Unique Use Cases for Social Apps in the Enterprise

Jun 15, 2015

Social networking is undoubtedly one of the most impactful consumer technologies today.  Many technology developers are trying to replicate the success of the consumer social phenomenon in a business setting. Vendors such as Glip, IBM, Igloo, Jive, Microsoft, Slack, SocialCast, SocialText, Tibco and many others are marketing solutions specifically positioned as social networking for the workplace. To increase the appeal of their solutions enterprise social networking vendors are adding business communications and collaboration features to their products and solutions. At the same time, communications vendors also seek to capitalize on potential business user demand for social networking capabilities in the workplace.  Cisco Spark, Interactive Intelligence Collaborate and Communicate, and Unify Circuit combine social elements with unified communications and collaboration capabilities such as instant messaging, multi-media conferencing, screen and file sharing, and more.

Technology developers that are not entrenched in the traditional realm of UC or business applications, have, of course, approached the enterprise social networking space from a different angle. I recently had the opportunity to speak with Jim Moss, founder and Chief Happiness Officer at Plasticity Labs. Jim sees the role of social apps not only as an enabler of team collaboration, but as a powerful tool for gauging and potentially enhancing employee job satisfaction and sense of well-being. Jim’s vision for the Plasticity app and his unique job title are, as you can guess, based on an inspirational personal story. I invited Jim to share his remarkable personal experiences and vision with Frost & Sullivan’s audience.

Elka: Jim, you have a unique job title and a unique mission statement on the Plasticity Labs web site. Your business seems to be all about happiness. We would all agree that technology’s role should be to improve the way people live and work. But I haven’t seen any other business technologies marketed with such a strong focus on happiness. Can you tell us what made you decide to develop a solution that is centered on employee happiness?

Jim: We’re on a mission to help 1 billion people choose a happier life and we rely on research and data as the best possible way to understand and then solve the problem. As a company, happiness is what we really care about so that’s what we talk about. We could have marketed ourselves differently, but we’ve found a significant market opportunity among companies and leaders who are aligned with the core idea of happiness.  We all know that our moods impact how we perform, so we’ve decided to follow the research and attack the core of the problem. We also understand that businesses have to be fiscally responsible and focus on outcomes such as customer satisfaction, sales, and productivity, so we specifically measure and report anonymously on how these KPI’s are impacted by the happiness of the employees involved. In doing this we create the best possible business case where organizations can invest in employee happiness, and understand up front what ROI they can expect.

Regarding my title, I’m a Chief Happiness Officer and that is what I’m measured on as a leader. Employees, customer, and shareholders, each of these stakeholder groups are made happy by different things and it is my role to understand and provide what they require to flourish. In a former life I was a professional athlete and then very suddenly I contracted this neuromuscular disease that forced me to relearn how to walk. Every day I understood more how my mood impacted my ability to heal and so I threw myself very deeply into the research. What I learned in my research and what we continue to learn is what drives us. We are deeply committed to gathering high-quality data, learning what it has to teach us, and then building technologies to accomplish our mission.

Elka: That is an amazing story, Jim. But how is Plasticity different from other social apps? It looks similar to Facebook, but I can also see differences. Can you highlight some Plasticity features and capabilities and illustrate how those are being or can be used by customers?

Jim: It was our goal that at first glance we don’t appear much different from many of the social tools that you mentioned. However when you start to use the web or mobile app, you understand the focus on happiness. What we found in our research is that other social tools lack focus, they are a catch-all for everything and, as a result, they offer no specific primary value to anyone. The other issue we’re setting straight is that technology inherently builds habits. If you’re not careful those habits can be negative and decrease happiness and productivity.

Plasticity is about individual and collective happiness and building the habits most likely to lead to happiness. It’s about choosing to be happier, learning what adds to and detracts from your own positive experience of the world. Think short, intimate interactions with technology that through repetition, build positive habits. Along the way we collect a ton of data and the primary use of the data is to help the individual understand and improve their own social and emotional intelligence so that they can more easily control theirs moods. At a very high level it’s a habit-building and mindfulness engine.  

