Discover the 5 secrets to Octalysis Gamification on a shoestring (part 2)

Discover the 5 secrets to Octalysis Gamification on a shoestring (part 2)

Third step: Triggers

After defining every Type that suits your experience, you need a way to measure the quality and quantity of the Desired Actions. This is when the Triggers come in.

Triggers are specific features/actions that trigger the Achievement, and they need to be present in your system (physical or virtual) as Feedback Mechanics.

Feedback Mechanics are cues (often visual, but can be audio or use other senses) that users have to keep track of their progress towards the Win-State. These usually come in the form of points, badges, levels, trophies, progress bars, and even avatars. In the end, Feedback Mechanics are meant to Trigger users to commit more Desired Actions.

You should think of about 2–3 Triggers per type. It is necessary to have at least one Trigger to be able to measure the user’s activity in the backend.

Fourth step: Tiers

At this point, you have got all the basics down. Now the time has come to act as a true Gamification Designer. The first step into mastery is owning the concept of Tiers.

Tiers are a series of levels or elements in a system that is classified based on different variables, generally connected to a skill level.

The most common Tier system seen in games, especially in eSports titles are Bronze, Silver, Gold, Platinum, and Diamond. These Tiers/ranks continue to be useful in most scenarios because their names refer to real-life elements that are easily classifiable in terms of value/rarity. Almost every person can tell which Tier gathers low, medium and high-level players, even if that person doesn’t even know the game.

These Tier systems are based on complex algorithms to rate the skill level of each player (ELO system) and move him through the Tiers.

In this case, our job is much more comfortable. We will need to come up with a Tier system to classify Achievements in terms of complexity, and not difficulty.

We recommend three Tiers for brand new Achievements. Tier 1 Achievements are the ones that have only one Type and one Trigger as a requirement. Tier 2 are the ones with two different Types and one Trigger for each of those Types. Finally, Tier 3 Achievements are made with three Types and one or two Triggers per Type.

DON’T WORRY! Here is how it looks like (we also cover some examples at the end).

Fifth step: Rewards

The last step requires you to go back to the Strategy Dashboard and look at the Rewards.

Rewards/Incentives are the fifth and final element to define in the Octalysis Strategy Dashboard. Incentives are basically what you can give users within your power that rewards their behavior and entices them to further action.

This step allows you to add some extrinsic value to the Achievement economy, priming the user to engage with it.

Defining Rewards is a creative process that can bring a lot to the table in a Gamification design. We usually classify them based on their nature (Stuff, Access, Power, and Status — SAPS) and on the context in which they are presented to the user (look at the 6 Contextual Types of Rewards)


You made it to the end of the second part. You just learned all the tools to craft an achievement from scratch. Now you are ready to master them!

Here is an example on how to use all the tools I just gave you in this post:

Third step: Triggers

“But … how will we measure the quality of the content?” you might be asking. Well, let’s imagine that Facebook already knows that the posts that include images or videos have a higher chance of getting viral.

After defining our Trigger, we need a “Multiplier” that specifies how many times the user has to repeat the task. This sets the difficulty level of the Achievement. For now, we can leave it at 20 times.

Fourth step: Tiers

At this point, we can decide to leave this Achievement as a Tier 1, or try to increase its complexity by upgrading it to a Tier 2 or Tier 3 Achievement.

Typically, the users appreciate more the Achievements that took more effort to complete, either because the difficulty was too high, or because the complexity led them to strategize about the best way to get it.

For the sake of this example, we will keep it as a Tier 2 Achievement, which should be the most common type of Achievement in most systems.


Note: To make this one a Tier 2 Achievement, we need to have two Types and one Trigger for each of them. For this example, Facebook determines that “High quality” strongly relates to “Popularity”. The new type evokes CD5 and can be measured with the number of Likes (or reactions in general).

Fifth step: Rewards

Finally, we can decide how to reward our users. The Rewards vary a lot, from Badges to real money. We usually recommend implementing Boosters as a reward, since they empower the users with a CD3 punch, keeping them engaged in the short-term (a “Booster chain” could easily keep them engaged in the long-term as well).

To make it a bit easier, let’s give our users an official, brand new Facebook Badge. Also, we want the users to know about this to incentivize them to post more high-quality content, so we are making this one a Fixed Action Reward.


Note: if you are paying attention, you will see that we are missing one cell at the very left side of the image. That one is meant for the Achievement name! You need to be creative about it and try to fit the core theme of the experience, your users will appreciate it 🙂


The end… or is it???

Use Octalysis To Create Memorable Experiences

The Octalysis Group loves helping companies think about how to engage their audiences better. Your users matter and they will make your business thrive if you motivate them correctly.

We can help you design unforgettable experiences for your audience.

Contact or

More info at:

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eSports and Octalysis Gamification: a great match!

eSports and Octalysis Gamification: a great match!

eSports are a Big Item

Big business is increasingly interested in eSports. Companies like Daimler Benz and others sign million dollar contracts to sponsor eSports teams. The Octalysis Group likewise passionately sponsors Team Octalysis ( in Heroes of the Storm.

eSports are video games competitions mainly organized around multiplayer games, particularly between professional players. Some of the most famous game (like League of Legends) have almost 100 million daily players. And millions more are watching LIVE games that are broadcasted via Game media like Twitch. Because of such numbers, eSports (once just a playground for gamers), is now a serious investment and marketing proposition.


Games but not sports?

However, despite the fact that big corporates are increasingly involved in eSports; and the fact that its games are played by hundreds of millions of users, the general public is sometimes unaware of what eSports is and the reach it has. But make no mistake: eSports is sports that is implemented at the highest levels of professionalism. It requires rigorous training and strategy sessions, that can last up to 10 hours a day.

It’s funny, then, that I sometimes have to explain why I think that eSports are a serious sports category and even worthy of Olympic status. “It’s not a sport! It’s a game! They don’t move! It’s addictive!”


Gamers don’t move!

Probably one of the most heard arguments: if you don’t move much during a sport, it cannot be a sport, and therefore it cannot be an Olympic Sport. Sounds like a fair point right? Sports are associated with physical activity by many people.


Reality is different though. The fact that you don’t physically exert yourself much can also be said for Olympic disciplines (games, really) like shooting and archery. And did you know that the International Olympic Committee recognizes both chess and bridge as “sports”? Maybe that is why these games are found on our sports pages.

So, what is a sport and what is not, is not clear at all. And we are not even talking about internationally recognized other “mind sports” like Go, checkers and xiangqi.


How to solve this conundrum then? Well, you either remove all the sports that fall below a certain physical exercise level (who determines that though and what happens to individual athletes who take it easy 😉), or you give eSports its rightful place as a sport. A VERY popular sport worldwide, with a lot more viewers than most Olympic sports.

The latter movement seems strong (…/asian-games-e-sports-players-no-longer…) and I do expect eSports to be a full Asian Games medal candidate in 2020.




The discussion about what is sports is highly subjective, even hypocrite, as is the discussion about what is “good” addiction and what is “bad” addiction to games and activities in general.


A chess player who practices day in, day out? Passionate! Brilliant!


A bridge player constantly talking about his latest tricks? Intelligent! Mastery!


A football player practicing 8 hours a day with a ball? Focused! Driven!


A gamer playing games all day long? Loser! Addict! Worthless!


With eSports now a billion dollar industry, our perceptions about (the value and acceptance of) games and addiction will change rapidly. I will soon call my dear mother a gamer for playing bridge so much.


And Ronaldo? A high earning addict playing a dangerous game. What a loser. A geek!

There is a very fine, imaginative line between passion and addiction…


I am not saying that addictions should be ignored. Digital experiences have great feedback mechanics and can cause full immersion and addiction. We need to keep informing people about the dangers of addiction. Any passion that leads you to forget the importance of socializing, creativity and taking care of your daily needs can become destructive. If that passion/addiction is your career it can lead to divorce, suicide even.


It’s our joint responsibility to show people what creates true and lasting happiness. Finding a passion and mastering that passion is definitely part of that. Whether it is drawing, setting up a business, playing chess or becoming a serious gamer. No need to condemn one passion over the other.


Learning from successful games

So eSports is a sport that warrants serious global and professional attention, but why would we care? What can businesses learn from this phenomenon (rather than just getting exposure to millions of viewers)?


Well, the more enduring the popularity of a game is over time, the more powerful its design is likely to be. eSports center around games that a lot of people play, and have often played for a long time. The design of these games is well advanced and caters for deep and long-lasting engagement. In Octalysis terms: the experience is balanced throughout the Four Phases of the Experience and for its main player types.


The Octalysis Group is always learning, refining and expanding its knowledge about human focused design and game mechanics. Watching eSports and getting involved with the community allows us to learn even more secrets about how these games have been designed and why they are so engaging.


We incorporate these lessons learned in our designs, so that they can become even more successful and lead to even higher ROIs for our clients. So not only are eSports a serious business opportunity for corporates, they are also an excellent way to innovate our gamification services.


So next time you have the opportunity, go and watch an eSports match. It’s fun, highly professional and you may just learn a bit of Gamification knowledge on the fly!


If you are interested in serious Gamification design to empower your products or people, you can contact me via


Game on!

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Announcing the Winner of the 2018 Octalysis eBay Design Challenge

Announcing the Winner of the 2018 Octalysis eBay Design Challenge

The Octalysis Group has been considered by many as the World’s leading Gamification and Human-Focused Design Company. Only last year we won a number of rewards including the Best Gamification Project of 2017 and Gamification Guru of the Year.

One of the ways in which we make sure that our work is successful and brings high ROI to clients, is by home-growing our own top Octalysis Gamification designers. Quality of Implementation is very important to us. To do this, we start testing people thoroughly even before they enter the interview process.

