Ylva Poelman is an inspiring speaker who will change the way you see this world. Ylva is an innovation expert who helps companies become more future-proof. She specializes in bio-inspired innovation, also known as biomimicry and bionics.
Ylva Poelman is an inspiring speaker who will change the way you see this world. Ylva is an innovation expert who helps companies become more future-proof. She specializes in bio-inspired innovation, also known as biomimicry and bionics. She is considered to be a pioneer in this field: not only does she help companies to use this practical method for breakthrough innovation, she also continues to expand the field to include new and exciting ideas, practices, and understandings. This innovation method is best known for its technical applications, but Ylva also successfully applies it to other areas such as social-organisational innovation, leadership, marketing, and strategy. In this she fulfils a pioneering role worldwide.
Ylva has written more than a hundred columns in the Dutch national daily newspaper Trouw on examples of bio-inspired innovation under the pen name “The Bionic Woman”. She went on to write more: she cowrote the book “Leadership in the Digital Age – Preparing for Tomorrow”, and authored two more of her own: ‘A survival guide for companies‘ (about the success factors of Nature Co) and an exploration of ‘Nature as an inventor‘ (about nature’s free catalogue of 4 billion years of research and innovation). Both books discuss how most of our current problems already have existing and proven solutions: we can find them in the nature around us, if we only know how and where to look!
Ylva creates keynotes and workshops based on the individual needs of each client. She has appeared at conventions, events, companies, and educational institutions to discuss bio-inspired innovation applied within any field or topic. Whether it’s medical technology or architecture, sustainability or self-organisation, Ylva can help you translate the inspiration nature offers to practical solutions for your needs.
Kingfisher-inspired bullet trains, autonomous teams in starling formations, self-cleaning lotus paint, and business strategies inspired by the survival tactics of other species: all of these, and more, are examples of the how humans have been able to innovate by looking at nature’s solutions. Nature has been experimenting for billions of years to find out what works, and what doesn’t. The list of its ingenious inventions is virtually endless. Every challenge we face, nature has already faced and overcome. All that’s left for us to do is to use these genius solutions nature has found.
Bio-inspired innovation is a practical way to use nature as its source of inspiration to create out-of-the-box solutions, innovations, and even break-through discoveries. This innovation method views nature as a catalogue full of brilliant, practical, and unconventional solutions: all without charge and patent-free.
Our world is ever-changing, transitioning, and descending into crises at speeds never known before. How can organisations survive these turbulent times when there is so much changing all the time and all at once? Well, according to Ylva, we need only turn to the well-known experience expert that has mastered the art of survival: the biological nature around us on this planet.
Nature functions similarly to a company. Nature Co produces organisms in all shapes and sizes, provides services of all kinds, and has developed many standardized yet diverse processes that exist to keep life functionable. And you need to look no further than the very length of its own existence to be convinced of Nature’s expertise in survival! Regardless of whatever catastrophic change or disaster has hit this planet, Nature Co has been in business for roughly 4 milliard year: an unparalleled success story.
Energy transitions, paradigm shifts, climate change, technological revolutions, innovation, diversity, circular economy, fake news, leadership, … you name it, Nature Co has seen it all. Thanks to this, there is a plethora of information readily available for us to use in the major challenges of our time– one only needs to know where, or how, to look. And thanks to Nature Co’s 9 Key Tips for Success, she will continue to be in business for millions of years more – with or without us. You won’t find a better example to model your own organisation after.
The current world changes so fast that it has become impossible to survive without the ability to adapt and innovate – especially so for organisations and companies. Both skills are crucial to the survival of any organisation; adaptability for short-term survival, and innovation for long-term.
Nature does not see obstacles, but rather opportunities: any change is a chance for expansion and improvement. The key advantage nature has is her lack of hesitance when it comes to cannibalizing her own products to improve business. This is not a skill inherent to companies and organisations – but one that should be learned. Innovation is a continuous and never-ending process, and should be rooted in the DNA of its organisation. To optimize this, there are three very important things to build on: culture, culture, and culture.
Leadership is not unique to humans: it existed long before we did! All social animals know a form of leadership, though the manner varies greatly: it ranges from despotic monkeys to democratic buffalos, and there’s tons in-between. Similarly, self-organisation has been around for millions of years, and nature figured out a long time ago how to make that work flawlessly.
That being said, leadership in human society is more complicated than among other animals. Humans have created formal settings with inherent hierarchies and rules that (can) influence your income, quality of life, and more. In addition, humans have cultivated stereotypes about what leaders should look like. These obstacles are created solely by humans, and by looking at our animal counterparts, we might be able to (re)learn the origins of leadership; we can optimize our leadership style by going ‘back to basic’.
Both organisms and organisations have specific strategies designed to help them survive. Strategies are essential to survival due to the fact that there are limited resources available, and to maximize your chances you must think about how to use the resources at your disposal to gain the most, lose the least. This is an issue for organisms and organisations alike. However, nature has had ample opportunity to experiment with different strategies for different circumstances, and has thus been able to develop more sound and fail-proof strategies – which we can use as inspiration for our own business strategies.
To get into more technical terms, one could describe bio-inspired innovation as ‘reverse engineering nature’. Take aviation pioneers for example: through their study of bats, birds, and seeds they were able to design and create their own flying machines, which then grew into our now-familiar air vehicles. Sensors also have a clear biological analogy: our own senses.
Organisms are essentially integrated multi-sensor measuring and control systems. They are able to function autonomously, adapt to their environment, are equipped with smart materials, and can maintain, clean and repair themselves. They offer essentially everything we want in our own technology. The abilities of biological senses far surpass that of human made sensors, for example through their smaller size, sensitivity, energy efficiency, more durable form, and sustainable components.
The opportunities don’t end with obvious analogies. Any technical challenge or obstacle we face has, in some way or another, an equivalent in nature – where it already has been solved. Furthermore, these solutions are ‘proven technology’: the fact that we know of them makes them to success stories –because the failures have disappeared.
Eat or be eaten – that is what many of us think of when we think of nature. The so-called ‘Law of the Jungle’ reigns supreme… or so we believe. In actuality, there exists more co-operation in nature than conflict, and it is of more importance than any fighting could ever be. Think of the tiny cells creating and managing our bodies, or large ecosystems that are kept working through (possibly unintended) collaboration of various species. Co-operation is one of the success factors of Nature Co, and one we can learn much from – its many lessons span from team collaboration to company innovation.
Easily combined with one another, Nature Co understands that another key to success is found in diversity. Without diversity, a companiy cannot survive. Treating diversity policies as a list of boxes to tick is a monumental mistake, as this makes one overlook the value and benefits of heterogeneity. Diversity should not be the goal, but rather the means through which you can conquer any challenges a modern company can face.
Nature invented sustainability. We wouldn’t have existed without it! Nature Co has faced many climate crises and environmental changes already, and survived – though maybe changed – every time. The idea that we have to save the planet is well-intended, but ultimately shows our own arrogance: this planet and nature will survive with or without us. It will, in fact, survive us and all our shenanigans – in whatever form, nature will persevere. Here, too, organisations have opportunity to learn valuable lessons for survival; that of our own and of the organisation’s.
What we mean to say when discussing our impact on nature, is that we are ruining it for ourselves. After all, nature can exist fine without humans, but humans cannot exist without nature. Thanks to her 9 success factors, Nature Co will continue for millions of years, albeit in a very different form: something we might want to learn from some time soon.