Faculty Focus: Pine Cone Inspiration



“I’ve been very inspired, by pine cones.”

As odd as that may sound, this comment by a participant in our Net Impact session, Biomimicry and Beyond: Re-Aligning Business with Nature was not unusual. The session was very well attended (standing room only) and very well received. Several people came up afterward saying it was the best session of the conference. Why? Because they were very inspired — by pine cones!

Net Impact is a community of more than 100,000 students and young professionals, who want to transform their passions into world-changing action – much like the students in MCAD’s MASD program, except their vehicle for action is business rather than design. The theme of Net Impact 2016 was Making History. In our session we shared what is making history in the world of biomimicry, why making history is so challenging, and how these passionate students and professionals could use nature – including pine cones – to overcome these challenges.

This session drew upon ideas presented in my new book Re-Aligning with Nature: Ecological Thinking for Radical Transformation, illustrated by MASD alum Stefanie Koehler. When I asked what came to mind when they heard the expression “the real world”, as in “Welcome to the real world”, words like “threatening” and “cynical” were shared. Yet all agreed that the world they’re trying to succeed in – the world of business – could also be called “the real world”. They also recognized that the real world — one characterized by scarcity, competition, individual success, fear, greed, and resistance – was not a place well-suited for transforming their passions into world-changing action.

But then we shared how nature — a world characterized by abundance, synergy, systems, curiosity, trust, and resilience – allows for inquiry, imagination, ideation, co-creativity, and innovation. These are the conditions and practices needed to make history, and they can be accessed with something as simple as a pine cone. We challenged them to ask their pinecone (yes, I brought 150 pinecones from Seattle to Philadelphia) how they could have a net impact. Their minds and imaginations were sparked, new thinking and new ideas started to flow. They got a taste of how they could use nature to change the world – and a taste of what MASD students learn in Biomimetic Design and Creative Leadership!

Denise DeLuca (MASD adjunct faculty) was the recipient of a 2017 MASD Faculty Travel Grant which supported her travel to this conference.

Image courtesy of Flickr CC by FlickPicPete

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.

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Twitter: @MCADSustainDsgn