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When searching for prey, the kingfisher skims the water before diving to snare a fish with its elongated beak. While you may not be designing the next bullet train — you may be solving a very noisy problem that’s threatening to run you over.
Today the concept is found in aircraft design and ski gear.
The kingfisher influenced the train’s cone-like nose. While we stay locked in our own blinkered view, problems can feel insurmountable. Literally digging ourselves into a ditch by walking round and round the problem until it’s impossible to see beyond the hole dug.
And is entrenched in the workforce as ‘follow-the-system’ processes that dumb and numb the mind. Nature’s ideas are turning up in unusual places as the quest for elegant design and answers to society’s ever-pressing need for speed, innovation and environmental protection escalates.
This becomes reinforced in college with exams testing specific knowledge. A natural resource for those willing to see ideas and cross-fertilise man-made problems with nature’s evolutionary solutions. And it’s changed the way problems are solved in engineering and science.
Yet most schools educate children into a focused convergent mindset. Or, is it a barren, vacuous state where ideas flitter in and out, yet never take root? But I know a mind’s fertility matures with good nutrition. The ones that offer evolutionary links that help us adapt to our fast-paced world by observing nature’s already evident answers.
If we pause, seek and observe, nature helps us connect the dots. These enable near-silent flight by altering air turbulence and absorbing noise. Nakatsu applied this design feature to the bullet train’s overhead serrations. Consider the problem and state each element simply. Nakatsu’s problems were: increase speed and decrease sound. Look at your interests or elements of the natural world that you’re curious about. What is something in nature that has already solved this problem in order to survive predators? I doubt I’ll design the next train that will travel at ever-increasing speeds as newer models become available. And the openness to explore links that at first appear unrelated. Solving problems is about opening your mind to the natural solutions found right in front of you.Ask yourself the following questions (and maybe even write down the answers): I believe this practice leads to “solving” problems without fully understanding them.That's not to say any of these resources—Stack Overflow, tutorials, any other examples you find—are bad.During the design stage of the bullet train, he attended a lecture on birds. It got him thinking about the noise problem from a different perspective.