Faculty Focus: Re-Aligning Business with Nature @Net Impact



It’s the time of year when the MA in Sustainable Design program faculty and get to repeatedly dive into reviewing thesis proposals and drafts. Regardless of the current state of their work, it is clear that every student in the program aspires to make the world a better place, to have an impact, perhaps to make history. The MASD students are using their expertise in design to accomplish their goals. There are other students out there striving to do the same, but using the tools of business. Many of these MBA students and alum will be attending this year’s Net Impact conference in Philadelphia (November 3-5), whose theme is MAKE HISTORY.

Lucky for at least some of them, they’ll get a peek into what our MASD students are learning during the session I’m hosting called Biomimicry and Beyond: Re-Aligning Business with Nature. In this session they’ll learn that achieving sustainability requires business leaders to move beyond conventional approaches and incremental innovation to create cultures that foster radically innovative thinking and creative collaboration — and that they can learn to do this using the tools of biomimicry.

Velcro and Sharkskin

We’ll introduce the concept of Biomimicry, best known as a method for turning nature’s strategies into innovative product designs, like Velcro and Speedo Sharkskin swimsuits (a peek in to what MASD students learn in Biomimetic Design). Then we’ll show how nature’s strategies can also be applied to innovative leadership and change management in organizations.

I’ll be joined in the session by two start of the sustainable design world –Marc Weissburg, a scientist with Georgia Tech’s Center for Biologically Inspired Design, and Lindsay James, Vice President of Restorative Enterprise at Interface. These two will share their experiences applying biomimicry principles not only to product design and innovation, but also to the culture of their organizations – and how combining the two achieves the greatest net impact.

Session participants will also get to experience what it’s like to apply biomimicry to a business challenge, and leave with new ideas and a tool for creating conditions for innovative thinking and creative collaboration in their organization and community (a peek in to what MASD students learn in Creative Leadership).

If you want to learn more about the Net Impact program or conference, you can check here.

Learn more about biomimicry

Denise will be teaching a 15-week, fully online course called Biomimetic Design in the MA in Sustainable Design program during the Spring 2017 semester. The course will run from Jan 17-May 9 and will open for public registration soon. Contact us at sustainable_design [at] mcad.edu to learn more.


Image courtesy of Denise DeLuca

Denise DeLuca / Director

Denise DeLuca is director of MCAD’s Sustainable Design program and co-founder of BCI: Biomimicry Creative for Innovation, a network of creative professional change agents driving ecological thinking for radical transformation. Denise is author of the book Re-Aligning with Nature: Ecological Thinking for Radical Transformation, which was illustrated by MASD alum Stephanie Koehler.  She also teaches with the Amani Institute. Denise’s previous roles include Education Director for the International Living Future Institute, a consultant for Swedish Biomimetics 3000, and Outreach Director for The Biomimicry Institute.  Denise is a licensed civil engineer (PE) and holds a master’s degree in civil and environmental engineering with a focus on modeling landscape-scale surface and ground water interactions. Denise is based in Montana.

contact:  [email protected]
Twitter: @MCADSustainDsgn