CHROs presented with nature as the blueprint for solving today’s toughest challenges

Biomimicry expert Claire Janisch speaks at the CHRO Awards about the answers the natural world holds.

Speaking at the second annual CHRO awards on 26 November at the Inanda Club in Sandton, Johannesburg, Claire Janisch, founder of Biomimicry SA, offered expert insight into her cutting-edge field, asserting that if we look closely enough, the natural world has the answers we are looking for.

Biomimicry is an approach which deliberately copies nature in order to generate sustainable, circular, and resilient designs.

According to Claire, 2020 has proven that the challenges we face cannot be successfully approached individually, that true success lies in serving the whole. “We need to move away from thinking of organisations as machines and more towards understanding them as organisms.”

Claire sees massive potential for HR leaders to learn the ability of organisms to self-organise in complex circumstance by looking at how swarms of bees and birds do it. “They self-organise without a hierarchical manager telling them what to do,” she explained.

She shared that “biomimicry thinking draws from the most relevant principles in nature’s forms, processes and systems, and applies them to solving design challenges so that organizations can benefit from an R&D lab with four billion years of experience.”

She shared how we are living in an era of exponential technologies, such as ICT, 3D printing, AI, robotics, drones, all of which involve biomimicry. Claire detailed how AI and neurotech are copying the human brain and how it works, that drones are merely copying nature's genius flyers, robotics is copying biology and that there are no comparable sensors to those in the human body. She says the internet of things pales in comparison to our central nervous system connecting our five senses and “spider-webs make a material tougher than steel and yet it’s made with a totally life-friendly chemistry, with low-energy and leaves no waste.”

For Claire, biomimicry answers the question, how do we create highly functional and useful solutions without making a mess along the way.

She believes that as the HR fraternity continues with the work of guiding their organisations through future challenges, they should ensure that solutions are fully integrated and well adapted to our larger planet, and happening in a way that is locally attuned to what South Africa needs.

She believes in drawing on nature’s strategies for survival which include being agile and approaching business like a living organism rather than a machine or static system. She urges leaders to look to the exponential wisdom found throughout the planet and understand that given the massive impact of the decisions leaders and organizations take, they could be heading down a path of great destruction or huge wisdom, depending on the lens they look through.
Other survival skills she lauds include copying how nature innovates and being integrative in approach, explaining that “All of nature’s systems are distributed and diverse. As each leaf is added to the branch, it is capturing the energy and adding to the tree, not just sucking the energy,” she said.

The talk was fresh, insightful, and brought a welcome element of reflection and with the top 150 CHROs in South Africa the room, planted some inspiration for approaching the challenges they face.