Inspiration; or the dedication for new ideas


My first day into Biomimetics.

It was a lecture about the Biomimetic basics including many examples, history and a lot recommended books. I sat there and tried to understand the examples out of architecture and engineering. „Uhm“ runs through my head and I was fascinated by the amount of information that comes down like a summer rain.

Our task for the course was… The shock followed immediately…

The first full project on our own and we could choose whatever we wanted. Nice…

… not!

My head was crumbling to find an idea for a topic I never had been in touch before.

I got up and took a walk in the seminar room (…, that’s how I can concentrate at best, and my colleagues and lecturer accepted it very fast… strange things happen).

Maybe the most of us had this issue at the beginning of something new, but nobody wants to show any weakness to anyone, especially when you didn’t know each other. But how did you solve this problem?

Order the chaos of ideas that you never had!

Yep this line makes no sense but it expresses exactly my approach for inspiration.

Back to Day 1.

The first thing I tried was to forget about my old work schematics, which I used during my B.Eng. studies. In general a structure is very useful and it brings you forward in a system where you have a clear setup of information, tools, approaches and goals to reach. As an engineer you usually use your knowledge to solve problems. Means you have a system 1 and want to develop it into system 2. Very straight forward, or isn’t it?

That is what we call a top down approach.

In biomimetics we also use the bottom up approach, but my experience of bachelor studies are showing that we only used the top down approach. This behavior makes it very hard to be creative. I’m still much more focused on it than to the top down principle. It seems that counts for my engineering colleagues, too.


… you need more than one point of view or approach to be creative.

Top Down + Bottom Up in biomimetics

Top Down + Bottom Up in biomimetics

Now you have the 1st tool to order your chaos of not existing ideas. You know that you can watch out for a problem that you could solve or you are looking for “freakin” nature and took something that impressed you (e.g. I like penguins these guys are amazing and you have no clue why, muhahahaha, but I’ll want write about! later).

The 2nd part needs to be the filling of your empty pool with useful ideas. Usually most of you will have a bunch of approaches and basic ideas in head that are swimming around like a goldfish in its bowl. That’s nice, but are you sure that this ideas are not only decoration like the goldfish bowl?

So write your ideas down and make a reality check.

“Useful” means in this context: “Is this idea something I can work with?”

If you find nothing, don’t get in panic, that’s usually the case and that’s why you read this article.

But… How can I fill my pool?

Look in your field of interests. Okay with video games or an affinity to movies, music or books you might have a problem… on the first sight. (yep these are my hobbies and they are a great source for me xD)

I think when you study a certain subject is there a reason why you do it. So maybe you should think about that reason. For Biomimetics you usually have interests in fields like biology, mechanics or thermodynamics. So maybe go in that surrounding and do an old school observation.

Watch for problems needing to be solved. (said the engineer…)

Go in the forest and watch how ants working…

… or how their colony system works.

Create an abstraction of that system.

Sketch a tree or a leaf.

I think you get it. DO something.

You have no clue what you can find and you never thought about! The point is not to get an idea that nobody had before. To be innovative needs a team or huge amount of experience in a specific field. You don’t have that much experience? That you can change, but it will take some years. You have no team? Really are you that alone here? Talk with someone about what you have found.

For me the absolutely most important part is discussion. Talk with 10 different people and you get minimum 10 different points of view and also your PoV changes a lot. With all that information you nearly get an objective evaluation of your ideas/observations.

Follow the rough plan of top down and bottom up and you can refine your ideas to concepts.

I wish you good luck finding new ideas and if you want you can share your walkthrough of getting inspiration.



Jan Berger

I'm Jan and I'm exploring this world since 1986. I work as an laboratory technician for surface analytics in the wonderful city of Villach/Austria. Before that I studied Bionik/Biomimetics in Energy Systems (MSc) and I have a degree as a Bachelor of Engineering for Renewable Energy Engineering. My favorite topics are membranes (biological and mechanical ones) and trees. Besides my job I administrate this blog and other homepages. Besides I do a bunch of other geeky stuff including lecturing biomimetics.

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  1. Dena Mumme   •  

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