Biomimetic file 148: “Submerged Dryness”

Why avoidance rather than confrontation is sometimes a better business alternative

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Image: Creative commons. Metal corrosion is the single most problematic issue for offshore and sub-sea developments.

Highlight: “Objects that are kept underwater eventually succumb to the inevitable decay associated with being submerged – metal rusts, wood rots… These effects could be delayed in the future by a new type of rough coating that “deflects” water…The material uses the same strategy as water-walking insects such as water striders…”

Insight: The potential for water repealing technologies are overlooked. Indeed water corrosion related damages amount in the billions every year in sectors as diverse as static (e.g. Desalination plants) or mobile (Ships) submerged systems. An effective technology that will prevent corrosion will revolutionize these sectors and provide release from an ongoing financial burden. While various innovations have been tried such as keeping surfaces electrified, the problem remains. Perhaps preventing contact of surfaces with water altogether is the solution and nature provides multiple examples of such…

The above point of avoiding contact altogether rather than finding anti-corrosion solutions due to the contact of materials with sea water is inspirational when it comes to business. Indeed, sometimes when confronted with a problem removing the cause of the problem rather than finding a compromise can be a simple solution.

Lets illustrate the above point with the following case study: A well known consulting business is doing extremely well with offices globally. A branch in Jakarta is seeing a fast growing business and the teams operating from this office have become well respected by the clients but also within the global group for their particular expertise in financial risks management. This specific team is headed by a Managing Director to develop the business while the consulting aspects fall under the leadership of a Principal to whom 10 highly experienced staffs have been assigned. One day the Principal who has been in this position for the past five years moves-on with other interests and summits his resignation; pressured to find a replacement rapidly in order to keep the heavy work load of the team alive the MD quickly hires an overseas replacement from the UK external to the company who had prior similar experiences. After about 4 months in the role the MD notices a range of raising issues ranging from poor performances, delayed deliveries and staff problems. After an investigation conducting one-on-one discussions with various team members he soon finds out the source of the problem: The new Principal despite highly qualified for the role  does not integrate with the team at all, obvious communication issues with the team combined with a cultural mismatch leadership style creates tensions. Conscious of the implications and considering the strength of the team assigned to him, the MD after consultation with the COO based in the USA decides to remove the Principal and to re-assign him to the Hong Kong office instead with assignment over a full English proficient team. Thereafter, he promotes a senior manager within the Jakarta team to take over the leadership. In this particular case the source of the problem was very clear and the solution to remove the Principal rather than finding other more complex ways to resolve the situation (e.g. providing language and local culture classes) ended up preventing a disaster.

This removal strategy can however only work under certain circumstances and the following two questions must be asked prior to action:

  • Can the problem be attributed to a single source? Often problems are the result of a combination of factors and it becomes difficult to relate to a single source.
  • If the answer to the above is yes, can the source of the problem be removed without destabilizing the situation/system? While it is sometimes possible to simply remove the source of the problem, often doing so could create instabilities or even greater problems.

Are you encountering a difficult to solve problem? If so, perhaps consider the above avoidance approach but ensure that it is in the first place possible by answering the above simple questions. If a problem can be resolved by avoidance, it is a fast and easy solution that is often simply forgotten as an option…

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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Biomimetic file 120: harvesting energy from body artery pressure!

How to capture inner-corporate power

iPSBwCdPhoto credit: Naomi Kizhner. As blood is pumped out of the left ventricle into the aorta and distributing arteries, pressure is generated.  The mean arterial pressure (MAP) is determined by the cardiac output (CO), systemic vascular resistance (SVR), and central venous pressure (CVP) according to the following relationship, which is based upon the relationship between flow, pressure and resistance: Eq. 1: MAP = (CO × SVR) + CVP

highlight: “Naomi Kizhner, an industrial designer and graduate student from Hadassah College in Jerusalem, has designed jewelry that theoretically extracts energy from the wearers own body. The ‘speculative’ jewelry is embedded into the person’s veins and uses their blood to turn small wheels inside the device… ”

Insight: I wouldn’t actually categorize this as a good example of biomimicry as it is more a combination of technology with biological systems, however the idea is very interesting and could be developed to utilize bio-mimicry principles for instance by studying artery patterns of selected species in order to maximize the efficiency.

The idea to produce energy using our own body is a fantastic one; Indeed our body generates non-negligible amounts of energy should it be through normal motion (e.g. walking or simple regular body movements) or internal organ systems. This energy is simply wasted when in fact it could be re-captured and utilized to power small devices like smart phones or even bigger machines. Sufficient energy could be produced using efficient and well designed micro-turbines connected to our arteries. Perhaps adapting the technology to make it smaller and hidden below the skin as an implant like a heart control battery could be the start of a revolution of human body powered systems?

The above point of exploiting inner body power is inspirational as a business philosophy. We often hear that employees are a corporations most valuable asset but few company’s actually seem to understand that. Indeed, employees are not only an asset to individually deliver the tasks they were employed to do but as a team, the workforce within corporation is a powerful source of innovation in itself should the direction know how to get the best out of it.

Lets illustrate the above point with the following case study: a Tech company is faced with an important problem, they are trying to reach out to a younger market for one of their latest products which translates a piece of text into an emotion (e.g. “the writer of this text is happy”) based on the analysis of punctuation, text structures and other indicators. While well received by the business sector, so far the initiative has failed to reach the youngster considered a big market. After failing to gain much insight from outsourcing strategies, the management decides to turn back to their own company and capture ideas from their many talents. The problem is thrown to the workforce as a challenge inciting employees to act as small teams (no ore than 5 people) and to provide practical solutions on how to reach the market. The response is overwhelming and over 15 teams are created. After three months the company starts judging the entries through a first round of selection based on documents submissions followed by a second round of presentations for the finalists. One of the team comes up with a great App idea that brings the system to the hands of youngsters using an appropriate display that can also be used with instant messaging applications. The team is well rewarded and the company takes the opportunity to remind the workforce of their value to the company….

Are you faced with a problem you don’t feel has reached a satisfactory solution through outsourcing? If so, perhaps consider tapping onto your own workforce as well, even if the scope does not fall within the normal operational tasks, you may be surprised of the outcome and it is a great way to connect and motivate…

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…

bluestrike logo

www.bluestrike-group.com