How Can We Practice Innovation in Sustainability?



Nicole Miller is on the show today. She is the Managing Director at Biomimicry 3.8. Josh and Nicole talk about innovation in sustainability. We learn what Biomimicry is and how Nicole got started in this space. We also dig into how we can pull creative ideas from the natural world to influence how we package something or even how we build a business.

Nicole has some great answers to our HotSeat questions and really helps us consider what impact innovation is having on the environment. And conversely – how we can use the environment to impact innovation.

Connect with Ask an Innovator.


We asked Nicole to provide us with some of her FAVORITE products that are sustainable and low waste as we thought you may want to see some examples of the things she covets and uses in her daily life. From Nicole:

“In terms of overall being intentional about what I buy, I also look for where it’s made (think carbon footprint!), by who, and with what materials. For clothes aim for 100% natural (i.e. wool, cotton, linen) materials –  most clothes are a mix of synthetics meaning they can’t be recycled and probably made w/ materials that have microplastics).”


Biomimicry 3.8
Biomimicry Blog – Synapse
Resources to Reconnect
Project Positive






Josh Barker [00:00]: Welcome, Nicole. I’m really happy to have you on Ask An Innovator. We’re gonna be interviewing her about Biomimicry 3.8. She’s the managing director there. Is that correct?

Nicole Miller [00:10]: That is correct. And thank you so much for having me today.

JB [00:11]: Awesome. So I’d love to get a little bit more background about you and Biomimicry.

NM [00:12]: Yeah, so me and my intersection with biomimicry is really through the lens of sustainability is how I entered this world, this meme. And so I got into sustainability through my work at I was the Managing Director of Sourcing there. So it was really under my purview to make sure that all the products that we sourced, because at this time, so overstock grew from a $10 million to an $800 million company in a matter of six years. So the growth was intense and just essentially, the business platform was taking excess market goods and then them on my platform. And as the company grew, there was only so much excess goods in the market, right? So we started sourcing our own and creating our own private label. And so at that point, that’s when I was really charged to lead. And so, of course, social compliance was very much part of who are the manufacturers that you’re working with? But that was like around 2002. And so that’s right when CSR started really surfacing as a thing, right? Looking at social and environmental responsibility, and what does that look like? It really fell on my lap to be responsible for that. I really got into what does it look like to be socially and environmentally compliant? The thing that I think really opened my eyes is that I became privy to the manufacturing process, like what does it actually take to make a chair, to make a flat-screen TV, to make a down comforter? All these things that we buy, as consumers?

NM [02:00]: I need a new set of dishes, let me go buy them, you know, whatever it is. We’ve kind of bought into this consumerism society. Actually seeing the environmental impacts of that was a pretty hard ground truth for me. And I think a lot of people in the sustainability space have had that experience, right? So I got really interested in, how do we start solving for that? How do we make it less bad, right? That’s kind of the first step is how do we not make it so, so bad? And that’s really how I started to intersect with kind of just the sustainability world and going to conferences like Sustainable Brands and Green Biz and really starting to understand, you know, what does CSR look like?

And what I noticed over a period of time is that everyone that we were having conversations with was continually focusing on short term solutions, or what I also called tailpipe solutions. So like after the fact, right? No one was saying like, hey, let’s not have plastic to begin with. That wasn’t even at the table at that time and barely is now. So that’s when started thinking about, well, how do we innovate differently? And what does innovation look like when we actually take a step back and take a more holistic approach of innovation? I think so much of innovation has really been historically centered around what are the human needs that we’re solving for. But when we do that in isolation of, but, you know, what are the human needs, but at the sacrifice of what else, you know? At the sacrifice of the environment of social inequalities? There’s a bigger picture here to just making a better product faster and cheaper, right, there’s a better conversation to be had for the society that we want to be walking into in the future. And I think that’s what really inspired me to start looking into what are the innovation strategies that are more holistic in their approach that are looking at life-centered design? Life being more than just humans, but all the inhabitants on this planet that we are cohabitating with. We should be thinking about that because there’s value in that and we’re starting to really understand the natural capital value and like all these sorts of things just start really coalescing to help us now realize, “Oh, there is a better way to design.” And so that’s really kind of probably a much longer answer than you wanted. But really, my intersection with biomimicry was okay, this is a more holistic design approach that actually looks at nature as a reference point. And so our company name is Biomimicry 3.8. And our name is 3.8 because there are 3.8 billion years of R&D in nature that we can lean into, right? Nature has been solving for these challenges, you know, thermal regulation, water filtration, you know, all these things that we talk about as issues today. Nature has some pretty cool design strategies to solve for that. And when I talk about biomimicry, particularly to businesses, what we talk about is looking to nature for solutions is a really incredible way to de-risk your innovation process. Because these strategies are already there, and they give us essentially this incredible leg up to start to solving for that problem in a really holistic and life-friendly way. So, that’s kind of the summary of how I got into biomimicry and why I feel it’s most important in the sustainability and the innovation space that we are operating in today.

