The word Biomimicry is from the Greek words bio meaning life and mimesis meaning imitation and is a methodology for innovation. This approach recognises that nature is a brilliant designer, doing just what most businesses are doing, protecting themselves against the future. It is a method that has made significant impact is a number of areas including engineering, energy and product design but has yet to be applied to financial services.
What Has Biomimicry Achieved?
Most success has been in terms of design of physical products requiring efficiency. Air conditioning systems have benefitted from imitating termite mounds, turbines have been improved from adopting the design of whale fins and Velcro was famously inspired by the sticky burr. LED lights had their efficiency improved 55% after learning how jagged parts of fireflies amplified the brightness. Mercedez-Benz used a boxfish to improve aerodynamics over a decade ago. Biophilia is a related field of study asserting that working conditions are improved by emulating nature, something adopted by Transferwise in Estonia.
While biomimicry has much to say about generic organisational design ( the case of the plum tree v pyramid is worth looking up) that is not the focus and nor is the study of potential insights for macro-economics though that is likely to be my next area of research. The focus for now is the fundamental activities at the heart of financial services; transferring value, protecting assets, growing assets, managing assets, trust and identity management and risk mitigation.
How Far From The Tree To Look?
What is already emerging is the growing area of behavioural economics which can be considered as a narrow part of biomimicry which only considers homo sapiens for sources of learning. It is not surprising that the closest part of nature raises the most insights but it is in the less obvious parts that the opportunity of developing competitive advantages and there is a vast world to explore, from plants and animals to cosmology & neurology. So that’s what we’re looking for, the rarest profound connections possible.
A Fertile Area
The most promising area so far is the what the world of immunology can offer the fundamental service of protection. Digital ants have been devised to protect online systems from viruses and Mike Lynch, a government advisor on technology and security has long been recommending people to think in terms of security as like a body’s immune system rather than castle walls.
Meeting of Minds
In order for this study to progress it is necessary to create overlap between financial services experts and natural science experts so there is a Meetup event (see Fintech For Good/WeAreFintech) at 6.30pm on January 18th at Launch 22 (nr Old Street) to reveal the initial learnings and assemble a blend of minds to explore not just what insights nature has for fintech but what insights fintech may have for natural sciences.