Do you think work is a game? Social Lair sure hopes so

Credit: sskennel via Flickr

Conversations about consumerization of the enterprise usually revolve around the embrace of personal devices, social media (typically rebranded as “social business” or “enterprise social”) and collaboration tools.

But a number of startups are focusing on creating tools for increasing employee engagement and morale based on another hugely successful consumer trend: games.

It’s called “gamification,” and the premise is to turn work-related projects and tasks into reward-driven games in which employees can earn things like virtual currency and other non-monetary incentives, including peer recognition.

Detractors argue that gamification is no more than a marketing term, a fad, or encourages short-term, point-to-point thinking. Despite the skeptics, Gartner last year predicted that by 2015, more than 50% of enterprises that manage "innovation processes" will rely on gaming. 

One startup playing in this space is Social Lair, which was founded early last year and is based outside San Francisco.

Social Lair’s cloud-based platform is designed to enable enterprises to “socialize” business processes such as product lifecycle management, workforce management and marketing.

Customers can deploy two different software development kits (SDKs) offered by the startup. The Social Lair SDK allows customers to integrate advanced quantitative and qualitative social analytics with their existing enterprise applications.

The Emergent Gamification SDK lets customers apply game design concepts to job-related tasks as a way to motivate employees and increase enterprise productivity, explains Social Lair CEO and co-founder Padmanabh Dabke.

While some gamification software focuses on rewarding “lowest rung” activity -- such as merely increasing user interaction -- Social Lair aims higher, Dabke says.

“In an activity-based scenario, you get points and badges simply for posting an idea,” he says. With Social Lair’s gamification software, “you only get points when someone validates that your contribution is indeed useful to your business.”

The Social Lair platform uses algorithms for blending social analytics data that rank content and users for relevance and importance.

This enables Social Lair to create more sophisticated gaming techniques, such as leaderboard rankings based not only on an individual’s contributions, but also how the community (whether it’s the entire company, a division or team) reacts to those contributions. Or an “ideas market,” in which players (employees) can invest virtual money in the proposals they think are most likely to be winners.

The ultimate goal is the use the games and reward system to enhance enterprise productivity and create business value.

Dabke says the company recently has reorganized its platform “so it targets crowdsourcing in three different areas -- Idea Management, Employee Engagement and Consumer Insight.”

(While Social Lair hasn’t made an announcement about the platform revamp, its website has information about each of these specific packages.)

Social Lair is angel-funded, but Dabke says the company is currently looking for venture capital.

Below is an IDG News Service video on gamification that features Social Lair and another startup called Badgeville. Other gamification vendors include TeamPlay, BigDoor and ISW, an Australian company that has built a gamification engine for IBM's Connections enterprise social platform.

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