What is Biomimicry?
Biomimicry is the practice of emulating life’s genius. It looks for answers to human, social and environmental challenges in nature. Solutions have been field-tested for 3.8 billion years, that are in harmony with Earth, and are surprisingly efficient and sustainable. The discipline includes a library of life forms codified to make their strategies accessible to all of us.
In the 1400s, Leonardi Da Vinci drew inspiration for a flying machine from birds. Today, biomimicry is a discipline that offers sustainable solutions to complex challenges.
When to use it?
When you are wanting fresh thinking (Cows’ stomachs provide a blueprint for low-cost wastewater treatment), a competitive edge (Bioluminescent plants and trees being developed to replace electric streetlights); or a system-change (Ant behaviour solves utilisation problems in freight logistics).
Our client, an online eLearning educator, engaged Crazy Might Work to facilitate the innovative rebuild of six existing e-learning units. Their mission was to ask how nature does learning and emulate that best practice in their online learning environment.
Our client delivers online eLearning modules, primarily for the higher education sector. While their modules have been growing, along with their organisation, there are often significant challenges in retaining students for any online learning process, no exception here. Particularly, for technical subjects where students can feel a little overwhelmed, lost, or disengaged if they can’t connect learnings to the real world. OES were on a mission to improve pass rates and also wanting to significantly uplift completion rates; a major issue across the sector.
Over two separate days (with intervening team check-ins), the teams were exposed teams to the neuroscience of insight and new co-design methods that could be used to re-think these commercial university units.
Using a combination of methods including biomimicry the educational and design teams learned from nature to re-build commercially-critical eLearning units for 6 universities. Drawing on 27 interviews, and inspired by everything from bower birds to hermit crabs, they completely re-imagined the student experience and learning dynamic.
The new student experiences were presented to a representative of each of the universities and the proposed changes were, overall, accepted with delight and enthusiasm. 6 months later, the student enrolment and engagement scores speak for themselves.
Our client emerged with 6 blueprints for rebuilding these units and a whole new skillset for re-designing student experience. The teams implemented innovative changes to the curriculum, timing, support mechanisms and connectivity to each other. These changes were inspired by their work with biomimicry that enabled the teams to discover how nature learns, abstract those learnings as design principles, design changes in line with these and roll out the changes.
A year on, teams benchmarked the implemented changes. Thank you to frogs, bower birds, and octopi who contributed to and inspired:
A 65% increase in student engagement; and an unprecedented 96% pass rate.
These outcomes represent a significant uplift in engagement and pass rates for the modules concerned. And so, going forward, the use of biomimicry, alongside other core methods in the program, has become a new standard for optimised module design.