JB [05:42]: Yeah, no, that’s great. So you basically were able to at, using your kind of your background and CSR and sustainability, bring that over to biomimicry and being able to help other organizations with that essentially to say, “Hey, how can we be more responsible inhabitants of the world, right?” And how can we do that in a way that supports innovation and business, but we can still use some of the concepts that have been going on for a really long time in our world. Would you say that’s accurate?

NM [06:14]: Yeah, totally accurate. And I think, to add to that, my background is not biology, it’s very much in business and finding strategies that can move businesses towards more positive design. So really, a lot of my work at the company is finding value in bringing biomimicry into initiatives that the companies are already working on. Because the thing is, like what we talked about is we don’t want people to see, biomimicry as like another thing you know, to do, but really as a vehicle to achieve the goals you already have. So if your goals are centered around the Sustainable Development Goals, if you have you know, well-building design goals, if you have goals towards positive impact, what does that look like? How does this become a vehicle for achieving that because it really is industry agnostic. And you can use biomimicry, whether for product design facility design, systems design, you know, you can really use these innovations, these strategies and natural patterns from biology to really inform a conversation around innovation and sustainability in that space. So really, a lot of my role is finding the intersection with companies and helping them find the business value based on the goals and objectives that they’re trying to achieve.

JB [07:42]: That makes perfect sense. So it’s not necessarily like, hey, let’s do this separate initiative on the side. It’s like, No, no, let’s look at your initiatives, and almost use this as a vehicle like it’s, they’re embedded, they’re part of the initiative. So yeah, yeah, that’s good. So can you give an example or two of what that looks like for an organization? Maybe a more tangible example?

NM [08:05]: Yeah, I’ll give a couple because I think it’s important to kind of understand like the breadth of application. I’ll give a packaging example because packaging is really hot right now in terms of looking at new innovations. So one of the first things that we do in our work is we break a company’s challenge down to function. So when we’re talking about when a company comes to us and says, you know, we have too much plastic in our product, we need to design it better. We want to reduce plastic out of our product. So then the first question we’d ask is, okay, well, what function is that plastic providing? Is it structural integrity? Or maintaining liquids? Is it serving some sort of barrier? Is it for advertising? What function does it actually perform? Because function is really our bridge to the biology. And so once we understand that, you know, then that gives us a solution space.

So in the example of packaging our client, in this particular example was Natura, which is a cosmetics company out of Brazil. They own the Body Shop and they’re kind of a large player in the cosmetics personal care game and very mindful about their environmental impact. And so this project was about eight years ago at this point. So they really wanted to look at the carbon impact of their packaging, understanding that, shampoo, for example, you’re largely shipping water. And, you know, what would it look like to actually reinvent what they’re packaging look like with two primary goals: reducing carbon and reducing materials. And so the function that we were solving for, for this particular product was maintaining liquids. How does nature maintain liquids and we looked at all sorts of different organisms and for example, one of the ideation sessions really latched on to this concept of citrus fruit.

