Illustration by Chris Gash
By Verne Harnish
March 17, 2017

Your business and career will benefit if you strategically pursue the smartest of today’s ideas.

Mimic Mother Nature

If you’re not incorporating the most brilliant ideas from the natural world into what you sell, you’re leaving money on the table. Biomimicry is now going mainstream. Forward-looking companies are releasing ingenious products that mirror innovations found in nature, as entrepreneur Jay Harman, author of The Shark’s Paintbrush, points out. They range from sunscreen that replicates hippos’ protective sweat (sans the odor) to hospital wall coatings that emulate sharkskin’s antimicrobial properties. Nature has already solved many problems for us; why not take advantage of that?

Embrace Artificial Intelligence

Quit worrying about getting replaced by robots and figure out how to use artificial intelligence (AI) to grow your business. Services are coming online that can help even modest-size companies. Finding suppliers who use AI is often the most cost-effective way to get access to the technology. If you’re shopping for CRM software, for instance, look for a provider that is heading down this road. And keep an eye out for low-cost options like the Grid, which creates AI-driven websites that design themselves for small and midsize businesses, starting at $96.

For more on artificial intelligence, watch this Fortune video:

Join a Learning Circle

Most of us absorb far more when seated in a circle of peers who are studying the same thing than from the rows of a traditional classroom or while poring over an online course on our laptops. Instead of going it alone, make this the year you try a self-directed learning group like Circles (at circl.es). It brings together small gatherings of people who want to learn the same thing in private videochat rooms—taking the best features of book clubs into the digital era.

Mix With the Best

Surrounding yourself with great minds is critical if you want to raise your game. But you won’t brush up against top people at the gatherings mere mortals attend. At Genius X, a by-application-only network whose participants pay $100,000 to attend three meetings a year, founder Joe Polish says, “We want them to get a 10x return on their investment.” Why waste money on mediocre groups and conferences when you can invest in one great one that will really help you achieve your goals?

Retire the Idea of Retirement

Stop planning what you’ll do when your career ends and figure out how to continue it—on your own terms. “The second half of your life can be more fulfilling, more rewarding, and richer than the first half,” says John Anderson, author of the upcoming book Living Your Legacy. People over 50 are launching more businesses than their younger peers, and many corporate types are boomeranging out of retirement and back to their former firms to work part-time. Your future will be far more exciting if you find new ways to keep building on what you have learned and nurture the next generation.

A version of this article appears in the March 15, 2017 issue of Fortune.

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