One of the things that has proven to be successful in finding great talent for our company is the Octalysis Design Challenges. In those challenges, people need tо do a thorough analysis of an existing application or website and then create concept designs to showcase how they would improve the experience and achieve the identified Business Metrics.

This year the challenge was about eBay. Participants needed to focus on the buyer’s part of the eBay platform and improve the experience of the average consumers on eBay. We had been working with eBay earlier and for us, it was quite interesting to see what people will come up with.

Before we reveal the WINNER, we would like to share with the Octalysis Community that we were surprised by the quality, effort, and enthusiasm that we got from all participants. We want to thank everyone who participated and helped make it a success!

And now for the….




of the 2018 Octalysis eBay Design Challenge


Albertine Corre

You can see a link to her work below

Octalysis eBay Challenge Submission by Albertine Corre


Among all submissions, Albertine’s work has shown the greatest overall quality. It has a good analysis and visual presentation and provides a number of clever ideas in the Octalysis Brainstorming. There are a few things that we think should be improved in regards to the new user journey and the overall wireframes design but the whole Octalysis team was very excited to see such a quality submission.


Congratulations Albertine!


Curious to see how seasoned Octalysis experts create even better and high ROI Gamification design?

Contact us for a FREE consultation now

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Octalysis Licensing Model Success: the Navo Orbico Case

Octalysis Licensing Model Success: the Navo Orbico Case


Bored sales team before Octalysis Gamification

The Octalysis Group is known for its successful Gamification projects in Employee Gamification as well as Product Gamification. Client and peer recognition of the value we bring means a lot to us, but we also want to share the value that our Licensing model brings to our partners.

In fact, while implementing the Octalysis licensing/consortium model,  the prize for Best Gamification Project 2017 was during the Europe Gamification Congress . Time to give some insight into how this highly successful project was implemented.



As the Octalysis Framework is IP protected, companies can only use the methodology for commercial purposes if they have a License. The Polish company Funtiago, one of our earliest Licensees, recognized the benefits of having a License a few years ago. They applied for Licensee status and underwent rigorous training in the Octalysis methodology.


To ensure meticulous Quality Assurance (QA), The Octalysis Group always fronts leads the design of the first project that the Licensee undertakes. The QA is necessary as implementing Octalysis is a complex, multifaceted process and even our own experts need up to 18 months to be able to achieve good design results.


Navo Orbico

Funtiago introduced a new and promising client to us: Navo Orbico, a major FMCG distributor in 19 countries. With a headcount of 5,500 employees it is distributing 512 brands: Ariel, Pampers, Oral-B, Pringles are but some of the famous brands they carry.

Navo Orbico was looking for an innovative way to engage their sales workforce in a bid to raise sales, employee happiness and internal brand awareness. Through Funtiago the company came to us for initial project discussions. They were looking for Octalysis Power to make sales Fun and Engaging again!


The Implementing Consortium

As the project was to be implemented in Poland first it was important that most of the client facing roles would be filled in by our Licensee (Funtiago, led by Tomas Cisek) and Blue Horizon, an experienced Project Management company. Blue Horizon is a long-standing partner of Navo Orbico and knows the company well. The Octalysis Group was responsible for the Gamification design, implementing the tried and tested 5 Step Octalysis Implementation Method.


Through this set up we could guarantee the quality of the design. Funtiago would excel at the development and art design of the experience, while Blue Horizon would play an important client facing role. All in all, a challenging set up with many players involved, but the cultural and language differences involved made this tiered set up necessary.


The Results

After the concept design had been finalized, Funtiago and Blue Horizon got the notice that they had to deliver the project within 2 months. An almost impossible task, but they did it.


The project (now called Master Of the Endless Sea (MOES) was a success right from the start. The employees loved the integration into the existing CRM, so the app became the workflow as such. There was much faster feedback on their actions, and “The Tavern” (the social community place in the app) became an engagement point for sharing ideas, best practices and management information.



In general people were happier in their job, had more social interaction and were more successful with their clients.


The results have been widely shared on social media, but let’s repeat what Navo Orbico’s ROIs were:


SALES up 21.6 %

Activity KPIs up 60%+

Participation rate: 99.5%

(one person was on pregnancy leave)


So a very good result indeed, despite the fact that not even all the design concepts have been implemented. The future for Navo Orbico looks bright!


Curious to see how we can get similar results for your company? Contact us for a COMPLIMENTARY consultation:


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TOG sponsor of Heroes of the Storm Esports Team “Team Octalysis”

TOG sponsor of Heroes of the Storm Esports Team “Team Octalysis”

To Make Games Meaningful

Back in 2003, I had an epiphany that changed my life. I had just quit playing Diablo II and I felt a rush of emptiness.

I spent thousands of hours becoming strong in a video game, but once I was done with the game, all that disappears. I’m still at the same place in life.

It was then when I went on a life journey to make games more meaningful towards our real lives.

At the time, I had considered two options:

Option 1: do what was considered “Gamification” (in today’s terminology)

Option 2: do what was considered “Esports” (in today’s terminology)

Both of them were relevant in my quest of making real life better through gaming (and ensure that playing games wasn’t a “waste of time.”).

The Non-Existent Esports Industry

Back then the esports industry didn’t exist, besides some serious matches of Starcraft in South Korea.

It was just more of a vision for me where, if videos games could be like a real sport such as Basketball, then there would be a real economy and ecosystem around it (Managers, Players, Coaches, Media etc.), and playing/studying games all day long suddenly became very productive.

It wasn’t unfathomable (despite sounding crazy to everyone I talked to – they thought I was just creating more excuses to play games). “Real Sports” like Basketball and Football are basically just games that people played for fun. But when enough people enjoyed playing and watching the game, it sets up a whole economy of ticket sales, advertisers, staff, dedicated venues, and cultural change.

It becomes “legit” and is no longer “just a game.”

Octalysis Esports Players

Octalysis Esports

As you probably know, I ended up choosing the Gamification path. As a result, I became a leading pioneer in the gamification space and am running many of the biggest gamification initiatives in the world (consulting company, the education platform Octalysis Prime, FB community). It worked out quite well for me, and I live every day of my life as a passionate gamer. Even Blizzard has sent their game designers to my workshops to learn about the Octalysis Framework.

But I sometimes can’t help but think about the other choice I didn’t make. If I chose to go down the esports path, I would also become an early pioneer in esports and today I may be running some of the largest esports infrastructure entities in the industry (I’m realistic enough to know that I wouldn’t become a pro-player myself). That would be tremendously fun too.


The two passions meet

Octalysis Esports Heroes

Luckily, because of how strong my gamification efforts are doing, I suddenly have the unique opportunity to go down the path I didn’t take.

We have now sponsored a team in the Heroes of the Storm Global Championship (HGC), the premier Heroes of the Storm competitive league from Blizzard Entertainment. Our team “Team Octalysis” (formerly Team Twelve) is currently a Top 3 Team in North America.

Team Octalysis has 5 amazingly hard-working players, a great team manager, a coach/game analyst, and media members – all there to support competitive play at the highest levels, engage the fans, and spread a little bit of Octalysis love.

Team Octalysis is officially competing in the HGC, where eight teams in each of four regions compete every week to qualify for international tournaments and a shot at a world championship.

Every weekend, you can tune in on or the HGC Website to watch their competitions, support Team Octalysis, and muse over obviously less talented teams fight each other.

You can also follow Team Octalysis on their Twitter:

Exciting times for Octalysis and for Gaming!

Esports Gamification Octalysis DratedEsports Gamification Octalysis Drated

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How Rebel Soldiers Created my Octalysis Journey

How Rebel Soldiers Created my Octalysis Journey

It was clear that the young rebel fighter did not know what to make of us. Our car must have seemed such easy prey. A white SUV without a military escort. All alone in the Chittagong Hill Tracts in Bangladesh. A peace accord had been signed only weeks ago, but clearly some people hadn’t received the memo.

He had jumped on the road with his gang of 8. Armed with home-made guns, bombs and spears, they looked like rag tag tribal Robin Hoods. From the back of the car I was staring into the muzzle of something that was a mix between a vacuum cleaner and an old canon. I could feel the sweat on my forehead as he nervously moved the gaping hole left to right in front of my face.

Our driver was a Bangladeshi. The tribal people did not like Bangladeshis. I fact they had fought a bloody war with them for over 20 years and thousands had lost their lives. As a Dutch diplomat I had been tasked to go around the newly pacified areas to look for ways to build post-conflict peace solutions. Setting up joint tribal–Bangla radio programs, joint governing bodies, community activities. Anything that could help foster trust.

The man with the home-made gun did not look very trustworthy, especially not after seeing our driver. Suddenly he started gesturing to his colleagues, and all 8 of them got really excited. “Bangla! Bangla!”, they shouted. I didn’t like how the situation was evolving at all.

What is it that they wanted? How could I defuse this explosive situation I found myself in? I needed a to find a way to understand his motivations. Why was he doing what he is doing?


From rebels to non-lethal motivation

When I give Octalysis Workshops, Keynote speeches or lead client Kick Off meetings, people often wonder how I got from being a diplomat to being an Octalysis Expert. I often tell them that, in essence, there are no real differences between dealing with rebels and dealing with reluctant, distracted users of an application, workfloor or website.

This may sound strange to you. How can civil wars and user engagement be in the same league? Well, it all boils down to understanding motivations, fears and perceived needs. If I want rebel soldiers to shake hands with a former enemy, the design of the peace program needs to address their deepest feelings and needs. If I want users to get motivated by my Octalysis design, that design needs to address their feelings and needs in a similar vein. Obviously, the consequences of potential failed design are much bigger in war time. I don’t think many people got hurt because our app was not engaging enough.