When you look at a citrus fruit, you have packaging within packaging within the packaging. You’ve got the pulp, which holds the liquids, the pulp is inside a section, the section is inside the fruit, which is inside the rind. And so you’ve got this beautiful kind of packaging example that we can start to emulate. And what they landed on in terms of maintaining liquid, what they identified was the shape of the pulp, the way that they lay in the section, the shape of that enabled an incredible amount of liquid to be captured within that section. So the package itself was emulated based on the shape of the pulp. So instead of like a round tubular bottle that you would expect, this became a very short, think of like a teardrop almost or like the pulp of a fruit. That’s the shape that it actually took it actually emulated shape. And by doing that, they could lay a lot of the packages within a box that would then be shipped within a carton within a crate, and so on and so forth. So, by just changing the shape of that bottle, they were able to reduce the carbon of their distribution of that product by 50%. Just by simply emulating the shape itself. But what’s cool is like the wind didn’t stop there. Right? So when we look at [and this is why biomimicry is so cool, because it’s holistic design]. So we got that design strategy. But then what we also got when we looked at maintaining liquids, the other issue that was really important to the client was getting out the last drop. So because you know, the consumer like what that was one of their consumer feedbacks is, you know, we, we have the shampoo, but it’s always annoying when there’s like a little bit left in the bottle and you can’t get it out. So the other component of that design was that the package would be you could essentially get out the last drop so this essentially squeezing and flattening the package, which like you normally can’t flatten a shampoo bottle, right? It’s like almost like think of like a tube of toothpaste. Yeah, you know how like you roll it up and squeeze out the last drop. That’s essentially what we were then able to do with the shampoo the way that the packaging was designed. It enabled us to get out the last drop, it allowed for carbon reduction and allowed for a reduction of materials. The plastic changed to a different type of plastic, but then it was also a reduced amount of plastic. So we essentially solved all these challenges by looking at all these strategies in nature in terms of how to get out the last drop, how to manage liquids, and looking at these organisms that enabled that to happen.

JB [12:35]: That’s awesome. Wow, that’s really cool. Yeah, looking to nature to solve problems that were already solved in nature, to apply them to a business sense to solve business problems today. That’s really very cool.

NM [12:47]: Exactly. Yeah. It’s so cool. Yeah. I mean, what’s really fun about it is that in the process, like, once you show people like okay, here’s how nature does thermal regulation, you know, we can look at polar bears and you start to kind of look at like, these strategies, and then like the light bulb goes off where it’s like, Oh, right, like, of course, like, nature has been doing this I get so it kind of becomes so obvious. It’s like, right, like, why isn’t our first question? What would nature do? You know, because like there’s an abundance of answers. And so it becomes, I think, particularly for teams that are problem-solving, you know, once you give them a few ideas, in terms of this is how nature solved it, then the floodgates just start opening, right? We have, we have this thing that we call, quiet your cleverness, because when we’re in that solution space, we always pull on human-centered ideas, right? Like we look at best practices, we look at, like, “Hh, how did you know someone else solve this problem.?” And we’ve just build from that. And when we bring to the solution, space, new ideas from nature, you’re really kind of opening people up to an entirely new way of solving the problem.

We’ve had ideation session teams come up with 100 new ideas that they’ve never even remotely touched before. So it’s a really incredible tool for just even that. For just opening up the solution space.

JB [14:12]: Yeah. Wow. That’s awesome. Yeah. And I think my innovation background, really, at City Innovation Labs, what we think of is all the time is really the currency of any startup, if you’re looking at a startup or an enterprise startup in a large organization is learnings, right? How can you learn fast? And so it’s great to see you like, go, “Hey, you know what, there already are learnings that nature has done for us.” Let’s look at something that already works, which is kind of cool. Like, rather than saying, “Let’s go try and reinvent something.” It’s like, no, this has been around for a while. Let’s go in the past and take a look at how nature does things. So yeah, very cool.

