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Learn Service Flip from Nature

Ask “how might nature solve this problem?” for your design challenge. Learn how biological systems can help inspire new solutions for your product or service that are inherently more circular and holistic. Imagine how you might turn common products into a service model. Could your product be transformed into something that takes on a new or unexpected service experience?

In short, biomimicry is the design of products and systems that are inspired by and modeled on existing biological processes, which have feedback built-in. Looking outside of your industry is a great way to inspire the development of your own ideas, and looking to nature is one way to do this. As Janine Benyus stated, “living systems have had 3.8 billion years of R&D.”

Increasingly, companies are shifting from selling a product to turning that product into a service. Why? Because it can be a powerful way for an organization to become more effective and circular. Do you need an office or just a place to get work done?  Do you need to buy a new set of clothes or have access to a never-ending wardrobe? The shift starts with understanding the underlying user needs and thinking more creatively about how they can be met.


  1. Start by writing your design challenge.
  2. Identifying the core needs the three product examples are trying to meet (The core need of a car, for example, might be “to get me from point A to point B.” It’s not about owning the vehicle necessarily, but providing mobility whenever someone needs it).
  3. Now brainstorm other ways to meet those needs that go beyond having to own that individual product. For each of the three examples, try to come up with a few ideas.
  4. For the last box, flesh out what the new service experience might look like for each. (For mobility, the solution might be car sharing – enabled perhaps by an online platform, GPS technology and maybe even driverless cars).
  5. Now, do steps 13 for your own product, starting with the core needs you’re trying to meet, a few ideas about how to solve for these in a new ‘circular’ way, and a description of a service model approach that could be beneficial for both users and producers.
  6. To wrap up, ask yourself: if I was to offer a service, what systems would need to be in place to ensure a positive result? Which partners would I need to support this change? What feedback or data would be important to have (and which technologies might you rely on to collect it)? Could the data be of benefit to others (e.g. might someone want to buy it)?

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