Our newly established Biomimicry PhD offered through UAkron’s Integrated Biosciences PhD program has started a buzz across campus. And it’s not just biologists and designers talking, the interest in biomimicry has been expressed broadly across a variety of academic departments. In response to the hype, we’ve started a biweekly biomimicry reading group, and invited a number of professors and community members to participate. Participants to date have included conflict studies, macroeconomics, biology, studio art, organizational development, chemistry, and housing development professionals. As you can imagine, our conversations bounce up, down, and around, but always end up going somewhere meaningful.
Most recently, we read a fantastic article by Mark Earl’s titled: “Advertising to the Herd: How understanding our true nature challenges the way we think about advertising and market research.” This framed our discussion about how public buy-in strategies of a start-up company might cater to human herd behavior. Some other interesting areas of inquiry we’ve touched upon in past discussions include:
1. The potential of swarm intelligence to inform retail store layouts, increasingly formatted to fit local shopping behavior
2. The need to reevaluate the traits we value in corporate leaders and management teams in light of research conducted at MIT’s Center for Collective Intelligence. A 2011 MIT study (video minutes 51:30-1:02:25) found that collective intelligence of a group of people is not strongly correlated with the average individual intelligence or maximum individual intelligence of group members. Rather, group performance on a variety of tasks increased with average social sensitivity of group members, evenness of turn-taking in conversation, and the proportion of female group members (likely mediated by the social sensitivity factor). Today, management teams are male-dominated, and business leaders are a notably low-scoring population in terms of empathy (i.e. social sensitivity). A transformative shift in business leader character evaluation might be required if we really want to improve the way we do business.