NM [14:51]: Yeah. So another example to kind of blow it up even bigger is so we talked a lot about nature being a model, a mentor, and a measure. So we can actually look to nature. We can emulate forms, we can emulate process, and we can emulate systems. So one of the projects that we’re probably most excited about right now is this initiative called Project Positive. And this is, it’s a collaborative of companies that are all kind of working on this initiative moving towards positive. So moving away from doing less bad, or I should say, moving beyond doing less bad and what does it look like to be positive, so actually providing a positive impact to the communities in which they serve and operate. What does that look like? So often when you are talking to people about sustainability, companies will have these like reduction goals, we’re going to reduce our water consumption by 30%. We’re going to reduce our carbon by X percent. They’ll have these like reduction goals. Often those are based on some kind of an arbitrary goal of, you know, we just want to reduce it. And so we started asking the question of, well, what does it look like to be positive? Instead of doing less bad? What would it look like to actually be positive? Instead of like having reduction goals, how could we have positive impacts? And so, you know, what would nature do, right? And looking to, well, how do ecosystems perform? When we look at a system level, we look at ecosystems, they’re delivering what’s called ecosystem services. So these are the value that we as humans get for free from nature. So clean air, clean water, things that nature is doing for us every day, all day that we don’t think about or even actually value into our kind of currency of products and services. But we can measure those, we can say, “Okay, well, this is how a forest is performing.” It’s sequestering, you know, X amount of carbon, it’s filtering this many pollutants at this rate. We can actually start to quantify how ecosystems perform. And we can use that as a benchmark of this is what positive looks like. So we did our first kind of pilot of this project with Interface, which is a carpet-tile manufacturing company. They are super forward-thinking in sustainability, probably one of the top leaders in sustainability. So they’ve been a longtime partner of ours. So when they were looking to look, they were about to achieve their 2020 sustainability goals. They essentially said, “Well, you know, what’s next?” What we essentially landed on is, well, let’s, let’s lean into this idea of moving beyond less bad and moving into positive. Let’s look at your facilities and let’s look at you know, what would it look like for your factories to function like forests and to produce ecosystem services like the forest next door because that gives you a science-based target that is locally relevant. Instead of just saying we want our facilities to sequester X amount of carbon, we can say we want our facilities in Amsterdam to sequester this rate of carbon because that’s what the forest next door is doing. Then you have a goal that is locally relevant, and science-based and data-driven, and therefore gives you kind of something to work towards, that’s positive. So these are very much kind of aspirational goals. It’s kind of launched this whole initiative of that particular pilot was called factory’s a forest. We’ve done campus as a forest. We’ve looked at projects that are also in the desert. So you know, looking at like data centers that deliver like that perform as desert ecosystems. So there’s a lot of ways that you can actually look at facilities that perform like healthy ecosystems, and we can actually quantify that performance, set performance goals, and actually those become the targets in which companies are working towards to achieve positive impact and positive performance.

JB [19:08]: You mentioned data centers. I have been able to tour some large data centers. I like what you said with companies not just working towards being less bad, but being, you know, more positive, right, more on the positives. Because that’s, I think that’s a huge trend I’m seeing in all of the data centers I’m touring is at Amazon and Microsoft at some of the big four. They’re all looking at how do we be more positive? So that’s a pretty cool thing to think through is not just do less bad. But let’s be better than that.

NM [19:38]: Exactly. Well, because that’s the point that we’re at, right? Like there’s a pretty significant sense of urgency that we can’t just keep operating at the rate we are. We can’t be making these small, incremental changes to help improve what we’re doing. We need some pretty significant swings if we’re really going to change the impacts that we’re having on our ecosystem and on our planet. And so this becomes, it becomes a really hopeful and possible way to talk about it, because it’s like if we’re talking about, well, this is what nature does. We know what’s happening right now. Like, we know this ecosystem is healthy, and that it’s operating at this rate. And so why can’t we be aiming for that same goal? And so I think that’s another component of it is that instead of coming at it from this doom and gloom, when we come in and say, “Well, hey, here’s how nature is solving for water filtration.” It’s like, oh, okay, great. There’s a strategy that does exist that we can emulate versus this is too overwhelming, I’m not sure where to start, or we’ve lost hope. Whatever it may be. I think that’s something that’s so important right now is coming at it not only, of course, from the place of hope, but from a place of it’s possible. And look, here’s an example. Because that’s so much of what people need to kind of help them step in is to see that it’s possible

JB [21:04]: Right. That’s great. Now, what would you say that takeaway for anyone listening to this podcast? What would you say? Like if you could give one free piece of advice?

NM [21:07]: Oh my gosh, in what context?

JB [21:09]: Any! I’m going to leave it really open-ended to you. In all your learnings, all the things you’ve thought through. I mean, it could be something that’s relevant to what we discussed, but what would be a takeaway?

NM [21:22]: Oh, gosh. I think probably what I’ve learned the most since coming and joining Biomimicry, and being part of this is just like the wonder and awe, like the amount that’s happening, like when you go for a walk in the forest, what’s happening around you is just so mind-blowing. And I think we have just like a small scratch of the surface, right? Like if you pick up just a handful of dirt, you have 10,000 organisms in your hand. You know, when you think about that, and what they’re all doing and working towards and like these incredible symbioses that are happening to make our world function.