Nevertheless, my deep interest in behavioral science, and why people do what they do, derives very much from my experiences in war zones and post-conflict areas. Luckily the violent encounters with Rocket Propelled Grenades, exploding tank mines on airport runways, car jackings and public lynchings did not damage me too much. They did spike my interest in human behavior and empowered me to crawl into the skin of the people involved and really feel their experience.


Feeling the Experience

When I design for true engagement, I need to “feel the experience”. It’s almost an artistic feeling and fully immersive. Creating Octalysis Gamification design is not just adding a few cool mechanics in the hope of creating a nice dopamine or serotonin spike. No. When you design, you ARE the user. You feel what they feel. You fear what they fear. You need what they need.

A long time ago I was carjacked in Nairobi.  Carjacking is when they steal your car with you in it, often using weapons. It was an awful experience. It was violent. There were guns and threats. Although I was really scared, I somehow I found a way to get to talk to the criminals. I immediately told them they could have whatever we possessed. At the same time, I wanted to create a social connection.

So I talked about my underwear and other non-valuables that were in my suitcase. I wanted them to feel connected with me. They were scared I am sure (and they would surely die if caught by the police) so making that connection on harmless things that we all possess helped to ease the tensions somewhat. I tried to feel what they were feeling and design my responses in a way that made me look human. Not just another victim, but a fellow human being. In Octalysis terms: I crafted some “Core Drive 5: Social Influence and Relatedness” design.

In the end we got lucky, and we were released. Did my ‘design’ help? It may have, it may not have. At minimum I got some very intensive training in analyzing emotions and designing features that connected with these emotions. I carried that experience with me while working in other parts of Africa and in Afghanistan, where I made other interesting encounters that blew my mind (well, almost).


Back to the real world

I did not last in diplomacy. The conflict world was too stressful in the end, and the Ministry (where I was posted for a while) too boring and bureaucratic. Civil war turned to political battles. Time to leave.

I joined the private sector and worked for PricewaterhouseCoopers, still focusing on how to create engagement in the United Nations, World Bank and developing nations. The journey continued via HR and virtual HR engagement solutions till the point that I met Yu-kai Chou. We clicked instantly and The Octalysis Framework blew me away. Soon enough we had founded The Octalysis Group and the rest is (successful) history.

I do carry the lessons learned with me from the violence and war I experienced. How it forced me to really feel what the other is feeling. How it forced me to design to other people’s needs, fears, and wants.

The good thing is: nobody has to experience the same things as I have, in order to know what human motivation is made up and how you need to design for it. The Octalysis Framework makes all of this insightful already. In fact, I wish I had the Framework with me 20 years ago. It would have been a massive help for sure.


And what happened with the Tribal Rebel?

Well we got lucky (again). Our Bangladeshi driver survived, we managed to get the rebels to smile and let us through unharmed. We were allowed to continue on the road for peace. Little did I know that that road finally would turn into an exciting Octalysis journey, where I could use my experience to help clients on a daily basis.

In a sense I am grateful for the mishap that happened in my life. I am now able to apply my lessons in motivation for the benefit of companies, governments and NGOs.

What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger. Life is good.


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How to Mimic Octalysis Engagement without Gamification

How to Mimic Octalysis Engagement without Gamification

Because Not Every Situation Requires Gamification

Let’s face it, not every experience requires explicit gamification to get results from your employees.

If you’re the Head of HR or a human resources designer, you’d rather spend your resources on designing the workplace experiences that truly need gamification.

But there are some key parts of your workplace can’t ignore.

If you are struggling to get sufficient behavior design budget, but are still looking for workplace wins, have a look at these approaches driven by  Octalysis Core Drives.Try these approaches to mimic Octalysis gamification and get more out of your employees.

Build a Great Culture

Your culture should be driven by Core Drive 1: Epic Meaning & Calling. Your culture will often be the difference between winning and losing operationally. It could also be what attracts and keeps top talent on your team.

People work better and harder when what they are working toward is larger than themselves. Establishing this epic meaning in your culture is crucial, and it doesn’t require explicit gamification.

What culture do you want?

The character of your team will somewhat be determined by the individuals in it, but as the CEO or Head of HR or team manager you can influence how your team works.

Using standup and reflection meetings twice weekly could be a way to have efficient meetings, next steps for the week, and social relatedness to close the week’s activities.

Although the possibilities are nearly endless, you cannot skimp on the design of your culture. Culture eats everything else.

Increase Transparency

Openness and honesty  (driven by Core Drive 2: Development & Accomplishment) help employees understand:

  • company vision
  • company mission
  • the problems the team is solving
  • how people on the team will work together
  • what expectations a manager has for her employees
  • how conflicts will get resolved
  • how performance will be evaluated
  • where ambiguity exists, if it does

When the method of evaluation is clear, then employees can operate with a sense of Core Drive 2: Development & Accomplishment and understand their work is moving them toward advancement. If the company or team is smart, they will align the goals of the individual with the goals of the team, incentivizing individuals and teams across purposes to WORK TOGETHER. Alignment of goals leads to the White-Hat/Intrinsic half of Core Drive 5: Social Influence & Relatedness, aka Collaboration.

Have Actionable Meetings

Actionable meetings rely on Core Drive 3: Empowerment of Creativity & Feedback. Employees love actionable meetings. But what makes a meeting actionable?


After updates, news and knowledge sharing, and problem-solving, people in the meeting need to leave with next steps.

With practice, your team will develop a process for the above that amplifies social influence and relatedness. Your process will allow candid feedback and incisive problem solving. Regardless of rank or role, employees should feel empowered to raise questions, problems, and offer solutions.

This collaboration is a superpower of Core Drive 5: Social Influence & Relatedness, as it edges into the White-Hat/Intrinsic blend of the Octalysis Octagon.

The point of meetings is to make overall progress more efficient, to remove roadblocks, to solve key problems.

At the end of meetings, use this workplace gamification combo: leave employees with a new problem to solve, combining Core Drive 2: Development & Accomplishment with Core Drive 3: Empowerment of Creativity & Feedback.

Allow Flexible Work

As a manager, would you rather see your employees every day and have them get no work done?


Never see your employees and have them surpass your expectations?

Obviously, the second.

Allowing flexible work plays on the autonomy piece of Core Drive 4: Ownership & Possession.

The point of workplace gamification is not to downplay face-to-face interaction; rather, you should still use in-person meetings and video conferencing like Zoom, which invokes the White-Hat/Intrinsic motivation of Core Drive 5: Social Influence & Relatedness.

But you should also realize that people enjoy freedom from punishing and monotonous routines. Apply workplace gamification to give them that freedom!

Even better, you can instill a culture of flexible work by housing it within a Core Drive 1: Epic Meaning & Calling message. For example:

“Because we at ***Your Company*** believe in good health and flexibility in your work time to promote your relationships and life outside of work, we build in flexible working routines into the workweek.”

This message is infinitely customizable to your culture and desires as an employer. Remember, reasons for doing things matter just as much as the result. Creating the appropriate expectations for employees will reduce Black Hat surprises later.

Getting Started with Behavior Design (and Change Employee Outcomes)

These four ideas are only a taste of what can be done with 4 out of 8 of the Core Drives (and that is not accounting for combinations of them); as you learn about Octalysis the octagon really does start to show up everywhere. Like Neo in the Matrix, experienced Octalysis designers start to see the world from a behavioral and motivational lens. They start to see solutions and new designs for their experiences. It is exciting.

If you are a head of HR or a team manager and want to apply motivation and behavior science principles to your teams, there’s no time like right now.

To get started, email us:

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Yukai Chou: Voted Gamification Guru 2017

Yukai Chou: Voted Gamification Guru 2017

Yu-kai Chou has been voted as Gamification Guru of the Year 2017 by his Gamification practitioner peers. The memorable vote took place during the Gamification Europe Congress (28 – 29 November, in the United Kingdom).

This is the 3rd time that the leading global Gamification practitioner has been elected by his peers and a great tribute to the ever ongoing efforts by Yu-kai to be a front runner in the Gamification Industry. His Gamification Journey has now entered it’s 12th year, which possibly makes him the current practitioner with the longest track record in the Gamification space.

During the Congress, Octalysis received even more accolades. The Octalysis Group, co-founded with fellow Octalysis Guru, Joris Beerda, was also elected. It received the honours as Best Gamification Project 2017 for their work with a Procter and Gamble Distributor. This project resulted in high ROIs of up to 300%.

A separate notice (with full details and speech) shall be published for this achievement on this site at a later date, so stay tuned!

Finally, Octalysis won the prize for Best Gamification Community 2017 for it’s active Facebook Group Octalysis Explorers. This group is now counting close to 5,000 members and is the largest (non course related) Gamification Community.



We are very happy with the accolades received and looking forward to an even more stunning 2018. The client growth over the last few years has been phenomenal and we are content that we can now make a truly global positive impact with Octalysis. And we have just begun!


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5 ways to make your employees happy! (not sad)

5 ways to make your employees happy! (not sad)

5 ways to make employees happy

Did you know that it is quite easy to build a happy workforce? That it has a lot to do with behavioral science? And that the Octalysis framework can show you the way to employee happiness?

Find out below how we can help you with the aid of the 8 Core Drives.

Using intrinsic and extrinsic motivation in combination with an understanding of White Hat and Black Hat motivation is the secret sauce in experience design.

But first, a quick reminder about Intrinsic/Extrinsic motivation…

Intrinsic / Extrinsic

Extrinsic motivation can be described as the motivation you feel because you expect a tangible reward for your actions: e.g. money, points, status, promotions.

