A Critical Incident Network for Computer Supported Collaborative Leadership Learning

Period of Performance: 03/11/2002 - 01/10/2003

$120K

Phase 1 SBIR

Recipient Firm

Knowledge Analysis Technologies, LLC
4940 Pearl East Circle, Suite 200
Boulder, CO 80301
Principal Investigator

Abstract

Increasingly frequent and diverse coalition contingency missions demand broader strategic leadership skills in senior officers. The knowledge to deal with such critical incidents is largely tacit, based on voluminous experience, and demands up-to-date understanding of the myriad political, cultural, economic, and operational factors involved. An emerging technology for improving such leadership skills can be provided by discussion and sharing of knowledge and experiences in a computer-supported cooperative learning environment that embeds an intelligent text-understanding software agent based on Latent Semantic Analysis. In Phase I a prototype web-based system will be built that (a) helps to identify critical incidents and vignettes, (b) presents vignettes in a distributed cooperative learning environment, (c) monitors and enhances their discussion by connecting relevant comments to each other and to archival information, and (d) continually assesses and tutors the strategic thinking of individual participants and the group as a whole. Phase 1 will establish online data sources and collection paths needed for the project, automatically poll these sources for relevant material, and download it to a database accessible to the intelligent software agent. Friendly user testing by the target senior officer population will address the prototype's usefulness and usability. When perfected and operational, an electronic distributed cooperative learning environment will increase opportunities for practicing strategic leadership skills on relevant critical incidents. The envisioned tools provide instant access to timely information and situational updates forming the basis of decisions. They also increase the representation of the team to any legitimate member with internet access, making it possible to form ad-hoc discussion groups on a need-to-know basis. In addition to supporting synchronous or asynchronous team problem solving discussions, such a system could be a powerful teaching tool in a distance learning environment. While the initial environment targets relatively high level officers, such an environment is useful for lower ranking officers as well. In the private sector, such an electronic distributed cooperative learning environment could be used to in supporting strategic thinking skills in diverse fields, such as law, medicine, and business management. All such fields have critical incidents and conflicts which tax relevant experience and leadership skills. In educational applications it would offer opportunities for the enormous amounts of practice needed to acquire leadership skills in any domain. The benefits of a largely automatically developed computer based system would be synergistic with those of ADL and the Internet.