So, for me, I think what’s been so inspiring is to take a step back and to really understand that, one that it’s happening. You know, instead of just like going on a hike and trying to get to the top of the mountain as best I can, to get a good workout in before my next meeting. It’s like, really kind of taking a pause to like, really recognize all the kind of phenomenon that’s happening around us to really enable us as humans to thrive on this planet. And so just having more of that holistic understanding of how everything is connected, these small subtleties that we think are not relevant in terms of the consumer. The decisions that we make today, the products that you buy for dinner tonight, as you’re on your way home from work, actually have some sort of implication to the ecosystems in which they were harvested and, but I think just taking that pause and taking a beat to see how it’s all intersected. And that as a human operating walking through this world like we hold so much power in the small decisions that we make in what we purchase. And I think that’s what I think really become illuminated to me is one, the value of the ecosystems and these organisms that surround us, and two how can I make a difference in my everyday practices and purchases to protect them?

JB [23:25]: Yeah, that’s good. I think a lot of us, too often, just kind of go about our own lives without really thinking of the consequences or thinking of the things that affect our decisions as we’re doing it, right? Like, I mean, it’s just too easy to do that.

NM [23:37]: We’re flying so fast. The pace at which we’re operating. It’s like, I mean, I have to believe my friends and I talked about this, like, we have to be butting up against some sort of threshold. You see this and we talk about this a lot, particularly in the field of sustainability like burnout. You know, like people are operating at these paces that are just not sustainable. When you’re flying that fast, we’re missing so much. And I think what I’m seeing is we’re missing what we actually have the power to have influence over. And I think that’s where it kind of becomes exciting again is like, if by taking that pause, you know, which is hard to do. Yeah, today is society, but, but you know how it goes, it’s like, one person does it within your social circle, and then the other person does it and you start to really recognize that value of, of slowing down.

JB [23:25]: Oh, absolutely. Very good answer, by the way. this is gonna be edited heavily. I don’t know if I said at the very beginning. So all makes sense. It might feel disjointed, but it’ll all be smoothed out. So the next section is the hot seat section. So I’m going to ask you, okay, some random questions. Okay, here we go. All right. Are you ready? The innovation hot seat, we’re going to ask you a bunch of questions. But number one, what podcasts do you subscribe to?

NM [25:01]: Oh my gosh, I subscribe to so many. And I have to figure out which ones to listen to. I listen to Tim Ferriss, I listened to TED Radio Hour is another one I love because it synthesizes the content. And then what’s the other one that’s on my list? Well, I’ve been trying to learn French. So I’ve been listening to French podcasts in terms of like a language learning podcast. So that’s the other thing I listen to a lot right now.

JB [25:28]: Oh, awesome. So with that, is that just like, do they teach you how to speak French or just have to pick up on it as you’re listening?

NM [25:35]: It’s a little bit of both. They’re teaching you words and you’re kind of having a conversation with this person on the other end, and then of course, your listening as well. Okay, so I guess I say that I put that in my podcast time. I like bucket my time very type A and so in my podcast time, a lot of what I’m listening to is his language.

JB [25:55]: Nice. Awesome. And when do you listen to the podcast normally?

NM [25:57]: So I walk to and from work. And so it’s a 20-minute walk to and from. So I’ll do one on the way there and then one on the way back. And sometimes it’s a kind of a continuation of the one I listen to. Sometimes I get bored with it, and I’ll start another one. It depends, you know if it’s a long form or short podcast, but yeah, that’s typically how I do it.

JB [26:18]: And then number one on your list is Ask an Innovator. I know that for a fact.

NM [26:21]: Of course.

JB [26:24]: All right. So the second question, one person you would invite to dinner and why?

NM [26:29]: Oh, and it can just be a person like throughout time or in current? This is such a good question. I think right now given like the political environment, I would want to invite like one of our founding fathers to the dinner table to ask them like when they crafted these documents. I’m kind of cheating because I’m giving them all this to one person. But if I had to choose one, you know, a person who was kind of important in the construction of our constitution and our historical documents, you know, to really ask them the intention and what they meant by it. Because we’re hundreds of years later just kind of hung up on this. Yeah, I think so right now, like, I guess in today’s political environment, that that would be a person I would be interested in wanting to understand the intentions behind the word choices that they have. Yeah, because I’ve even heard like, you know, that these words weren’t intended to live more than 100 years. And, you know, they thought that we would revise them and it would be updated. So, you know, I’ve heard that so I think that’s kind of been top of mind lately, given everything that’s going on in our own kind of US politics. So, so yeah, that’s kind of intriguing me right now. Oh, for sure. How about you, who’s your person?