Extrinsic motivation exist when your employees are mainly motivated by:

  • money
  • year-end bonus
  • to increase status
  • to gain prestige
  • to acquire power
  • to develop marketable skills


Intrinsic motivation at the work floor exist when work:

  • provides meaning
  • inspires and allows creativity
  • provides for autonomous choices
  • connects them to others socially and in problem-solving environments
  • involves curiosity, new challenges


Extrinsic motivation sounds bad doesn’t it? But it isn’t that simple. Extrinsic motivation is key in motivating people to act; to make mundane tasks more efficient and to ensure that they do not have to fear for not bringing enough money home to feed mouths.

The issue is that most companies are too good at designing for extrinsic motivation, while ignoring design for motivation that creates a fun, social and creative work space. Such design creates out of the box value added products and ideas. Ideas we need for the economy of the 21st Century.

Let’s look into White Hat / Black Hat and then move onto the 5 ideas I promised you.

White Hat / Black Hat

These terms come from early work in SEO, where there was White Hat SEO and Black Hat SEO. Generally speaking, White SEO made Google happy. Black Hat SEO could trick Google’s algorithms for a while, but eventually Google wasn’t happy and penalized engineers using Black Hat SEO techniques.

Too much Black Hat catches up to you.

Just like a programmer trying to trick an intelligent Google team, using Black Hat motivation is obvious and employees eventually become dissatisfied, burned out, or worse, don’t even respond to its intended motivational triggers.

Common examples of Black Hat motivation:

  • crushing/difficult/unrealistic deadlines (that are made up)
  • unpredictability in workflow or assignments
  • unclear progression in professional path or compensation
  • dangling rewards without clear road to those rewards

Meanwhile, White Hat motivation feels good.

  • progressing
  • feeling part of something bigger than yourself
  • being creative

Again, many companies are good at one (black hat) and bad at the other (white hat). make sure you invest in White hat design though. They tend to be slow-building but they are long-lasting. Invest in them.

On to the 5 ideas!!!

5. Merit-based compensation

Remember, the best motivational strategy combines intrinsic/extrinsic and White-Hat/Black-Hat.

Merit-based compensation is fair because it should encourage diligent work and creative problem-solving.

Choose an area of the task or overall employee role to fit in merit-based compensation. Define what skill or value is being measured. This could take the form of an if-then statement:

If employee creates x value, then y compensation occurs.

(I recently overheard two university professors complain that they were high performers as Chairs of committees, only to be rewarded with yet more work as additional Chairs on other committees! A better reward would have been flexible time to work on their research or books.)

The key is to agree with the employee on an accurate measure and time scale for evaluation.

This arrangement should allow a balance of:

  • Core Drive 2: Development & Accomplishment (skill gain to solve problems)
  • Core Drive 3: Empowerment of Creativity & Feedback (creativity in problem-solving)
  • Core Drive 6: Impatience & Scarcity (not all employees can get additional compensation)
  • Core Drive 7: Unpredictability & Curiosity (the potential problems to solve could change)

4. Logical progression of compensation

What are your employees working toward in the medium and long term?

People like to progress. No one likes to go backward. We like forward movement.

But as a CEO or manager, you know you can’t move everyone as fast as they may want to. Here is a test of your expectation and motivation management (and design, of course!).

From the moment you meet a candidate for a role in your team, she needs to begin to understand what the logical progression of work and compensation looks like in your team, in the 1, 3, and 5-year windows.

Then, upon joining the team, you can communicate further about this potential progression. There are two keywords here:

  • potential
  • progression

Potential leaves some Core Drive 7: Unpredictability & Curiosity in the employees mind, which is a Black Hat but Intrinsic motivator.

Progression is a combination of Core Drive 2: Development & Accomplishment and Core Drive 4: Ownership & Possession, which are more White Hat and Extrinsic.

This way, you create a balanced motivational arsenal.

Be clear in your communication. People are smarter than you think. Some of your employees are smarter than you–that’s why you hired them. They will sniff out BS if you rely on it.

3. New opportunities

Your company has many diverse problems to solve.

Don’t have money to hire another employee? Why not find out if someone on your current team can solve the problem?

Here is a way to test employees and also give them an opportunity to wow or impress you.

Make the project open-ended enough to allow creativity, but put time restrictions or competitive elements (if you want to test multiple people at the same time).

This way, the following Core Drives are invoked:

  • Core Drive 3: Empowerment of Creativity & Feedback (Problem solving; White-Hat/Intrinsic)
  • Core Drive 5: Social Influence & Relatedness (Competition; Black-Hat/Intrinsic)
  • Core Drive 6: Scarcity & Impatience (Time-bound; Black-Hat/Extrinsic)

2. Team or Cross-Functional Projects

One problem at companies with more than about 5 employees is knowledge sharing. Lack of knowledge sharing creates inefficiencies that hurt the bottom line and distract from real profit-driving work.

Even if a project COULD be done by a single, top employee, it can be very effective to assign a project to two to four people (or more depending on the project).

This encouragement of collaboration will build connections and relationships in your team on top of the benefit of skills naturally being absorbed across minds.

The Core Drives in play:

  • Core Drive 2: Development & Accomplishment (skill and knowledge; White-Hat/Extrinsic
  • Core Drive 5: Social Influence & Relatedness (collaboration: White-Hat/Intrinsic)

5. Team Retreats

Doing team retreats right is an art in itself, but retreats DO work if done right.

Behavioral scientists have understood that spending time outside of the normal environment facilitates different kinds of thinking.

Take your team on a trip or do a volunteer event together.

Try to fit in time to problem-solve on some of your biggest issues for the year.

You will build team chemistry, alchemy, and rapport. You will be joking and laughing about moments on the trip for years to come.

Retreats, if communicated correctly, provide:

  • Core Drive 7: Unpredictability & Curiosity (Where are we going? Italy or Germany?)
  • Core Drive 3: Empowerment of Creativity & Feedback (Solving your team’s biggest challenges)
  • Core Drive 5: Social Influence & Relatedness (Team activities, spending time together)

Balanced approach

You need to apply a balanced approach of intrinsic and extrinsic motivation with elements of white hat and black hat into your design.

If you are a Head of HR, Chief Learning Officer, or the manager of a team, you can’t afford to leave sound motivational design principles out of your employee management approach.

Contact us to get started. Your employees will thank you and you’ll have a head start on your competition.


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How Octalysis boosts a Boring Simulation Game

How Octalysis boosts a Boring Simulation Game

A boring Game?

I recently played a rather tedious Business Strategy Simulation Game in my MBA program  The Game is an attempt to create engagement with a potentially bland topic: business strategy.

Although I mildly enjoyed playing the Simulation, I noticed several motivational problems. My in-depth knowledge of Octalysis gave me the tools to analyze the experience and uncover insights about how to improve the game.

Let’s find out what I’ve discovered!

The Setup

The game is played by a team of around 4-6 players simulating the business strategy of a shoe factory.  This simulation is incorporated in business schools and corporations to improve team-work and strategic decision-making.

In the simulation, you’re competing against 2-5 other teams in real time, where 1 year corresponds to 1 week in the game.

Business Strategy Simulation Game - Leaderboard

You make decisions each week (which equals one year in the game) which will change the feedback towards what’s happening in the marketplace and how successful your company will be based on country-based and international ratings. Main indicators are Net Revenue and Profit and Ending Cash but also Image and Credit Rating, based on CSR efforts and customer feedback.

See below the screenshot of the rather overwhelming experience:

Business Strategy Game

After the year is over you’ll get to see a report that mentions your position in the marketplace indicating your strengths and weaknesses, which helps you identify your niche and competitive advantage. This is good Core Drive 2: Development and Accomplishment design and gave us a sense of autonomy in the experience (Core Drive 3: Empowerment of Creativity and Feedback).

Business Strategy Simulation Game - Graph

So-so simulation fun

Well, let’s just say it could have been a lot more engaging. Did I ever feel the need to come back to the experience? Absolutely, because losing the Game wasn’t an option (Core Drive 8: Loss & Avoidance) and I was curious what the feedback to our actions would be (Core Drive 3 and Core Drive 7: Unpredictability & Curiosity). Also, having to wait every week for the next decision gave you a sense of impatience (Core Drive 6: Scarcity and Impatience).

So, if urgency wasn’t the problem in the experience, what was?

Team Work - Business Strategy Game

The relationship to my teammates (Core Drive 5: Social Influence & Relatedness) was of growing importance to the fact that it made us find more diverse and creative Solutions and Strategies (Core Drive 3: Empowerment of Creativity & Feedback) not alone, but together in a team. The problem was, that we felt the need for communication and autonomy and the system did not empower that. So we wanted to have a more intrinsic design but the simulation did not offer it.

We couldn’t comfortably play together and the system usually crashed when trying to be on the server at the same time. It’s like trying to have a meeting on Skype and half of the team can’t hear you. It’s frustrating and destroys intrinsic motivation.

This Octalysis Octagon summarizes the player experience from motivation or Core Drive perspective. In short, the experience was overly extrinsically-motivated and lacked well-designed intrinsic motivators (The analysis can vary by player).

Octalysis Graph Business Strategy Game

There was a huge amount of motivation in the onboarding phase of the experience because of the unpredictability of the outcome. The game is designed around that core drive but executed rather poor. The outcomes become rather predictable and repetitive and cease to engage. In real businesses, your strategy needs to be agile enough to act in any kind of situation. For a fact, our team had expectations based on Simulations like Civilization or Sim City and we expected to see something like a plant burning down or experience employee turmoil. Unfortunately, it all stayed quite plain and there were not that many exciting challenges that we could take.

The exciting bits

To me, the most exciting part of the game was my team’s decision to build a whole strategy around the game, which was actually not incorporated within the game itself but motivated by the lecturer and the course content. In short, my team applied our own intrinsic need for creativity (Core Drive 3: Empowerment of Creativity & Feedback) into the overall experience, because it didn’t feel like we had enough autonomous choices.

