440 Davis Court #1602
San Francisco, CA 94111-2496
415 781 5700

June 9, 1999

04 00069 61 99060901

National Science Foundation
Proposal Processing Unit, Room P60
4201 Wilson Boulevard
Arlington, VA 22230

Subject: NSF SBIR Grant Proposal #9961176 (Kit #1015800)
System of Metrics for Business Communication


Innovation - Communication Metrics Improves Management
Internet Supports Virtual Office
Statement of the Case - SDS and POIMS
Research Objectives/Tasks
NSF Funding Advances Disruptive Technology
Commercial Potential

Communication Metrics Improves Management

This proposal seeks funding in the amount of $100K to develop a Phase II project for researching components of a system for business metrics that supports the generic practice of "management," called Communication Metrics. It applies results of prior National Science Foundation support for Professor Steven Pinker's work at MIT (grants 82-09540, 85-18774 and 91-09766), cited in his book How the Mind Works, published by W.W. Norton, Inc, in 1997.

Internet Supports Virtual Office

The proposal is submitted via Internet in order to facilitate review of a system for adding value to the Internet by using it for daily management, and to replace conventional email and documents. This is a new, more robust capability applying a precept of clear, concise, complete communication within a continuous knowledge stream. Like human memory, it is seamless and powerful. An advantage is that connections in this environment do not fade nor become commingled with the passage of time, as occurs in human thought.

Statement of the Case - POIMS and SDS

Communication Metrics is a management science developed by the principal investigator beginning in 1995. It is supported by software called the Schedule Diary System (SDS), which is an application that manages information in a manner that enhances human intelligence. SDS was developed beginning in 1983, and continues to the present day. In 1985 a way was discovered to emulate an important mental process of integrating time and information to produce chains of chronology. It was not recognized as momentous at the time, but has proven to be a major breakthrough in software engineering under "empathic design" criteria. It combines planning in a schedule, with reporting in a diary or journal, so that these two historically separate tasks reinforce each other. The ordinary explanation of this composite feature is human experience. Miller, Pinker, Campbell, Landauer and others, conversant in cognitive science, point out that the human mind does not reason by logic, but by experience.

SDS enables people to capture, organize, align and retrieve accurate, relevant experience quickly, supported by links to controlling authority. Since 1985 this step has led to a number of unique functions for managing information and time, that greatly expand the power of the alphabet to generate knowledge and ideas beyond what can be achieved through traditional printed documents, wordprocessing and email. The body of work that resulted was described in a paper delivered to the Project Management Institute in 1994 under the title POIMS Technology. The Internet now adds an additional advantage of uniform, timely delivery world-wide. This emerging environment portends a new paradigm for technology to provide a useful operating system for people and organizations.

POIMS defines a category of technology for the SDS program. It explains intelligence, Communication Metrics and other ideas that help people think, remember and communicate.

So far, no one else has been able to produce anything close to a POIMS program, because the core idea of integrating time and information is counterintuitive. People have to think of it, or be told about it, and then overcome ignorance and strong disbelief that it is a powerful technique. Then they have to create a tool that adequately implements the concept, and then they must work with it for a fair amount of time so that the benefits of investing intellectual capital begin to role in. Then, like using the alphabet, a light goes off...

Oh, it really helps to write things down, and link them up.

Since POIMS is hard to explain and understand, Communication Metrics was put forward as an easier concept for managers to grasp. Many managers are familiar with communication, and with business metrics. Unfortunately, despite years of TQM and an information highway, no one has a clue what Communication Metrics means.

For 15 years or so, only one person has plugged along advancing the technology, funded by occasional assignments and family resources, which are now running out. Evidence from use by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers shows Communication Metrics, using SDS according to its design, adds "intelligence" to management, and that this improves earnings markedly. People however do not want earnings improved, if it requires improving the core competency of civilization, reading and writing. Indeed, overcoming resistance by well-meaning managers and executives to improve earnings, is a miracle.


Reading and writing applied through Communication Metrics reveals a constant stream of errors, caused by limited span of attention in the face of an expanding flow of information, that people make every day, all day long. Since communication with others, and with oneself, is a predicate to all human action, introducing a "metric" that shows alignment with original sources, offers a huge opportunity to discover and adjust impending action that does not align with requirements and objectives, so that actual mistakes are greatly reduced. The corollary is that constant exposure to related subjects and history supports recognizing new implications that are commonly called "insights," "hunches," and "ideas" that are an attribute of human intelligence. Reducing mistakes and increasing ideas has a positive compounding affect on human productivity.

Confronting constant errors, however, is hard psychologically. People prefer to ignore small problems, and hope they do not grow into big crisis, the kind that take up most of the time of executives and managers. Second, people fear accountability that is commonly associated with writing things down, even if it improves earnings. More than they desire credit for success, they fear accountability for problems. These social dynamics prevent people from climbing the mountain of resistance to adding "intelligence" to management.

