The relief of not knowing
We use the practice of biomimicry here at LikoLab to develop our sense of what is possible, and what questions we should be asking of our designs. Part of that practice is getting outside to hone our skills. When we go for a walk in the woods, at least for work, it's to find what makes us go hmmmmm. We don't worry right away if it will fit into a framework or tell us anything related to the design challenges of the day - these things come later. We just look for what pops up on our radar. Once that worry falls away, then it is much easier to enjoy the moment and be creative with what is at hand.
The power of observation
As we walk our heads are swimming with all kinds of information, questions, and observations. Research shows that the brain is tuned to see patterns, outlines, and shapes rather than a photographic immersive reality. Immersive experiences (like walking in the woods) flood the brain, activate the senses and ask us to make sense of the world. Taking the time to settle into the moment and make some observations can allow the brain to do its magic, and actually see more. Sketching a tree, photographing a slug, or doing a water color of an oyster creates the opportunity to both ponder and focus.
The motivation of curiosity
Captured observations and insights are a launching pad for curiosity. Why does the slug's stalk retract? Does it have bones? What is the mucous made out of? Exploring the depths humanities knowledge becomes easy with biomimicry as you easily bump into questions that have simply never been asked or answered. However, through asking these curious questions you also find the surprises that 3.8 billion years of evolution have created. The slick and sticky nature of slug mucous, or what is hemolymph anyway. You might start to see the way a slug fits into the ecosystem in new ways, as both a decomposer and an incubator of fungi. Pretty soon, a whole world of networked and weird knowledge is built around your observation.
The ease of connecting
When we build our own understanding of these observations and the fabulously strange networks of information that exist we are preparing our brain to see the easy connections. The connected nodes of data can be accessed and translated by our brain more easily. We see how the retracting mechanism of a slug eye stalk might improve surgical cameras. We see how a viscoelastic fluid could reduce tissue tearing, or snags during surgery. We see how having biodegradable cutting instruments that are replaceable might keep patients safer post surgery. And what is certainly true is that we usually see something entirely different than before we set out in the woods - We have built for ourselves a pair of biomimicry goggles.