While tapping into our creativity and giving the players within the team feedback (from their teammates), this decision also gave the game some Epic Meaning (Core Drive 1: Epic Meaning & Calling), which was highly needed. Maybe an additional idea could have been that you can choose your quest in the beginning of the game: World power, Corporate Social Responsibility or Elitism, something which helps to define the objective of the game and assists you in creating a company culture.

We built our visual branding, chose our mission and vision and created a company culture.


Below you can see how defining our objectives in the game created Creativity and Epic Meaning. We even did some extra work creating a video for the company.

The culture (a blend of epic meaning and calling, ownership and social influence) helped my team to make in-game decisions and was the most crucial part of the experience. Again, this design should have been integrated into the game experience itself and not outside of it.

The simulation should have motivated us to look at it not just from a game perspective but giving us the feeling of running a real business. This also means the feedback mechanics based on your decisions need to make sense, which they don’t always do. For example, the game has no customer focus. If you decide to run a marketing campaign with printed posters and your audience is 13-16 years of age, it wouldn’t make any difference than doing a community driven social media campaign, as long as you spend the right amount of money in the correct part of the world and endorse the right celebrities. If the game really wants to empower strategic thinking, that should be part of the design.

On the other hand, winning the game doesn’t mean you have created a responsible, working business strategy. It just means you discovered how best to win this game.

Defining our Key Business Metrics early on helped us to understand what success means for our company and what our vision is. That’s why our team strategically decided not to go for the win, but to hold on to our culture and motivation to run our business and play the game our way. An interesting anecdote which can also be applied to real life. Maybe that’s what the simulation is good at, it’s limitations create a need to think further than the game itself.

Below you can see the presentation of our project, highly motivated by CD1 and CD5 to create a sense of fighting for the same cause together and making the viewer be part of the experience we’ve had.

4 lessons learned:

The future of the game definitely lies in the strength of Core Drive 5: Social Influence & Relatedness and the ability to bring people together to help them build a vision and Core Drive 1: Epic Meaning & Calling by exercising Core Drive 3: Empowerment of Creativity & Feedback.

1. Allow people to fail: 

The urgency the simulation creates based on Core Drive 8: Loss & Avoidance makes the player feel anxious about any interaction, especially if the experience is marked in the end. Giving the user the feeling that he can’t make mistakes destroys the whole learning experience and the main purpose of playing a game. Removing some of the CD8 elements and leaning more towards the Core Drive 7: Unpredictability & Curiosity aspects will make it more engaging to play while still creating urgency.

2. Leaderboards are not the easy way out: 

Core Drive 2: Development and Accomplishment is applied in a lazy way. The ‘Let’s put some leaderboards there and that will make it more fun’ approach destroys intrinsic motivation. The end of year report is very handy and reflects much more accurate who’s in a leading position and who are competing against each other. Our team was highly motivated by the CSR Reward of the year, but there should be more feedback attached to it – what did this reward change, why did we get it and most importantly, why is this of value for us?

3. Give the player a sense of progress: 

The Game could flourish by giving more flexibility and reward efforts regarding Marketing and Customer Experience, how does the Customer feel, why do they feel that way and how can you improve. Giving the player some indicators about how to use the platform with a glowing choice and some useful hints during the Onboarding phase and when the user is lost would make the experience less daunting and less CD8 driven. Stop making the player feel anxious, make them feel clever and that they’re learning something during the experience.

4. Create unpredictability:

Further, if the game incorporated random events indicative of a real environment, we can implement mechanics that draw on CD7 – like weather changes, catastrophes and other mechanics that will change a player’s or team’s strategy and will make teams remain agile. These CD7 events could include positive outcomes like new legislations and inventions (like 3D printing) relevant to modern businesses.

Want to improve your own product?

At The Octalysis Group, we have thousands of hours of practice using Octalysis to better understand experiences, from training simulations to marketing campaigns. Many of clients have benefitted tremendously from the power of Octalysis.

Want us to do the same for your product?

Contact Sabrina Bruehwiler now.

  1. This blog has been verified by Rise: R08785af0d0bfc93c6370e0a06d74e2bf
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Find out how Octalysis design supercharges your sales team…

Find out how Octalysis design supercharges your sales team…

Many of our clients are enthusiastic when they see Octalysis for the first time.  One of my clients recently said that the Framework totally transformed the way he saw his business, yes even life itself. I can vouch for these statements myself. Octalysis has completely changed how I see professional and personal life too. It’s awesome.

However, and this is a question our clients ask us a lot, does it work? Does Octalysis lead to more engagement? Does it result in motivated teams? Does it lead to higher sales? Higher growth and productivity?

Obviously the answer is yes.  Normally we are under strict Client Non-Disclosure Agreements so we can almost never share the great results we achieve. We were allowed to do so last year for one of our hotel chain projects, which resulted in sales growth of  712% and a Social Coefficient of 512%. I am thrilled that I am now allowed to share some amazing results from one of our HR/Employee Gamification projects as well. Enjoy!

Check out the results below. If you cannot wait any longer, just scroll all the way down (warning: you may miss out on some Octalysis Design gems by doing so).


The Challenge

We (and our Polish Octalysis Licensee Funtiago) were approached by a Navo Orbico a major FMCG distributor in Europe with about 5,500 employees. They faced major challenges with their sales teams that had to go out and sell Procter and Gamble products to their clients. The main issues:

  • Low employee motivation
  • Low and stagnating sales numbers
  • No feedback on their activities
  • No group feeling
  • No new sales ideas

Sounds daunting huh? Yeah, we thought so too. This is a company that had been selling stuff to clients for decades. If they couldn’t maintain sales and motivate their teams, this was truly a massive issue…

Nevertheless, we accepted the challenge to improve the professional life of the sales teams and to increase sales in the process. We knew that the people themselves were not to blame for this daunting situation. It was all about the way their sales processes were designed. Time for Octalysis Human Focused Design!


Our approach

We ensure high quality delivery by sticking to our tried and tested 5 Step Octalysis Implementation Process (Strategy Dashboard; Feature Brainstorm; PE Feature List; Battle Plan; and Concept Wireframes). This process is highly interactive with the client as we need to ensure that our assumptions about their business metrics, practices and target users are well aligned with the solutions we come up with and design for.

We also wanted to ensure that our designs were flawlessly integrated with the CRM application the sales team was using. It makes no sense to design an experience if it stays as a separate application. It needs to constantly be in sync with the wider CRM process.

We then decided to change the world that sales people had to live in on a daily basis. Away with the boring to do lists and endless repetition of sales steps without any overarching narrative or feedback. From now on sales people in the distributor are seafaring traders for a city state called Nabicopolis. You do not just go to clients but you sail there and trade with them for profit. For yourself, as well as for the city state.

Here are screenshots of the city state (the text is all in Polish, but the images are self explanatory).

The city grows whenever it is healthy and wealthy. When it is poor and weak, it is prone to pirate attacks and it will degrade. As you can see from the images above, both you and the city have a health (red line) and a wealth (green line) meter. You gain health by doing the right sales KPIs. Wealth by selling products.

There is a variety of social interaction design in the project. There are group quests; a tavern to socialize and for management to send out overall guidance and news updates:




Gentle Leaderboard

There is a leaderboard as well, although we made sure to not make it too intimidating. Often leaderboards are only motivational for the the top 5 people on it. For the rest the scarcity feel (Core Drive 6: Scarcity and Impatience) is too high and they stop caring. However, by only showing a few people above and below you, you can mitigate some of that negativity and make it more engaging by bringing scarcity back to lower levels.


Dynamic Profile Pages

People tend to spend a lot of time (at least in the early stages of the experience) to upgrade and update their profile:

Not only can you update a photo, you can also choose the ship that you use to sail to clients with. The more activities you do in the application, the bigger and faster your ship will be and the faster you get feedback on your sales results from Headquarters.

Interestingly, when you sail with your ship, the navigation is fully integrated with Google Maps so you actually see yourself sailing to your clients along maps that look somewhat like this (this is a mockup, the real thing looks better):

Players have full autonomy of what actions and strategy they want to follow (so lots of Core Drive 3: Empowerment of Creativity and Feedback), which is very motivational long term and often lacking in sales organizations. Now selling has become fun and creative.


Next to social aspects and creativity and autonomy, we also made sure that there is plenty to discover and that there are regular surprises in the experience (Core Drive 7: Unpredictability and Curiosity). Social, creativity, and unpredictability are all intrinsically motivational. Here is where all the fun is and where long term motivation is born!

So you will get secret codes


…that open mystery boxes:

In additional there is the Captain’s Wheel of Fortune where you can spend your trade energy to try get cool prizes and loot drop. This is a very popular design feature and engages people on a daily basis.

Oh, and did I tell you that participation in the experience was fully voluntary? And that 100% of all the 130 sales people joined in? Let’s look at some more results shall we?


The Results

OK, so what were the results of Octalysis Design for this client? Did it approach what they expected? Yes it did. In fact they told us that the results were extraordinary. Here is a small sample list:


  • SALES: UP 21.8%
  • KPIs: UP 59%
  • Social Interaction: UP 300%


These are good numbers indeed, especially for an organization that has been in the market for so long. What managers would not sign up for a 21.8% sales uptick? Or people actually doing their KPIs with a smile on their faces?

Octalysis works, IF it is implemented well. We feel that the design can be even more improved, but are happy with the results so far.


Curious how to get great numbers too?

We can do this for your company or organization too. It does not matter if you are working in a big corporation or a small start up. Contact me for a FREE initial consultation and find out what The Octalysis Group can do for you!


Speak soon.




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Broken Product? Still successful! The power of Octalysis Epic design

Broken Product? Still successful! The power of Octalysis Epic design

Why Epic Meaning and Calling Matters

Core Drive 1: Epic Meaning & Calling can be the Core Drive that keeps your users with you for the long term regardless of flaws in your product.