Plasticity combines a social engine, a survey engine, an advertising engine, and a light learning management system (LMS). We help you to measure your happiness, we connect you with others in ways that are most likely to improve your happiness, and then we advertise to you simple activities that you can choose for personal and professional development. Here are some examples of ways we can help: How can you get more out of meetings to maintain happiness and productivity? How can you avoid meaningless meetings that make you unhappy and negatively impact your productivity? How can you use skills like empathy and emotional control to provide greater customers satisfaction? How can you build optimism and resilience to handle periods of difficult market conditions and maintain high performance which leads to greater job stability, which leads to happiness.

For the organizations that we work with, we are able to provide incredible high-level and detailed reports, as well as a real-time dashboard and predictive analytics. For example, in many instances we are replacing the annual survey because our real-time data understands the ebbs and flows of employee sentiment across time. Who needs a single slice of data when you can watch it moving in real time. How do employees respond to mergers and acquisitions? Major fiscal announcements? Layoffs? Managerial changes? Our team of PhD’s and consultants are changing the way organizations make decisions based on the analytics that we provide. If you care about engagement for example, we’ll understand how it intimately interacts with happiness and job satisfaction. In some organizations, engagement and inspiration are high but happiness and satisfaction are low, this is highly predictive of burn-out, turnover that you don’t see coming, and lengthy disability claims. These things don’t make anyone happy.

Plasticity app resized jpeg.jpg

Elka: I believe business users have so many apps available to them today, that it’s becoming difficult to manage all the interfaces and experiences. Do you have any plans to integrate Plasticity with other communications and collaboration tools or productivity apps to make it more compelling for users to make Plasticity one of their most commonly used tools?

Jim: All of our research confirms exactly that. Too many interfaces for too many varying and often unimportant reasons. Our approach to this is two-fold. Firstly, have a beautiful, intuitive, user-centric interface. So many of the enterprise tools, CRM’s for example, are clunky, employees actually despise using them. Plasticity is like night and day. First off it’s familiar. The most important aspects are evident and easy to use, value is delivered immediately and there’s not a million things competing for your attention. For our SME customers it is more likely that Plasticity is the primary login.

Secondly, integrations. For SME’s this is less of an issue, but at the enterprise level, this is where we start to see real technology fatigue. In these cases we are less focused on communications and social, what we care about is collecting meaningful data to help individuals build positive habits. Communications, CRM, and Intranets are the focus. Microsoft Office 365, Salesforce, Atlassian, Jive, SharePoint, IBM Connections, and of course Slack (I’m a really huge fan of Slack). These are all well-established enterprise platforms where we can integrate and both collect data and deliver targeted opportunities for personal and professional development. The way we think about it is, which tools can provide data and access to the users’ work flow to allow us the best opportunity to accomplish our stated mission? Integrations will begin to roll out in late 2015, early 2016.

Elka:  Going forward, how will social apps evolve and what will be their role in the workplace? What is the technology development roadmap for Plasticity?

Jim: I have a strong intuition that social apps will look more like BYOD, where if you don’t talk to the channel that individuals want to use, you’ll wither and die. Slack and Hipchat and their approach to ‘channels’ are proof of that. Chat and social will be commoditized but we feel we can offer a unique value-add to virtually any social / chat platform. Turn on the Plasticity integration and let people learn about and improve themselves in as little as 3 minutes a day.  We’re also very focused on wearables and IOT. Imagine your watch integrated with Plasticity is aware of your pulse and skin sensitivity so it gently reminds you to take a deep breath and use empathy while you’re in a meeting or on a call. We’re already doing that. My mantra for this is “Data in—Value out”. Where can we gather more data and what technology will allow us to deliver more value. Everything is on the table.

Elka: Any other thoughts about social technology and its role in the future of society?

Jim: Humans are inherently social, but social technology isn’t a straight replacement for analogous social interactions so you shouldn’t approach the problem with that mindset.  Very few of us like to stand in a large room and have virtual strangers shout out what they are having for dinner, but online, we’ve proven to actually kind of like that.  Another major consideration is around trust and value.  People are much more aware of how much data they are offering up by using social technologies, I believe that if you honor that relationship and vow to deliver real, personalized value to the individual then they will continue to offer you their trust and allow you to also generate secondary value on a more macro level and in an anonymous fashion. Amazon is getting this almost perfect. The trick is to be honest, don’t screw with them, and put them first. Their happiness is our first priority and that is how we plan to help 1 billion people choose a happier life. Personally, if we can get the funding that we need, I think that number will be more like  to 3 to 5 Billion.


Elka Popova


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