innovative” and drive a sense of confusion rarely succeed…

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 or natural systems 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…

http://www.bluestrike-group.com/

# Biomimetic file 190: Polarized vision

## How perception can drastically influence business decisions

Image source:  Electron microscopic view of the eye of a fly; pinterest.com

Highlight: “Many organisms have photosensitive sensors which enable them to respond to various light phenomenons…while most insects are sensitive to a particular occurrence of polarization, most primates are not…a team of researchers have gained inspiration from studying these natural sensors to develop a range of simple instruments that make possible to reveal what was previously hidden…”

Insight: Species in the animal kingdom perceive the world very differently than we do. Indeed, almost all the spectrum of light radiations is represented and species have developed very specialized eyes or other reception organs in order to perceive the world in the most favorable way possible (mostly for hunting prays and avoidance).

As a matter of fact our vision of the world is rather restricted since we only have access to a small part of the spectrum in the visible light range. Gaining access to other parts of the spectrum such as the UV, Infrared or Microwaves can reveal very different and useful aspects of the world that surround us; think of the tremendous progresses which have been made in fields such as astronomy or medicine…

Image: Spectrum of light. The visible light range to which we humans have access is only a very small portion of it…

An applied business point to make here is that most people only see the outside of corporations, what they want you to see. But digging further and looking at them with a “different eye” starts to reveal the true colors of enterprises. Aspects such as their operations, their impacts on the world and society, the way they deal with their finances, all these and more tell a lot about a company and most importantly its fitness in the current and future business landscape.

Do you intend to invest in a business or perhaps just buy a stock? If so perhaps remember to look at it with various pairs of eyes…

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 or natural systems 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…

http://www.bluestrike-group.com/

# Biomimetic file 189: Lifeline Reserves

## How being financially prepared can be crucial to businesses in times of need

Image source: Honeypot ant, strangeanimals.info

Highlight: “Many insects, notably honey bees and some wasps, collect and store liquid food for use at a later date. However, these insects store their food within their nest or in combs… Honey ants are unique in using their own bodies as living storage, used later by their fellow ants when food is otherwise scarce… When the liquid stored inside a honeypot ant is needed, the worker ants stroke the antennae of the honeypot ant, causing the honeypot ant to regurgitate the stored liquid from its crop…”

Insight: While it is common sense that businesses should put money on the side for times of difficulties (like individuals should), the preparation is often obviously not enough.  Indeed, it has become almost common practice, especially for large corporations, to deal with financial difficulties in the easiest way possible: through moderate and sometimes massive manpower cuts. This practice is commonly simply the result of failure to anticipate business slowdowns which are in fact inevitable.

While it is sometimes indeed inevitable to lay people off in order to keep the business afloat, the practice is exaggerated and often unjustified. A common excuse sounds something like: “we are worth billions in assets but we don’t have enough cash flow right now to pay salaries!”. What businesses should do instead is perhaps to set aside special accounts with high interest rates to prepare specifically  for times of economic slow down; that is readily available cash money on the side (not only assets such as properties that take time to liquidate).

With such simple measure in place it becomes much easier to absorb economic difficulties while maintaining the workforce through a financial storm which usually only last a matter of months. Also worth highlighting is the fact that the damages resulting from manpower losses verses financial savings gained from manpower cuts is often underestimated as corporations often struggle to recover and need to reinvest heavily in hiring and training of new staff; not to forget the damages induced to the brand.

Do you fear for your workforce future? If so perhaps consider setting up special manpower bumper accounts as a lifeline for the workforce…

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 or natural systems 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…

http://www.bluestrike-group.com/

# Biomimetic file 188: Dormant Processes

## How seemingly useless initiatives can be dormant powerful assets

Picture source: University of Washington

Highlight:“Scientists from the University of New South Wales (UNSW) in Australia have used a world-first technique to change a single letter of DNA in human red blood cells, triggering them to produce more oxygen-carrying haemoglobin…The technique could lead to new treatments for sickle cell anaemia and other life-threatening blood disorders…it has been done through an innovative process that activates a naturally occurring gene that’s normally dormant after birth…”

Insight: A large part of the genetic code is apparently useless! At least this is the conclusion that some geneticists come up with considering the fact that most of the genome does not code for anything we have been able to identify yet (e.g. morphological traits, immune response…). The most serious hypothesis on the matter suggest that nothing is in fact useless but that a large part of our DNA is composed of so called dormant genes which would only come into action at a certain point in our lifetime, for emergencies or for very specific tasks that may never come to use…

This concept is rather interesting and inspiring when applied to the business world. Indeed, in war as in business, the best strategists have always been the ones who think out of the box and seemingly do things that don’t make any sense to most until it actually turns out to be a winning formula.

