Broadening the taxonomic breadth of organisms in the bio-inspired design process

Published: 11 January 2023| Version 1 | DOI: 10.17632/cm9smd3xrd.1
Amanda Hund, Elizabeth Stretch,
, Emilie Snell-Rood


Generating a range of biological analogies is a key part of the bio-inspired design process. In this research, we draw on the creativity literature to test methods for increasing the diversity of these ideas. We considered the role of problem type, the role of individual expertise (versus learning from others), and the effect of two interventions designed to increase creativity – going outside and exploring different evolutionary and ecological “idea spaces” using online tools. We tested these ideas with problem-based brainstorming assignments from a 180-person online course in animal behavior. Student brainstorming was generally drawn to mammals, and the breadth of ideas was affected more by the assigned problem than by practice over time. Individual biological expertise had a small, but significant effect on the taxonomic breadth of ideas, but interactions with team members did not. When students were directed to consider other ecosystems, and branches of the tree of life, they increased the taxonomic diversity of biological models. In contrast, going outside resulted in a significant decrease in diversity of ideas. We offer a range of recommendations to increase the breadth of biological models generated in the bio-inspired design process.


Steps to reproduce

Please see methods in corresponding paper in Biomimetics


Pedagogy, Evolutionary Biology, Biomimetics, Biodiversity, Creativity, Biologically Inspired Engineering


John Templeton Foundation