Knowledge is everywhere if we care to notice. Everything around us teaches us a lesson if we choose to be observant students. We can learn a lot by observing. We must begin to ask the right questions and pay attention to our environment; more often than not, we will find our answers there. We sometimes take important things for granted. For instance, we have become all too familiar with nature that we give it little or no thought. However, several inventions and innovations that have changed our lives were inspired by nature. This is known as biomimicry.
When George de Mestral, a Swiss engineer, decided to go on a hunting trip 1941, he had no idea that he would return with one of the most revolutionary ideas that would change the clothing industry forever. Having walked through grasses and weeds, he was faced with the unpleasant task most people in his shoes were quite familiar with- picking off sticky burrs from his pants and his dog’s fur. Most people would get overwhelmed at the sight of the numerous burrs and the thought of first picking them off their clothes and then shaking them off their fingers but Mestral was different. He took a closer look at the burrs and asked himself, “Why are they so sticky?” His curiosity didn’t end there; he took a closer look at the seeds under his microscope and that was how he discovered the idea of hooks and loops. How many people had carelessly brushed off burrs before 1941? How many more have done it since 1941 without even realising that the burrs inspired their favourite Velcro products? We can learn a few things from Mestral:
- We must ask the question others are not asking to get answers others are not getting. There is tremendous power in asking questions. Questions open up our minds to the possibility that things can be different. Questions challenge the norm and create the atmosphere for innovation.
- We must pay attention. We do a lot of things absent mindedly and we fail to notice great ideas. The detail we miss is the reason for someone else’s genius. Our minds are too filled with unnecessary thoughts to accommodate creativity.
- No idea is too small to worth our trouble. We must be willing to explore.
- A nuisance can inspire us to do things differently. Someone’s problem is another person’s inspiration.