In the French tradition, you have until the end January to send your new year’s wishes and I just missed the deadline. But in the world we live, sometimes you have to give yourself a break!

I wanted to share this picture that I recently took at the end of the Tennessee Valley trail in Marin, California. It is the perfect illustration of what I wish for you in 2021: a broad vision — a chance to go on a hike and be refreshed, sunshine with some clouds disappearing, the ocean for the constant flow and renewal, always moving, always new and yet connected. May this year bring inspiration, health and renewed energy to you and your family and loved ones! 

The power of nature for creativity and inspiration

As I was reflecting about 2020 and what helped me get through that challenging year, what came up for me was the power of nature. I am lucky to live in California where most of the year (except for a couple of months of bad air pollution) I was able to go outside whenever I felt overwhelmed by the world. Just going for a hike, whether it was up my street or to one of the numerous trails in the hills near my house, I felt I could relax, get re-energized and be inspired.

It also reminded me of the concept of biomimicry. The term is best explained by one of the inventors, Janine M. Beyrus, in her book Biomimicry, Innovation inspired by Nature.

“Biomimicry is a practice that learns from and mimics the strategies found in nature to solve human design challenges — and finds hope along the way”.  The concept is fascinating and helpful for those looking to become more innovative. Nature has created so many incredible and fascinating innovations that it can be a great source of inspiration.

For instance, the shape of the King Fisher’s beak helped Japanese engineers resolve noise issues with their bullet trains as well as save energy, and architects learned to design better climate control systems by observing the way termite nests are built. (Source https://biomimicry.org/biomimicry-examples/) .

Since I was introduced to this concept years ago, I have been using nature not only to feel more centered, but as a direct source of inspiration for new ideas and possibilities.

Here are some ways that nature can be an amazing source for inspiration

  • When dealing with a personal or business challenge, first formulate it as a question (your brain always wants to solve questions) and then go on a walk and look at ways that nature have solved similar challenges. Ask how does nature do this? For example, if my issue is making something that sticks, then consider what spiders do to get their prey to stick to their web or what squirrels do to climb on the vertical surface of a tree.
  • Use nature as an analogy. If my challenge is about improving team collaboration, find an analogy around collaboration in nature: bees, ant colonies, elephant herds. Then identify how they collaborate. For instance, bees have specialized tasks, they use “dance” to communicate and when the queen dies, they have a special system to create a new queen from larvae that are fed “royal jelly”. Then use all these elements to find new ways to solve your challenge around collaboration. Maybe there is a clearer way to communicate issues (like the bees’ dance)? Maybe there is a need for a better training program (the “royal jelly”) for those who may get promoted (like the way they create a new queen)…?
  • Finally, if you have a specific challenge, you can use the amazing database of asknature.org to find articles related to how nature solves challenges. If you type “resilience” for instance, you may learn about how ants manage in times of famine or how the mycorrhizal fungi behave like the internet of the forest by transporting water and nutrient but also send warnings to trees so they can better defend against pest attacks.  (https://asknature.org/collections/how-does-nature-encourage-resilience/). Not only it is fascinating but it also provides great ideas to personal and professional challenges.

So next time you feel stuck, consider using nature as a way to take a break, incubate and get inspiration. Just go for a walk, look outside the window, look at pictures or a documentary about nature and let nature be your guide!