I’ve attended a lot of conferences in my day. I find them to be a great source for inspiration for new ways of thinking and new ways to tap into the industry community to grow my own knowledge.
I had no idea, however, when I walked into the South-by-Southwest session, “It’s Nature’s Way: Innovative Tech Design Through Biomimicry”, that I would be attending one of the most inspiration conference programs I’ve seen in recent memory.
Led by Chris Allen, CEO of The Biomimcry Group, the presentation focused on the science of biomimicry, which is is the examination of nature, its models, systems, processes, and elements to emulate or take inspiration from in order to solve human problems.
For example, in Africa, “there’s a building that has no conventional air-conditioning or heating, yet stays regulated year round with dramatically less energy consumption using design methods inspired by indigenous Zimbabwean masonry and the self-cooling mounds of African termites!”
The session highlighted many other real-world biometrical applications ranging from Velcro™ and photovoltaic solar panels to advanced seawater desalination methods and more efficient Japanese bullet trains.
It’s hard to believe that science has just recently been able to harness the power of over three billion years of evolution on this planet. Generally speaking, Allen called animals in harmony with their environments “geniuses” at what they do.
In the case of the termite mound, without proper air flow, the insects’ young would literally cook and die. The margin of error is very slim and it’s taken millions of years for the “most evolutionary fit” version of termites to be able to pull off such an extraordinary feat. I think I’m going to look at nature much, much differently than I did before.
The panel was very well-received, and I’m sure that each of the audience members’ brains were swimming with ideas for their particular fields. As a digital marketer with a deep emphasis on SEM, I started to think about ways that nature could lead our industry in new paths of innovation.
How Biomimicry Could Be Applied To SEM
The following are some of my quick thoughts on the subject. Some of these are completely stretch–I’m not a biomimicry expert and I don’t claim to be. However, hopefully, it will inspire some of you to think out of the box in ways you never thought before and look for inspiration all around you.
One of the more interesting case studies that Allen presented was how the Bank of England is holding up, considering how the human immune system could be used as a model for defending against future financial failures. Our body’s immune system actively works to seek and destroy infiltrations of bacteria, viruses, and other contaminants. Some economists think that there may be something to learn here about how passive fail-safes in the British economy only kicked in when it was too late to avert the crisis.
What if your SEM tool of choice didn’t need to wait for you to discover poor performing elements in your campaigns. What if it was smart enough to tackle problems on its own without the need to set bidding rules or alerts which required manual attention?
Ever notice that schools of fish never bump into each other? According to the session, a major auto manufacturer has been studying this dynamic for next-generation, computer driven cars.
What they’ve learned is that fish use a very simple algorithm to keep the fish on either side of them equally distant apart. This way, when one moves, it creates a cascading affect on the entire school. Very possibly, one day cars will be able to drive themselves and use these ideas to ensure that we never bump into each other either.
How can this be applied to SEM? Well, think about how the keywords in your account affect each other. If you take out too many of your assist terms, your main converting words suffer.
Could there be a way using attribution methodology to better understand how each keyword fits into the puzzle so that you don’t negatively affect one group of terms when you make changes to others? Is there an unknown school of fish algorithm that can better explain how our keywords move together?
In nature, the most innovative occurs in the ecotone which is the area of convergence between two systems, for example, between a meadow and a forest or a jungle and river. In the ecotone, the most wondrous plant and animal life come from the ecotone as each system affects each other to generate new dimensions to flourish.
I’ve always thought that online display can learn a lot from the data granularity and performance optimization of search and that search can learn from the creative aspect and audience and contextual focus of online display. Where the two disciplines meet could be where the most innovation occurs in digital marketing. Think about what search professionals can learn when they apply SEM in conjunction with email, social, mobile, etc.
There are so many things to consider with biommimcry. Solar energy experts are studying how plants take sunlight and a waste product like carbon dioxide and turn it into energy via sugars. Bees have highly developed pattern and signal recognition that computer server companies are exploring for new insights into technological innovation.
The session ended with this quote from Albert Einstein: “We still do not know one thousandth of one percent of what nature has revealed to us.” Pretty cool stuff, eh?
I’m not saying that the secret of successful search engine marketing lies within your local ecosystem. The point here is that inspiration comes in many forms. The next time you have a search engine marketing issue that you can’t solve, why not try some out of the box inspiration to help you fix the problem?
You just might find the solution where you never thought to look.
Opinions expressed in the article are those of the guest author and not necessarily Search Engine Land.