Jakki Mohr, University of Montana – Harnessing the Power of Biomimicry for Transformative Innovation

On University of Montana Week:  We have a lot to learn from nature.

Jakki Mohr, regents professor of marketing, describes one way to do so.

Dr. Jakki Mohr is the Regents Professor of Marketing and the Poe Family Distinguished Faculty Fellow at the University of Montana. Her research focuses on challenges companies face in both commercializing and adopting new innovations. Her recent research is situated at the intersection of the natural world and business.  For example, she studies the innovations in the field of ecological restoration (restoring degraded landscapes), how companies use biomimicry (innovations inspired by nature, based on underlying biological mechanisms) to solve technical and engineering challenges, and business valuations of impacts and dependencies on nature.

Harnessing the Power of Biomimicry for Transformative Innovation

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Why is it that train engines in the U.S. have a blunt, rectangular nose when nature’s shapes are aerodynamic? Why is manufacturing so toxic, when nature can fabricate amazing materials without polluting the environment? These and other questions are the heart of biomimicry: using lessons from nature’s organisms and processes to improve human creations. Many companies use biomimicry as a protocol for innovation, as well as a transformative mindset for rethinking business processes and values.

My research focuses on why some companies are able to successfully harness biomimicry, while others are not. One challenge companies face is the ideological tension that surfaces when new tools challenge existing business orthodoxy. Many companies are ill-prepared to examine these ideological tensions, and, are unwilling to change. In other cases, companies successfully leverage biomimicry not only as an innovation protocol, but also as an opportunity to rethink existing business beliefs. For example, InterfaceFLOR leveraged biomimicry to rethink the waste-intensive approach to industrial carpet manufacturing., Inspired by the beauty found in a forest’s random patterns, the company produces square carpet tiles that can be individually placed and replaced without needing to re-carpet entire areas. In addition, the company has transformed its factories to mimic a functioning forest in terms of environmental impacts and benefits.

Business leaders realize that business as usual is destroying our planet. Using biomimicry as a protocol for innovation and a new mindset can help reverse that destruction.

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