Similar oddities can also be seen in modern business mega-trends, such as some corporate sustainability practices, which raise many questions on whether they are useful at all to a business considering that they may not have clear positive returns. The point to make here is that if everything in a business has a clear purpose as intended by some, than perhaps this entity is not suited enough to anticipate rapid changes that could differ drastically from the norm. Indeed, besides key business objectives, there should always be dormant processes which may become a lifeline in times of need (this is especially true for large organizations).

Anticipation through dormant processes is in fact the best back-up plan a business can have. Considering regular business failures materialized by massive manpower cuts as an easy response, it is obvious that  many businesses do not have adequate dormant processes to cope with change…

Have you ever come across business practices which don’t seem to make any sense? If so beware of jumping to conclusions as in due time you may simply regret not to have done the same…

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 or natural systems 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…

http://www.bluestrike-group.com/

# Biomimetic file 186: Tubular Micro-motors, Spermbots

## How to manage uncontrollable business processes

Image source: American Chemistry Society. Control*: the power to influence or direct people’s behaviour or the course of events.

Highlight:“Recently, a new generation of tubular micro-motors was invented by harnessing motile spermatozoa as propulsion force for rolled-up micro-tubes (Spermbots)…motile bovine spermatozoa are trapped inside 50-μm-long micro-tubes that have a diameter that is slightly larger than the head of the sperm cell…The flagellum serves as driving force that propels the micro-tube forward…Since the micro-tube consists of iron nano-membranes, it can be steered externally by magnetic fields…”

Insight: The organized processes that surround uncontrollable randomness in the reproductive cycle are an inspirational business philosophy:

As in life processes, there are areas of businesses operations which are controllable* and others which are simply not. Indeed, there is a difference between complex and chaotic in that the latest is uncontrollable. Some typical uncontrollable aspects affecting businesses would include the global economy fluctuations, weather related events, strikes, road traffic, various accidents, natural hazards, terrorism…

Yet being uncontrollable in itself does not mean that it cannot be managed. The only way to manage the uncontrollable is to accept in the first place the fact that certain things are simply beyond influence. Businesses which ignore uncontrollable parameters without adequate planning integration put themselves in danger because these aspects are associated with significantly greater risks…

By accepting this very fact, a business can more effectively focus on other controllable aspects but also work towards building risk management procedures surrounding the uncontrollable. In other words the trick is to treat the uncontrollable as a risk in order to apply risk management procedures that are to be incorporated in an overall management strategy.

It sounds simple but it is actually quite tricky and many corporations simply haven’t gained a clear map of where their uncontrollable aspects are. Do you have control?

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 or natural systems 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…

http://www.bluestrike-group.com/

# Biomimetic file 184: Surface Tension

## How to overcome obstacles with minimal risks

Image source: Seoul National University. Surface tension*: The cohesive forces among liquid molecules are responsible for this phenomenon. In the bulk of the liquid, each molecule is pulled equally in every direction by neighboring liquid molecules, resulting in a net force of zero.

Highlight: “a group of engineers, led by a researcher at the Seoul National University, have just created a machine that can jump on water…the engineers studied the mechanics behind the Water Strider, an insect that can easily jump upwards from a pond. It’s an ability that’s poorly understood in insects in general…The trick, according to an analysis of a high-speed film of Water Striders, is to push down on the water with the maximum velocity that the surface tension can take. The further the insect’s leg pushes down, the greater the surface tension that builds under the leg and the better the upward jump. But if the leg pushes too far, the meniscus—the curved water surface—can’t take it and gives way, allowing the leg to sink…it’s necessary to find the optimal balance: push down hard enough to make maximum use of the surface tension, but not so hard that you rupture it…”

Insight: The water tension analogy is an inspiring business philosophy: The faster an obstacle tries to break the water surface the more difficult it is to go through it; as a matter of fact hitting water at high speeds is similar to trying to go through a concrete wall and a guarantied catastrophic outcome.

Is there something blocking you from moving ahead? If so, perhaps consider a slower well-thought pass-through rather than trying to rush. A slower path is often associated with significantly lesser risks than fast aggressive actions. However, rushing through is always an option and sometimes succeeds (not without risks);

The point to retain here is that if one goes too fast, beyond a certain threshold point, than the failure rate increases sharply…

Diagram: Economic models follow similar trends: if you try to go too fast in trying to reach the financial break-even point by pushing aspects such as initial cost benchmark, the sales are likely to collapse. It is all about finding the right balance between time and cost…

The adequate planning of the completion speed of any project (time management) is crucially important in its success rate. It can be really tricky to find the right balance that will keep a project on the track of a successful completion. The reality is that in life some situations are subject to risk taking while avoidance is the norm. Which path would you choose?