JB [27:48]: Oh, man. That’s putting me on the spot here. You know, what’s funny is I set out to answer him, but then I was like, oh, hopefully she doesn’t remember I said that you know? Yeah, that’s a good question. I think you know, honestly, I’m a big fan of Steve Jobs. I think that it would be pretty cool to sit down with Steve Jobs and have a conversation with him. He passed away and we weren’t able to see some of the innovations that he even had on his mind. I’d be kind of interested to see what he thought even sit him down and say like, what do you think of the environment today? You know, what do you think the next innovations are? He’s a very forerunner type person, so yeah, I think that’d be kind of cool.

NM [28:26]: Oh, most definitely. Yeah. Just to know what was on his mind, right. Like what he was thinking?

JB [28:30]: Oh, absolutely. So number three, one thing you would bring with you on a desert island and it can’t be a person.

NM [28:39]: Oh, this is so easy for me chapstick.

JB [28:42]: Oh, chapstick. Okay. I think I cheat with this one I’m like, I don’t know like a life raft you know on a desert island or something right? It is cheating. Maybe, you know, if I wasn’t cheating, maybe like my Kindle that, but I had unlimited charge. And I read it. And I had maybe Internet access too so I could buy new books and stuff. So that might be what I do. So.

NM [29:24]: Right, because it has to be the endless supply, right? Because it’s not just one bottle of sunblock it’s like, I come with an endless supply of it. As long as I’m stuck there.

JB [29:42]: Okay, number four. What is the last book you’ve read?

NM [29:44]: Oh, like completed? Even just for like, what am I reading right now?

JB [29:46]: Yeah, what are you reading right now? Let’s go with that one.

NM [29:51]: Okay. Right now I’m reading The Overstory, which is a really cool fiction book, which I very rarely read. I normally don’t read fiction books, but it’s a New York Times bestseller. I’m sure your listeners have probably heard of it. But it’s this incredible story really founded on the kind of history that trees play throughout these lives. So he kind of the beginning of the book is this narrative of these people’s lives and the journey of their lives and the role that trees or a particular tree have played in the unraveling or unfolding of their life. So it’s really it’s an incredibly brilliant writer. And so it just flows very, very seamlessly. And then the second half of the book is really talking about trees and kind of really gets into the function and the biology and the importance and relevance that the trees play in our life both in the biological but then even kind of a social and even emotional and you probably even argue some sort of kind of spiritual relationship as well. So that’s what I’m reading right now. The book before that that I finished was Scott Belsky, The Messy Middle, which I’ve read it like three times. I keep going back and back to it. It’s a really good business reference book for me. So I spent a lot of time on that one last year. As I’m navigating a lot of growth for our company, he has this really cool graph in the beginning, where it’s like, I have this brilliant idea. We’re on a growth trajectory. And it’s like, oh, shit, now what? So he kind of talks about that space that no one like, it’s so funny. You have the official narrative of companies like had this idea, got some funding, we got a great client, we grew I sold the company and I’m a billionaire, right? Like, that’s the story you get, it’s like, well, it didn’t quite happen that way.
That’s a lot of what he talks about is that those ups and downs and those valleys.

How do you get through them? What does that look like? And that’s really relevant to the space that we’re in as a company. This company was founded by two women over 20 years ago. And it’s so it’s been around for a long time, but we’re still very much on the forefront of the work that we do. And so, you know, what does it look like to kind of navigate the growth of a company that’s been in existence for 20 years, but now going through a kind of a growth trajectory and getting through that? So yeah, so that was a really kind of important and helpful book for me. That is a recent read. What about you? What’s your, there’s two?

JB [32:30]: So there are two books that I’ve been reading. So Lean Startup in the Enterprise. So I’ve read Lean Startup many times. But this is kind of a newer take on it, of what corporate what it would look like for corporate to take on lean startup. And then there’s also a book called Top Grading which is basically how to hire, and coach, and key A player’s. So that’s a very, very thin book, but it’s a good one. Usually, I’m a nonfiction kind of guy, as well, you know. So every once in a while I’ll read like a biography or something. But usually, it’s one of those types of books.

NM [33:05]: So I’m writing Top Grading down. What’s the book you gift the most?