In Actionable Gamification: Beyond Points, Badges, and Leaderboards, Yu-kai explained how Waze (which you might think is “just” a GPS tool), used Epic Meaning and Calling to inspire users to outsmart traffic every day and know what’s ahead: accidents, police, hazards, jams.

The idea of collaborating to slay the evil Traffic monster was so powerful, that instead of uninstalling the app when encountering a broken map, users clamored to fix the errors in the app and help others avoid that same problem. Now THAT is user engagement!

Faith in the vision

Yu-kai Chou was actually one of these early evangelists, forgiving the app for bringing him to the wrong locations on several occasions:

How powerful is that? When you fail in your core competency, instead of deleting the app in anger, users actually rush to solve the problem for you. Again, when it comes to Epic Meaning & Calling, what makes you happy is irrelevant. It’s about the bigger meaning and higher vision. And when you see a crack in that higher vision you believe in, you become fearful that others will see that crack and lose faith in the vision. As a result, you take it upon yourself to fix it.

Now Waze has 85 million users

In a few short years, Waze was acquired by Google for USD $1 billion. Not bad for selling a vision.

The Onboarding for Waze doesn’t shout epic meaning and calling (beyond the cute little Waze bubbles backdropped by hearts), but instead calls the user’s attention to Core Drive 2: Development & Accomplishment and Core Drive 4: Ownership & Possession through the following:

  • Know what’s happening on the roads in real-time (CD4)
  • Avoid traffic with route updates as conditions change (CD2)
  • Get alerts about accidents, hazards, and police ahead (CD2/4)

Interestingly, Waze’s next screen–the Waze(TM) End User License Agreement–begins with a Core Drive 1: Epic Meaning & Calling message:

You’re about to join the first network of drivers working together to build and share real-time road intelligence (the “Service”). Since Waze(TM) is 100% user generated, we need your collaboration and patience!

The policy goes on to read that usage of the app is your sole risk and that Waze (Google) will be collecting your data, including “a detailed history of all of the journeys you have made while using the Waze application”.

The Core Drive 1 message can help to get users to enter into this bargain (especially if the user is particularly concerned with privacy).

Keeping 85 million users satisfied

An 85-million strong user base can’t only be held together with Core Drive 1, so Waze has also grown their feature list:

  • Automatically reroute around traffic as conditions change on the road (CD2)
  • Get police and speedcam alerts while you drive (CD2/7/8)
  • Hear road directions by celebrity voices or the average Joe (CD4/7)
  • Record your own custom voice directions to guide you on the road (CD4)
  • Know how long your drive will take before you start driving (CD2/4)
  • Find gas stations and the cheapest gas prices on your drive (CD2/8)
  • Earn points and gain status as you contribute with road info (CD2/5)
  • Low data usage from your phone (CD2)
  • Waze works anywhere in the world (CD4)

For drivers who really don’t like to waste time or money:

  • Get notified when it’s time to leave for your destination by setting your drive in advance (CD2/4)
  • Let Waze tell you when it’s time to leave for your events by syncing your calendar with Waze (CD4)
  • Save time looking for parking with Waze parking suggestions by your destination
  • Choose to be routed on toll roads or to avoid them (CD2/3)
  • Get a sound alert if you exceed the speed limit with the speedometer (CD8)

Could Waze Lose its Way?

Epic Meaning and Calling brought and kept many Waze users, and Waze still feels different to many other equally capable GPS apps on the market.

As Yu-kai describes,

This ties back to the core of Human-Focused Design. You play a game not because you have to, but because you enjoy doing so. You use Waze not because there aren’t any other good GPS apps out there that can report to you traffic conditions, hazards, and watchful policemen; you use it because it’s fun and you enjoy the experience the most. And just like Mjolnir, Thor’s mighty hammer known for leveling mountains, this is no ordinary tool- it evens slays traffic!


But even Apple could lose its way if it doesn’t stay true to its ‘Think Different’ mantra, Waze could lose users if it doesn’t maintain the Epic Meaning and Calling it instilled from the beginning.

Gaining and maintaining your position

Many of the 85 million users are now in the Scaffolding or Endgame phase of their player journey. So long as they believe in Waze’s Epic mission and as long as they have build up enough Core Drive: Ownership and Possession, they will probably stay with Waze. It could be possible for other GPS apps to provide more Core Drive 3: Empowerment of Creativity & Feedback and provide a better GPS choice, but because of Status Quo Bias (Core Drive 8: Loss and Avoidance) most Waze users may not switch.


Contact us today to hear how we can help you maintain your position with additional Core Drive 1: Epic Meaning and Calling.

At The Octalysis Group, we know that no product, service, or app is safe from competitors, and we’ve helped hundreds of companies break into and remain leaders in their competitive marketplaces.

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Octalysis taking lead in the Academic world!

Octalysis taking lead in the Academic world!

Gamification; Westerdals; Octalysis; spillifisering

The gamification market is estimated to grow from USD 1.65 Billion in 2015 to USD 11.10 Billion by 2020. This increasing demand is bringing more and more actors to the global market. Since Yu-Kai published the Octalysis Framework in 2008, it has been organically translated into more than 20 languages, and the book was recently translated into Chinese and Korean(!).

But Octalysis is also making large forays into academia. For example, this year, Actionable Gamification was chosen as the curriculum framework for the first intensive Gamification course at Westerdals, the Oslo School of Arts, Communication and Technology.

More and more people are taking interest in Gamification, but the term is still not well-known in the Norwegian market. When we created the course last fall, we didn’t have many resources to market it to the Bachelor and Master students.

When the listings came late December we were happy to see that many people had applied and joined our course.

It was quite interesting to see the diverse background of our students, a reflection of the wide range of bachelor degrees and courses that Westerdal offers. The degrees range from game design to digital marketing and from programming to sound design.

Octalysis; gamification; Norway; spillifisering;

Norwegian Octalysis

What did we do?

The curriculum was mainly based on Yu-Kai’s book Actionable Gamification (get it here if you haven’t already). The course started by covering the history of games and play, and we did a fun game to see what (simplified) player types were most dominant in the class. With students from creative fields, it was no surprise that most students were dominant Explorers type categories, while the 2nd largest group were characterised as Achievers. A great balance of creativity and effort then!  From here we discussed behavioural economics and psychology with theories from Daniel Kahneman, Csikszentmihalyi and Daniel Pink.  

Each session led to a discussion or exercise where we’d discuss Norwegian products and cases and come up with improvements through the 8 Core Drives of Octalysis. We spoke about White Hat and Black Hat design as well as Intrinsic and Extrinsic motivation. The Norwegian examples ranged from a grocery application launched this year by Rema 1000 (‘Æ’), Parked Piano (a cultural initiative placing pianos in public locations for anyone to play) to McDonald’s’ ‘Find a bacon clubhouse’  website.

In just a month’s time, the students had three different group presentations and one group exam in the end. Actionable Gamification is a thorough book and one you come back to over and over, but the students were all able to grasp the framework and implementation very well in such short time!

During our month we were also lucky to get visits by other lecturers, such as Game researcher Amit Ginni Patpatia, behavioural researcher  Asle Fagerstrøm and the Managing Director of TOG, Joris Beerda.

The final exam asked the students to describe an area of society where gamification should be introduced and to discuss how today’s solution can be improved through gamification. The students came up with their own cases ranging from improving the public transport system in Norway, to making elderly care a lot better and creating good habits for recycling plastic bottles!

We were very happy with the high level of engagement from our students, which also became evident with the close to 100% attendance rate. Big thanks to Assistant Professor Jannicke Johansen and Westerdals ACT for taking action and collaborating to set up the course. Westerdals has actually incorporated these intensive courses as part of their competitive strategy to interdisciplinary education for all students attending.  Thanks to all the students for taking part in lectures and making the first course a memorable one!

As more and more Norwegians are introduced to Gamification we at The Octalysis Group are excited to be in the forefront of the Norwegian scene, and that the course will be repeated next year!

Want help making your product, experience or workplace engaging?

Contact me:

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Three Start-up insights from Octalysis Gamification

Three Start-up insights from Octalysis Gamification
Octalysis startup gamification

When I started up my first company I was, like many other entrepreneurs, constantly bombarded with tips, tricks and “how to’s” on making it in Startup World:

“Define your value proposition!”;

“Follow the Business model canvas”;

“Go lean or go home!”;

“Define the problem are you solving!”.

The problem is that startups are often so overwhelmed that they really have no mental and physical resources to follow these models. They are helpful for producing strategic documents and internal understanding, but for me did not help enough to really push my business forward.

It was not until I encountered the Octalysis Framework that my business started growing. Octalysis taught me some valuable lessons that I want to share with you. I hope they can help you as much as they have helped us!


1.  Don’t shout out all your features!

Even if you solve a problem for your user, if there is no motivation to use your solution to their problem nobody will use it…

Humans are not machines. We all have feelings that make up our motivation. So we have to focus on how we engage clients. It doesn’t matter that your product solves all the problems in the world. If you do not create engagement around the product. Don’t expect people to use it. We need to go from function (or functionality) focused design to human focused design.


Function focused design supposes that people are like robots and  automatically interact with a given functionality. It tailors for getting the job done efficiently. Human focused design, on the other hand, takes into account that people are led by emotions in their decisions on whether they want to do things or not. It recognizes that when we deal with human beings, we need to optimize our designs for their emotions and feelings.

By looking at your Start-up through the Octalysis Framework you can understand the feelings you want to engender with your users, and design accordingly. How do you want the user to feel the when they interact with your product? Will they feel part of something bigger than themselves (Core Drive 1: Epic Meaning & Calling)? Is it the curiosity that makes people enter your website? (Core Drive 7: Unpredictability & Curiosity)? Or maybe it’s that so many people similar to them are already there? (Core Drive 5: Social influence and relatedness)

The first step towards human focused design is to realise that humans are not machines.



