New monarch stretching its wings for the very first time — Ancaster, Canada

From butterflies to cognitive business

Tying the power of monarch migrations to corporate consciousness

We often think of cognition and intelligence as being something discreet within each of us. Answering a specific question at a specific time… that is how a lot of us think about cognitive. Help me figure out the possible answers to this complex problem I have.

Yet, what’s equally intriguing (and valuable) is the collective knowledge we possess. The visceral knowledge that continues over time.

Take the case of the Monarch butterfly. One generation manages a trip of 3k miles from Canada to Mexico. There it lives and dies.

Here’s the rub… the grandson/great-grandson suddenly picks up and decides to travel back to Canada. How does it know? Where is this collective knowledge stored?

This we may never know, but echos of this ability are beginning to be seen in the corporate world.

You could call it corporate consciousness. Or tribal knowledge. Just like the origins of a single butterfly, there’s a lot of knowledge that is embedded within our organizations that we can now start to unleash with cognitive technologies.

Take the case of Woodside Energy. Offshore mining can be a risky business, where new engineers could really benefit from the experiential knowledge of generations who have gone before them. In order to uncover this knowledge and reduce risk, Woodside worked with IBM Watson to develop a cognitive application based on thousands of pages of engineering reports, effectively tapping into decades of experience. It would take an engineer more than five years to read all of this content.

Watson takes this cross-generational knowledge to understand, reason and learn. Watson takes that deep cognition and ultimately interacts with today’s Woodside project managers and engineers using a simple natural language interface. Guiding them and advising today’s employees with insights and answers based on decades of expertise.

So consider the knowledge that is embedded today in your organization. How can you start to uncover experience and wisdom? To what degree can you improve your operations and the productivity of your workforce? Can you make a move to digital to at least start to leave traces of that knowledge? Think about your own cognitive journey