A man shoplifting. Image by Mohamed_hassan of

Mother Nature is a pretty wise old gal. Among other things, she is a superior problem solver. Think about it. She has resolved countless problems for plants and animals (including human). Many plants “know” how to turn towards a light source, for instance. And she helped bats to navigate without eyes, snakes to move without legs, and giraffes to eat leaves off tall trees. One specific type of analogy is known as “bionics.” Whereas general analogies reflect similarities anywhere in life, the Bionics Ideas exercise looks to Mother Nature for similarities. Why invent the wheel if Mother Nature has already done it?

Research labs have resolved a variety of electronic, thermal, hydraulic, mechanical, and chemical problems using the Bionic Ideas.
For example, the eye of a beetle was used as an analogy to develop an aircraft ground-speed altitude indicator. Alexander Graham-Bell used characteristics of a human ear to invent the telephone, and rattlesnake sensing organs helped suggest the guidance system for the Sidewinder heat seeking missile.

Assume you are a manager of a departmental store. Your assistant has informed you that the store’s losses due to shoplifting are greater than ever. To help resolve this problem, you try the Bionic option. You state the problem as, “How could we prevent shoplifting in our store?” Next you describe the major principle or process as prevention. You then make a list of things in nature that involve the concept of prevention:
Most birds build their nests in trees to prevent predators from reaching the nests.
Some animals change the color of their skin to blend in with their environment and prevent attacks from enemies.
Squirrels put away nuts for the winter to prevent starvation during the cold months.
Many animal couples take turns guarding their nests to prevent harm to their offspring.
Camels store large quantities of water in their bodies to prevent thirst and starvation.
Turtles quickly pull into their shells to prevent predators from biting their heads or legs.
Mother Nature installs a strong sex drive in most animals to prevent extinction of the species.
Many plants turn toward a light source to prevent loss of growth (the so-called photosynthesis response)
Leaves drop off many trees to prevent the trees from having to provide nourishment during the winter months.
Many animals make loud noises to prevent enemies from attacking

These comparisons might suggest the following ideas:
Install cameras in ceilings to watch for shoplifters.
Have security personnel pose as shoppers to blend and nab any shoplifters.
Save extra money to make up for stolen merchandise.
Have employees rotate turns looking for shoplifters.
Encourage customers to turn in shoplifters by having lottery among customers who report shoplifting. The winner receives a weekend trip in a Five-Star hotel.
Install a sensor so that all the doors close automatically when the device detects that someone is trying to leave the store with stolen merchandise.
Offer employees rewards to encourage them to help perpetuate profits for the store by catching shoplifters.
Have all the store lights begin flashing whenever someone attempts to leave with stolen items.
“Drop” very expensive items into tall boxes to prevent people from reaching the items. Instead, expensive items must be retrieved electronically by a clerk.
Install an alarm that sounds whenever someone tries to pick up an item before a clerk turns off the alarm.

Bernard Taiwo

I am Management strategist, Editor and Publisher.

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