2. Prioritise your metrics!

“Strategy is your ability to know what NOT to do”, a friend once told me.

The first year in most Start-ups requires a 360 degree orientation of what it is that you are building and the direction you are taking. This often results in a lot more ideas and potential markets, clients or directions than that are realistic for your business. So you easily feel overwhelmed by the lack of focus. Launching a new product or experience demands prioritisation, and knowing what not to do.

Octalysis uses the Strategy Dashboard process as the basis for its engagement design.

Defining Business metrics is the first step in the Octalysis Strategy Dashboard. What’s the most important end result of what you want to improve? Is it the amount of sold units, amount of new user registrations, or perhaps it is the amount of returning users each week? Octalysis really helped me understand the importance of prioritizing our objectives and create mental and institutional space for focus.

Let’s look at how some really successful companies have focused on their Business Metrics and have adjusted their design accordingly.



Octalysis Gamification



It is clear that Facebook optimized its design for getting new sign-ups in their system: their key Business Metric at the time. Facebook wanted growth and wanted it fast, so their design is fully focused on making it easy for people to sign up.

The Sign Up UI is centered and stands out, while the sign in bar at the top is small.


Human focused design

Amazon clearly targeted their key business metric: making it easier for existing users to come back. On Amazon you can see the large yellow “Sign in” tab, while the “New customer? Start here” is barely visible underneath. The design is designing optimised for recurring users.

Although you may think these are minor differences in design, they can have a large impact on user behavior. Clearly defined business metrics underpinned by solid design that helps grow these metrics will help grow your business to the next level.

What are  your Startups’ top three metrics?



3. Meaningful does not mean urgent.

“I want to save the world, but first, coffee”.

Many Millennials want to become Social Entrepreneurs it seems (and I am one of them!). But often their dreams and wishes do not lead to actual activity. Less than 0.5% of Wikipedia users have actually contributed to Wikipedia for example.

The thing with craving to be involved in noble causes (White Hat Core Drive 1: Epic meaning & Calling ) is that it makes you feel good, fulfilled and in control,  but it doesn’t create any urgency to act immediately. Often for action to take take place we need what we call Black Hat Core Drives. These Core Drives drive obsessiveness and urgency. If I aimed a gun at you and said “Save the world or I’ll shoot!” (Core Drive 8: Loss & Avoidance), it would be a major immediate trigger to start saving the world.

So use White Hat Core Drives to create that long term motivation, but get people to start with some Black Hat design. Epic Meaning and calling can be a powerful for long-term motivation as long as it is believable. If Shell promotes protecting the Arctic, a lot of people would shake their heads. Tesla, on the other hand has this believability. And it is so strong that even if Tesla cars have the same amount of mechanical faults as other cars Tesla owners are more forgiving towards the company. Perhaps because they really feel part of something bigger than themselves?

Applying the Octalysis Framework to my Start-up will helped me understand how I could combine short and long term motivational design. Now I can create urgency as well as long term engagement.

Think about how balanced your product is. Does it create urgency? Does it create longing or long term engagement?

Want more?

These are just a few of the lessons from Octalysis that I wished I knew before starting my own business. Learn from our mistakes, don’t make them yourself. Contact us for a talk about preparing your Start-Up for designing engagement that lasts!


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FREE lessons learned from Octalysis Design projects

FREE lessons learned from Octalysis Design projects

Ever did a project and thought: “Mm, I have seen this challenge before. Maybe with another client? Dang, I wish I had written down the things I learned then, to make my life easier now!”

We do a lot of projects and try to learn our lessons well: after every project we write them down. Now we have a handy database with lessons learned that all our team members can tap into!

Let me share two lessons here, just to give you a taste of what is in our database. Unfortunately, I cannot share a lot of client information or design slides due to NDAs, but the below examples will give you a taste of what kind of lessons we were happy to learn!



Many of our clients have awesome UI/UX designers working for them. Man, these people really know how to make functionality look good! So good, that some of our clients start to believe that the functionality is so beautiful that people will automatically want to engage with it. In addition, because clients spent a lot of time designing their product concepts, they have a lot of feelings of ownership over their products (Core Drive 4: Ownership & Possession). They are often so enamored with what the product functionality can DO, that they think everybody will automatically want to interact with it.


Unfortunately, this belief is misguided. Many games have AMAZING UI that works flawlessly when you interact with it. But many ‘beautiful’ games are still boring and financial failures. Yes, looks do matter, but in the end they do not determine whether users will interact with your product.

Minecraft is the classical example of an ‘ugly’ game doing very well indeed. In the non-game world there are examples aplenty too: many Alpha or Beta products that come on the market are not beautiful at all, but can nevertheless be hugely successful.


The secret sauce here is that these products have optimized their designs for maximum user engagement. They often allow user unlimited autonomy (Core Drive 3: Empowerment of Creativity and Feedback) like in Minecraft. Often they also manage to create a curiosity push for the user to constantly want to experience more and leave them wondering what is next (Core Drive 7: Unpredictability and Curiosity). Facebook ‘s design is a good example here.

Add design that allows users to have meaningful interaction with others (Core Drive 5: Social Influence and Relatedness), which Linkedin still doesn’t do that well, and you have a good base for your functionality to thrive in long term.




We often get asked: “Please make our product go viral. We need to reach 1000% growth in the next 6 months. Can you help us?”.

Virality has been a HUGE buzzword worldwide and many people are looking for the holy grail to grow their user base. A growing user base can mean the difference between an investor wanting to invest or leave you sitting in the cold (sometimes literally!).

Now, there are many ways to help a product go viral. SEO and effective marketing are very important of course. But we have seen most viral growth through User Referral Design. User referral is not as easy as just asking people to refer friends and reward them for their efforts. Straight up monetary rewards are expensive and giving someone a bit of extra XP wears off quickly after the initial second of happiness.


Also, people are very hesitant to include their friends in your database unless they are really convinced it is worth it and they do not look too silly. Only when you have a very large user base and MANY people use your product, a blank referral may work. Farmville did this successfully. Remember the requests for sheep, combines and other useful ‘offers’ we got through Facebook requests? Too annoying right?


For us the trick has been to make the referrals connected to mutually beneficial boosters. Boosters have the effect that the user can do more in the experience (and save more money for example) for a limited period of time. So we do not say: “If you refer a friend, we will give you a $5 discount on the $15 price”, but we make it so that every referral becomes a power up.


We design it so that people get a xx% of the price for every friend they refer, up to a 100% discount (referrals need to happen within 15 days for example). At the same time, your friend gets an immediate $10 discount on their first bill. We dangle the prospect of getting something for FREE which would make us feel very accomplished (Core Drive 2: Development and Accomplishment). It really feels like you are doing your friend a favor as he gets $10 off without having to do anything in return but just pick up the discount (Core Drive 5: Social Influence and Relatedness).


Obviously this does not always work and if the product is irrelevant for your friend, it will still be annoying for him. No need to send me referral request if you are selling bikinis! Oh, and remember to always offer referral programs after the user has reached a Major Win State. This occurs when people have taken a major desired action the experience that is beneficial for the product owners. So for AirBnb, for example, the first major win state for renters would be hosting, and getting paid by, their first guests.


Oh, if you don’t believe the results: for La Quinta hotels and resorts we reached a K-factor of 700% (every user referred 7 other users). Another client now gets close to 50% of all its new users from our referral system.




At The Octalysis Group we have many more lessons learned that we use in our consulting work with clients. Let us know if you want us to advise you on how to grow your own user base through Octalysis Human Focused Design.




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Top 5 Lessons to Follow when Designing Octalysis Gamification

Top 5 Lessons to Follow when Designing Octalysis Gamification

hands counting from one to five isolated on white background

There we were. Speechless, and a bit ashamed at the same time. Did we really have to redesign the full Octalysis design set up we did for this client? How was this even possible? So much work, for naught…what a disaster!

We had spent weeks making sure we knew exactly what business metrics our client wanted to improve. We had analyzed who our primary users were and what motivated them. Ran through all desired actions, feedback mechanics and rewards (Octalysis Strategy Dashboard). And finally we had come up with amazing features that would be included in our visual wireframes. This would be an epic experience, filled with little gems and with great balance between extrinsic and intrinsic motivation!

“Everything in our system can be integrated and designed exactly the way you want us too. There are no limits to what we can do!”, said the Marketing Director. We had believed her. She spoke for the company! Surely she had checked all of this? We were happy campers…until that meeting with the corporate IT Manager: “Mm, well, you see…we are using this 3rd party CRM system. And…er…nothing is really adjustable, unless you are willing to pay BIG money”.

We just fell for the most blatant overconfidence bias ever. We should have checked with IT ourselves rather than relying on what corporate heavyweights were telling us. It felt like a beginner’s mistake. Luckily in the end we found a way out, and we managed to implement a very engaging experience. But it was a costly lesson, and one we will not repeat ever again (and we haven’t).

We don’t wish for other people to experience the agony we went through, or make other avoidable mistakes when preparing for design work. So, here are our Top 5 Lessons to follow when designing Octalysis Gamification. Learn from what we have learned, for free!


Narrow down your clients’ priorities

You always want to create a relationship of trust with your clients, but never forget that you have an advisory role. You are hired to give advice, discover possibilities and help set priorities. Many of our clients have a long list of priorities that they want to see implemented. But often it is better to be 80% great for the top 20% priorities, rather than being 20% good for the 80%.

Help them prioritize by creating Tier 1 and Tier 2 priorities to make sure that you have solid objectives to design for. Always ask them questions like: “If there is one Business Metric that would make this product a success, what would that one Business Metric be?”

