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Life-Centered Design to Manage Change and Complexity

We live in an increasingly connected world. The fourth industrial revolution with ICT-based solutions, generative technologies, and collective knowledge platforms leads to enormous economic and socio-cultural shifts. With its speed and capacities growing exponentially, the rise of a networked society fundamentally transforms all aspects of life: from production (additive manufacturing and industry 4.0) to society (decentralization, smart city, cloud-based mobility and services) and organizations (future of workplace, self-organization, creative leadership, life-long-learning). An increase of network size and connectivity inevitably also leads to an enhancement of complexity, instability, and uncertainty. Individual and analytical thinking alone and predictions made based on linear models increasingly fail to yield desired outcomes and do no longer meet today's convoluted problems.

Simultaneously, the grand achievements of mankind enabled by the rapid technological advancement are paralleled by unintended side-effects including climate change, economic instability, and societal inequality. We are in need of new approaches that help us managing resources more responsibly and making sense of the very systems we create and are part of. Approaches that allow us to lead innovation, cope with complexity, manage crises, and leverage emergent effects through collective action and whole systems thinking. Biomimicry, an innovation strategy looking at natural systems to derive novel and systemic solutions, is pivotal in the fast-paced endeavor to adapt and create resilient solutions. In combination with Design Thinking, an iterative process and mindset with the focus on the human, it is apt to provide breakthrough innovations that meet people, purpose, and planet.

We are in need of new approaches that help us managing resources more responsibly and making sense of the very systems we create and are part of.

The global economy has entered a stage where continuous growth as sole measure of success can no longer be sustained. On the contrary, increasing resource scarcity and anthropogenic changes demand a reevaluation of economic outputs, organizational structures, and value systems. Likewise, our products, industrial processes, and value chains need a fundamental rethink. Biomimicry, a method that analyzes biological systems, abstracts their design principles and functional patterns, and transfers them to problem solving, is a promising approach to find innovative solutions to convoluted problems 1. It matches whole systems thinking with market demands. Biomimicry - which is both a mindset and a method - condenses eons of evolution in a creative innovation process to spearhead disruptive innovation and to catalyze a paradigm shift.

Through constant evolution and adaptation to contextual needs over billions of years, natural systems have developed smart solutions to all fields of life ranging from resource efficiency, value networks, collaboration, self-organization and swarm intelligence to mobility, smart materials, and additive manufacturing. Biological systems are resilient and robust in times of disturbance and display adaptive behaviors to a wide spectrum of conditions. With the global need to manage increasingly more complex systems and challenges, Biomimicry thus constitutes the missing link between human advancement and planetary foresight. It is the linchpin of how we innovate, work, and think in future.

This perspective outlines the convergent indicators of a global transformation in society, organizations, and industry characteristic for an era that connects our biological heritage with a prospective future. An era that is restorative and symbiotic in nature.


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