Doing Business in a Virtual World
A few years back many people, myself included, thought of Second Life (SL) as just a gaming fad with very limited application to business. Apparently, we were wrong. Second Life Work (SLW) has been quietly making a name for itself as “The Leader in Virtual Collaboration.”
A PBS special, Frontline, Digital Nation – Life on the Virtual Frontier (posted February 2010) demonstrated how SLW is transforming the way people work. In it, a visit to IBM headquarters showed a massive office space with mostly empty desks. Why? It is because many of IBM’s employees, once at a desk, now work remotely. In 2009, this amounted to over 40% of IBM’s employees (400,000 people worldwide). Surely this number is much higher now.
With so many employees working remotely and scattered across the globe, IBM decided to use SLW to keep their teams connected. Since virtual collaboration is possible from anywhere with anyone in their company, SLW is also saving IBM time and money traditionally used for in-person meetings.
After watching this, I visited SLW’s website and was surprised to see just how “virtual” many companies have become. Kelly and Manpower are listed as using SLW for recruiting/hiring. Imagine interviewing as an Avatar? It makes me wonder, what would I wear?
Other companies, such as CIGNA, are using SL for very interactive educational programs. CIGNA launched a wellness program in SL, named vielife, which uses a virtual world to provide group seminars, educational games, health tips, and casual socializing.
While all this sounds intriguing, I can not help but notice that SL isn’t even on the radar for market researchers. It would be a very hard sell being that market research, as an industry, is slow to adopt change. Presently, there are online focus groups and mediated chatting as an alternative to in-person focus groups, but nothing like the virtual meetings taking place on SLW. Instead, the market research industry seems to be focused like a laser beam on Social Media Research and Big Data Analysis.
Still, could we be headed for SL focus groups with viewing rooms full of clients eating virtual M&Ms?
Chanttel Allen, Managing Director