I use examples from the tropical forest when I’m explaining creativity and innovation to corporate groups. I’m always amazed so many company owners and managers have to be convinced that learning how to be innovative is in their best interest. From my presentation, they are usually convinced that our human destiny is to become creative.

Many people think their key collaborators will suddenly be creative thinkers when the time is right or the need apparent. Nothing is farther from the truth. We are creatures of habit and, like everything else, creative thinking must be learned and then practised. Without creative input, there will be no innovative output.

In the jungle, successful species have no resistance to complying with Nature’s Survive & Prosper law. As both predator and prey co-exist in the same territory, the first part of the law suggests “prey” should remain relatively invisible to predators. In order to prosper though, prey has to not only be visible, it has to be downright attractive to its own species. That's a tight balance.

The task requires survivors to constantly adjust and adapt so they answer both requirements. I’ll tell the story of the "Owl Moth" in example. It is so-named because of round spots on the underside of its wings. When the wings are unfolded, the Moth look like it has the eyes of an owl. Predators will think twice before attacking something with such large eyes... on the off-chance there may be an equally large body attached to them.

I know one species of fly that looks just like a bee just in order to fool its predators, and another transformed itself to look exactly like a hornet. And a third kind looks like an oak leaf.

Even plants will be highly creative. I tell people about the fly-orchid - a flower that attracts male flies and tricks them into pollinating it by appearing to be a female of the species. Not only does it mimic the look, its scent is similar to the sexual pheromones of a female fly in heat. Or I’ll show my audience the bee-orchid – a flower that looks just like a female bee. In order to prosper, orchids will leave nothing to chance. They trick others into mating with them in this highly innovative way so they'll spread their pollen.

I'll often conclude my presentation by asking
: “Do you know how to produce the innovative ideas that will assure your success.”

Your own survival depends on a positive answer -
so here are 6 quick steps that can provoke innovative breakthroughs:
  1. Examine problems from as many angles as possible.
  2. Learn to think in metaphors. What does the problem remind you of?
  3. Make your thoughts “visible” by using pictures or drawings to represent them. See what else will work.
  4. Brainstorm possible solutions with a mixed group of people. How do you get a good idea? You produce a lot of ideas and, later, throw out the bad ones.
  5. Unify opposites by looking for patterns between seemingly incompatible ideas, Make new and novel connections from old concepts.
  6. Force relationships. Take complementary ideas and join them together into new and larger ideas.

Creative thinking isn’t serendipity, it's hard work. When I see what the tiniest creatures do to assure their success, I’m thankful they’ve taken the lead and can show us the way. Now if only we’ll pay attention!