This capability is generic. It improves building a dam, a rocket ship, planning a merger, getting the car serviced, or going to the dentist. All human activity uses "intelligence" of some kind. So, adding "intelligence" to management improves everything.

Research Objectives/Tasks

We want to research the following three (3) issues...

  1. Search capability for the SDS record by subject accessible on the Internet.

    The Internet has many fine search capabilities, but none meet the POIMS criteria for assembling chains of related chronology, as is available in the SDS program.

  2. Subject Indexing rules and processes implemented on the Internet.

    This is a major component of effective "intelligence" as defined in POIMS. Research is needed for enabling organizations and industries to define common knowledge structures that organize information in a way which builds and maintains shared meaning over time.

    Some people propose putting together separate subject indexes by industry, e.g., farming, medicine, ship building, education, car manufacture, bio-tech, computers, law and so on. This may turn out to be a deliverable, but it is not the preferred goal, because experience shows these "common lists" don't work very well.

  3. Procedures for using "intelligence" delivered via Internet will be developed in the Phase II report, as...

    1. Clear, concise, complete communication

      On its face, this appears conflicting, however, it has proven to be very effective.

    2. Judicious review in following linked material.

    This effort will largely refine and formalize work that has already been done to help people handle the overwhelming impact of applying the explosion of connections that are encountered in the SDS record on the Internet, as a result of the technology that applies the management concept of traceability to original sources.

Clearly, the first two (2) points are related, yet they entail largely separate kinds of disciplines. SDS has strong technique for accomplishing both objectives, but it is not known how well it supports sharing knowledge structures, which is the key to producing a generic support tool. Sharing knowledge structures, i.e., creating something by person a, which person b can apply, is a major step that requires research and refinement.

NSF Funding Advances Disruptive Technology

SDS, POIMS and Communication Metrics fit squarely in the category of a disruptive technology, given visibility by Clay Christensen in his book The Innovator's Dilemma, published a few years ago. Under Christensen's criteria, SDS is a powerful force for moving civilization forward, but is yet untapped. Because it is counterintuitive, government funding is an appropriate vehicle to help the private sector overcome ignorance, fear and denial that has, thus far, limited the opportunity to unleash the power of the microcosm into the mainstream of commercial enterprise.

The NSF proposal is to keep moving forward in the face of strong resistance.

Funding will be applied to interview computer scientists and practitioners to solve the first issue, and to interview cognitive scientists, librarians and others who work in knowledge classification, e.g., work breakdown systems in ship building, air plane manufacture, chip design. This research will then be formulated into a Phase II plan for accomplishing these objectives.

NSF support is critical apart from funding, simply to gain access to the right people who can address these issues, i.e, to get people to return phone calls and engage the goals and ideas of Communication Metrics constructively. For many people the credibility of NSF participation is more important than moving forward on the work.

SDS will be used to capture the record, so an effective history of the work can be used by others.

Indeed, one could design a research program simply to demonstrate the value of reading and writing in an "intelligent" way. This is as an additional inducement to NSF for grant approval. Everything that is done with SDS inherently produces a well ordered chronological case study. An example is work preparing the grant proposal on April 27, 1999.

Other issues related to scaling SDS up for enterprise-wide support, will require study in the future, e.g., security, program loading characteristics, platform, data base administration, and so on, that traditionally arise for big scheme proposals on enterprise management. We propose taking it one step at a time. If we can solve these three (3) relatively narrow objectives of searching, rules for knowledge organization, and how to apply the light of "intelligence" on the Internet, it will be a huge step toward realizing the goals of the virtual office, and it will provide an immediate tool that can be widely used individually, and by at least a few people working closely together on a project, to share information.

Commercial Potential

Disruptive technology by definition cannot forecast budgets and revenue streams within an order of magnitude. Proposed funding provides a window of opportunity to continue and accelerate the path of discovery toward commercially viable technology. Experience shows the present technology produces ROI in the range of 10:1; however, given the fear of accountability and other social dynamics, a specific time table for putting this engine to work cannot be accurately estimated.

Key indicia of market acceptance, which here-to-fore has been lacking, are "self-evident benefits." On Nov 4, 1998 an Engineer with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers found Communication Metrics on the Internet is pretty neat, which seems to be another way of describing self-evident benefits. On Nov 19, 1998 an executive in the USACE Washington D.C. Headquarters office expressly cited self-evident benefits of Communication Metrics on the Internet; and, on May 7, 1999, issued a report recommending this method. More recently, an Internet Service Provider admired Communication Metrics in solving service problems. Another reviewer comments SDS provides clear advantages over other methods for managing information on the Internet. These anecdotes point to the value stream awaiting future users, as SDS and Communication Metrics reach the light of market recognition.

The commercial potential for this research is limitless. Since it posits a fundamental advance in the use of the alphabet, and since the alphabet is at the apex of the triangle that represents factors influencing human productivity, this single advance, like the alphabet, once it is applied widely, will improve government and private sector activity.



Rod Welch
Principal Investigator