JB [33:11]: Oh, Lean Startup, by far. Just because of the industry we’re in with, you know, my day job. So it usually it’s like Lean Startup or something with design thinking. We do a lot of Google design sprints. So certainly with that, I give that book away a lot. How about you?

NM [33:05]: Well, gosh, the book I give the most is Janine Benyus, our founder. Biomimicry: Innovation Inspired by Nature by far it’s the book I give out the most.

JB [33:35]: Oh, sure. Absolutely. Cool. All right, your favorite place you’ve traveled and why?

NM [33:42]: This is tough. So when I did sourcing I traveled, I was so lucky to travel the world and go to some pretty far corners. Favorite place? This is not a good answer, but I will answer your question, I promise. But I kind of love everywhere I go. I love culture, and I love people. And so I just love like one of my favorite things to do when I get some places to go to the grocery store. Because you really get this, like, you get this immediate, like deep dive into the life of that community or that culture because you see what like one you know, just like the condition of the store that you’re in and then to like the products that they have, and then who’s there and then anywhere I travel, I love just going to the grocery store. I also love food. So that’s part of it. So one of the places that I’ve traveled and I haven’t been there recently, but I used to go to when I would do sourcing in India, and mostly in Bangalore and Mumbai. I remember really loving it because I remember how happy everybody was like, no matter who you spoke to, they were incredibly happy. The context and the environment in which they sometimes were living and operating in, isn’t what you would expect someone happy to be, you know. And it was just it was really, it was really eye-opening for me to kind of see that. So that’s, that’s one place for sure. I’m also going to be a little bit biased. I’m from Montana, and I feel so lucky to be from this incredible state. And so sometimes just traveling out my back door, and going to so I’m from Montana fifth-generation, I’ve lived here, a lot of my life, not all of my life, but most of it. And there are still so many pockets of the state that I haven’t even seen. So another place to travel for me. Another favorite is just exploring more of Montana.

JB [35:44]: Sure, that’s good. Yeah, those definitely I’ve never been to India. I’ve never been and now that I’m thinking about it, I don’t know if I’ve ever been to Montana either. So man, I need to up my game.

NM [35:56]: You do. You so do. No matter like if you come in winter, you know if you’d love winter recreation, it’s incredible. If you recreate in the summer, it’s incredible. Even if you don’t recreate. It’s incredible, you know? So it’s just, I mean, probably fall is my favorite time. It’s my favorite time, no matter where in the world. Fall is pretty epic here as is summer.

JB [36:22]: I’ll have to do that. Cool. Well, I’ll tell you mine. And then that was the last question. So mine is Israel. I liked going I know. So I went there for the last part of my MBA and that was a really interesting trip. I mean, there’s just a ton, a ton of history there. It’s just a ton. And then I’m a history buff. So that really interests me, but there’s also it’s so interesting to see there’s a bunch of microclimates and just really interesting things to see there. In one side I remember traveling for like all around Israel and there’s like, one side is like basically like a desert and then you travel the other side and it’s basically like an oasis with like palm trees and everything. It’s like it’s a very interesting place. Everything kind of converging at once all these different microclimates all over the place. So, and I really, one thing I’ll say is I really liked the olives there. They have amazing olives.

NM [35:56]: The food I can only imagine was, was incredible.

JB [37:25]: Absolutely. Cool. Awesome. Well, that was the interview. I really appreciate your time, Nicole. It’s been great chatting today. Anything else you would add to this interview at all? That’s like have one more thing I want to say.

NM [35:56]: Oh, well, definitely get outside. And then I would like really invite people to ask the question like next time they have a problem or they’re sitting kind of thinking about an issue or something that they want to solve, to, like actually pause and say, Well, what would nature do? We have I didn’t say this, but we also have our sister organization is The Biomimicry Institute. That’s our nonprofit entity. And there’s a site called And you can actually type in a question, what would nature do if I was looking at a particular issue, and there’s a whole slew of strategies so that you can actually get a sense for how nature would solve that problem. So I would encourage people to do that. It’s kind of a nice way to kind of dip your toe into looking at how nature solves some of the problems around this. So it’s awesome. Yeah, I would, I would invite people to do that for sure.

JB [38:35]: I’m on it right now. Definitely a very cool site. I appreciate it again, Nicole. And this is another Ask an Innovator.

Keep Reading

Share on social