Large multinational organizations are complex beasts. This is, even more, the case when they are loose aggregations of autonomous regional and national organizations. A case in point if the International Committee of the Red Cross. The ICRC helps people around the world that suffer in situations of armed conflict or other violence. But its work doesn’t always happen directly, the ICRC has a large number of Red Cross and Red Crescent partners all around the world that fall under its general auspices.

While this is a good model in terms of delivering agility and a degree of autonomy, it also has some negative impacts. In particular, internal communications within the broader ICRC family can become particularly fraught – obviously through the sub-optimal communication channels that are often the norm in the countries the ICRC and partners work, but also because of the inherent complexity of the organization.

Starmind and its knowledge-exposing promise

This is where Starmind comes in. The company has a focus on identifying particular subject matter experts within large organizations. The idea is that within a large and distributed organization, where peer-to-peer communication isn’t possible, Starmind can expose prospective connections around a particular problem area or topic.

The company was founded by Pascal Kaufmann and Marc Vontobel back in 2010 and since then has picked up a number of commercial customers outside of ICRC including J. Walter Thompson Worldwide, Telefónica Deutschland, and Swiss Re. According to the company, workplace efficiency has grown via the use of Starmind, to the point where that holy grail – exposing previously hidden knowledge and information within organizations – is the new normal.

Of course, this is technology, so Starmind has a very buzzword-infused way of describing what it does, something about applying neuroscientific principles to AI. I don’t know about that, but the idea of exposing internal information is a logical one.n

So, what does it do?

It’s all pretty simple, really. Questions entered into the dialog box of the Starmind-powered “Ask the ICRC” portal will be processed and analyzed by Starmind’s platform. This system will link those encountering an issue with the most qualified individual among the nearly 18,000 ICRC employees. It also creates a living memory of all previous questions and answers posted. ICRC seems to be very bullish about what Starmind can deliver. Says Ernesto Izquierdo, Digital Communication Advisor for the ICRC:

Starmind is perfect for the rapid-fire and ad hoc nature of the problems faced by the ICRC every day. Let’s say that a water habitat employee on the ground in Cambodia needs advice from an expert to fix a village’s water supply, but the most qualified source of advice is in the field in Afghanistan. The employee can give the ‘Ask the ICRC’ portal its question for analysis by Starmind, which then connects them to the relevant expert, wherever they are in the world. This helps our colleagues save time and increases our efficiency.

I had some questions for Starmind and ICRC to give me a sense of how widely the solution is making a difference within ICRC. The product “will be” implemented across all 18,000 employees of ICRC. This is important since part of the Starmind value proposition is to use machine learning to ensure the system progressively gets better over time. That goal is predicated on lots of usage of the system and by extending Starmind across the entire employee pool, the best outcomes over time can be ensured.

In terms of what ICRC used previously, Starmind augments but doesn’t replace core solutions like SharePoint, Wikis, and an internal intranet. Starmind maintains the collaborative aspects of these solutions, but amplifies them via “neuroscience-based technology.” To translate: While many traditional collaboration tools are cumbersome and full of contradicting answers, Starmind’s AI aims to circumvent these issues remembering the answers to a given question, and always connecting a user with a relevant expert.


The proof of the pudding is, as they say, in the eating. As such, it’s early days and hard to assess the impact that Starmind will bring. That said, if ICRC can ensure widespread usage, it looks like Starmind will hold up its part of the bargain and deliver better clarity, transparency ad efficiency for the organization.

Ben Kepes

Ben Kepes is a technology evangelist, an investor, a commentator and a business adviser. Ben covers the convergence of technology, mobile, ubiquity and agility, all enabled by the Cloud. His areas of interest extend to enterprise software, software integration, financial/accounting software, platforms and infrastructure as well as articulating technology simply for everyday users.

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