A Critical Incident Network for Computer Supported Collaborative Leadership Learning

Period of Performance: 03/01/2003 - 02/28/2005

$730K

Phase 2 SBIR

Recipient Firm

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

Abstract

The full spectrum of military missions will demand broader leadership skills in officers. The skills required are based on vast amounts of tacit knowledge. A powerful new technology promises to significantly improve the way in which these leadership skills are acquired and put into practice. The novel technology acts as a facilitator, knowledge resource, and evaluator in online discussion groups, in which war-fighters share knowledge and experience in realistic problem-centered discussions. The technology embeds an intelligent text-understanding software agent based on Latent Semantic Analysis. A prototype demonstrating feasibility was field-tested at the Army War College. It was well-received, and produced benefits in quantity and quality of knowledge. In Phase II we will implement and evaluate a fully functional version. In it the text-understanding software agent will do real-time, discussion mentoring and behind-the-scenes monitoring of the discussion. It will supplement the environment with several hundred digital books on terrorism. Users will be able to instantly find all related paragraphs in the entire library. The underlying software agent will enhance discussions by connecting relevant comments to each other and to information in the electronic library. The agent will also continually assess contributions of individual participants and the group as a whole. When perfected and operational, the greatly enhanced distributed cooperative learning environment will increase opportunities for practicing strategic leadership skills on relevant critical incidents. The envisioned tools provide instant access to critical content information and situational updates on which to base planning and decision. They will also expand participation in information gathering, planning, and decision making activities for any legitimate team member with internet access, no matter when or where located, making it possible to form ad-hoc discussion groups on a need-to-participate basis. In addition to supporting synchronous or asynchronous team problem solving discussions, such a system would be a powerful teaching and evaluation tool in a distance learning environment. While the initial environment targets relatively high level officers, such an environment is as much or more useful for lower ranking officers. In the private sector, such a capability could be used to support strategic thinking skills in diverse fields, such as law, medicine, civil defense, crises management, and business. 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 and delivered computer based system would be synergistic with those of ADL and distance learning efforts enabled by the Internet.