Oh, and always make sure you take a firm stand on the priority setting during the design process and to avoid mission or feature creep: the tendency to want constantly more and newer features before even the basic product has been established.


Some of our first contacts with clients are through charismatic high level visionaries in companies. They are Octalysis fans and want to use the potential of our method to get an edge over the competition. Often these managers/owners are very persuasive. Since it is their role to advocate new directions in the company, they are more preoccupied with the big picture rather than the IT details. However, these details often matter a lot and can lead to huge obstacles.

So as a rule: always involve the IT managers or CTOs in your discussions from the outset. They are the people that can tell you what can and cannot be done in the app or site. Always double check with IT what is possible, lest you design a Ferrari sports car that has to drive on a 4×4 back end!


Insist on clear and timely feedback

Many start up leaders and corporate managers have many priorities that need to be addressed simultaneously. Gamification design may be important to them, but so are marketing, accounts, investments, personnel and many other areas. These can sometimes take full attention away from what you are trying to design for your client. Don’t blame them for it! Recognize that this is company reality and adjust.

Make sure that you insist on regular feedback so that you can move on with the design process. Even better, try to present a concrete deliverable to discuss with the core team every week. This way people will stay involved and constantly interested in knowing what is next (Core Drive 7: Unpredictability and Curiosity). Examples of deliverables: new features to be designed; the in game economy; levels, badges; and, of course, visual wireframes!


Stand behind your expertise!

A good Octalysis designer is an multi colored expert in its own right. Octalysis combines insights in behavioral science, UI/UX, project planning, game design and a few more! You have built up insights that other experts do not have: they are either too tunnel focused (maybe only on UI/UX) or are too general in what they know. Octalysis fills the gap between big picture and the overly detail-orientation of some experts.

Don’t get sold by people that say they already have created a User Journey, when all they have is a UI/UX deck of slides that show how you can get from function A to function B. That is NOT user experience, nor a User Journey. Explain them that we are interested in WHY people would want to use the UI/UX presented, not so much in the fact that this functionality is there. Also don’t give in to people who just want to add “this Gamification layer” to their existing product and expect it to be amazing or engaging (hint: it won’t). In your feedback, however, do not be patronizing. Just tell them what limitations their vision or choices will have on the ROI of their product. Remember: you are a consultant, not an oracle!


Recognize what your client really wants

Many clients hire The Octalysis Group because to recognize the power of Octalysis and how implementing it can set them apart from their competitors. However, it does mean that our products are more refined and need a bit more work than just slapping some Points, Badges and Leaderboards (PBL) on a product. Quality just needs a bit more time to shine.

It also requires setting expectations with clients. If they want something fast and launch quickly, we can still do a PBL design for them (and ensure they will have far superior in-game economy than most off the shelf products). It won’t be as engaging as the full Octalysis premium package, but it will be better, much better, than the average product.

So what’s next?

Well, that’s up to you! We showed you some of our lessons learned, but we have learned so much more over the years. Contact us to know how we can put those lessons in practice in your company or for your product. Profit from our lessons learned rather than making mistakes yourself!


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Swiping for love…Tinder through the Octalysis Gamification Lens

Swiping for love…Tinder through the Octalysis Gamification Lens

Global Internet access now connects people everywhere and on all levels, and our search for a suitable partner is no exception. If I google “dating”, I end up with close to 600 million hits. This is one hot sector!

Tinder has been one of the applications at the forefront of this development, and many people now use Tinder. The app matched 12 million people since its release and processed more than a billion swipes daily (HNGN, 2014). I must admit I had used Tinder several times before analysing the app through Octalysis, but the gamification framework has made me more aware of how Tinder make us feel and act. Why do Tinder users fall prey to obsessive swiping? My friend often does 100 swipes in a short period of time, says he’s “Throwing out the fishnet!”.

Let’s put on the Octalysis lens, start fishing, and find out how Tinder motivates us to use their app!

The four experience phases

In Octalysis, we view products and services through different experience phases. The first time you see a product is different from when you’ve used it over time, so for each phase we need to design for different expectations and motivation. The 4 experience phases of Octalysis are: Discovery, Onboarding, Scaffolding and The Endgame.


The Discovery Phase is when we are introduced or hear about a product for the first time. Seeing a commercial on a poster for the first time is different from a friend telling us about the same product.

Let’s first look at how users find Tinder. When we search for Tinder on Google Play we see this:

Tinder has been downloaded more than 50 million times! That is a lot of social proof, and it surely must create interest for people to use Tinder.

Most people are introduced to mobile dating through friends and acquaintances (Core Drive 5: Social Influence and Relatedness). This was also the case for me, and I remember stories about hook-ups, late night Tinder meetings or other non-romantic experiences the first time I was told about dating online.

If you discover Tinder from their home-page, you’ll be greeted by a attractive woman in an air balloon, gazing out with a bright red blouse. She adds a personal feeling to my first impression (Core Drive 5: Social influence & relatedness). The introduction movie follows this woman on her travels, and we can see how she uses Tinder at several occasions. She meets a guy, who approaches her and they spend the last part of her holiday together.

The overall narrative tells of a dream state where Tinder helps you meet interesting people, and that love can actually happen in their app. My first-impression of Tinder was: “Hey, check out this f***-app”, so I experienced some doubt while watching the intro movie. However, the narrative of travel, unpredictability, fun, new people and new experiences renewed my hopes of finding Miss Right on Tinder!

Discovery Comments:

•    The discovery narrative tells the Tinder love story. 50 million downloads is a lot of social proof, but more can be done to reinforce this narrative. Maybe they can show people who have become a couple after meeting on Tinder?

•    Tinder’s discovery film is supposed to be about “real” love, but it did not fit with my first impression as Tinder being a one-night-stand service: it was just not believable enough for me.

•    Badoo trumps Tinder in SEO, even when you search for Tinder(!) None of the popular apps show if you search for ‘love’.


Onboarding starts as soon as the user decides to commit to the experience. In Octalysis we consider signing up as the first commitment. It ends when they’ve learned the basics to play the game. After you download Tinder, four simple screens show you how the experience works:


The “rules” of the game are easy to understand and I immediately know what to do. Swiping is intuitive and rewarding.  After two swipes I already get a preview of what my first win-state will look like in the app: “It’s a match!”.

A perfect Core Drive 5 (Social influence & Relatedness), Core Drive 2 (Development & Accomplishment) and Core Drive 7 (Unpredictability & Curiosity) combo. In fact, the experience has a bit of Core Drive 1: Epic Meaning and Calling here (Chosen one): maybe I have belonged to Tinder all my life but never knew it. Will Tinder be my destined place to find love in my life perhaps?

During the first few swipes of the experience, Tinder not only assures me that my swiping is anonymous (I don’t want people to know I rejected them – removing the Anti Core Drive 8: Loss & Avoidance), but being introduced to the win-state (match-screen) also builds excitement (Core Drive 2: Development & Accomplishment). Finally, Tinder has a lot of social proof early in the experience (Core Drive 5: Social Influence & Relatedness). In all, this make me feel safe and excited to win that match!

There is only one simple way to sign up for Tinder: log in with Facebook. One button sign-up offers little choice, but what better social proof is there than Facebook? Some users might not be happy with only one way to sign-up, and if you are concerned about privacy, it might make you think twice. But overall the early steps seem both safe, exciting and that there are interesting people on Tinder.

Let me click that button!

Onboarding Comments:

•    The onboarding phase is smoothly executed by Tinder, by swiping the first screens you are familiar with the rules- and how a win-state looks! (#23 Beginner’s luck)

•    One button to sign-up creates ease for users, but the reason they do it could be made more clear for new users.

•    By creating cognitive ease at this point of the experience, there is little or no reason for users to not complete the onboarding of Tinder. And if you do; a few clicks will help you back in.


The scaffolding phase starts once a player has learned the basic tools and rules to play the game – and has achieved the First Major Win-State. The majority of the Tinder experience will be in this phase. Even though I didn’t experience a major win-state myself, Tinder has already shown me one before, and my hopes of getting such a win-state is firmly rooted in my brain!

Tinder wastes no time; as you log in via Facebook you are taken directly to the above screen: excited to start swiping! As I swipe the first time, a message pops up asking me if I made the right choice! Wow, this shows Tinder cares about my choices and make sure I don’t miss out or regret my choice! (Appealing to my Anti Core Drive 8: Loss & Avoidance). One can see this as a start of The Alfred Effect (#83), where a product or service is personalised to the users’ needs. The Alfred Effect is at play whenever you ever feel that a product or service knows you.

As my swiping continues I tried to regret a choice again, but this time a message pops up: “Get Tinder Plus!”. Tinder neatly introduced me to this feature, but paying for it already? (It will always be dangling there for me if I should swipe too fast and regret a choice in the future..)

The main page also displays the “pile of people” that are waiting for me to browse through. This gives a feeling of Core Drive 6: Scarcity & Impatience (How many are left after this one?) and Core Drive 7: Unpredictability & Curiosity (always letting me know that there are more fish in the sea). I spend less and less time evaluating a girl before swiping left or right, and notice how quickly the swiping becomes a habit, with the repetitive act swiping and being rewarded with matches (reward loop). But over time I see these matches only as temporary wins, it is the activity itself that becomes the reward. I barely watch the the screen as I evaluate all these girls.. (Ignorance is bliss?).

As I keep swiping images of girls, the green heart seems to be emptying. I suddenly realise that I do not have unlimited swipes at all! In fact I only get 100 swipes every 12 hours (#68 Magnetic cap and #66 Torture Break). These are all techniques related to the Core Drives on the bottom half of the Octagon (Black Hat motivation). When something on offer to us is being limited (“you can only use 100 likes”), we are more likely to want to use all of those hundred in contrast to unlimited likes. We are drawn to the artificial limit: the Magnetic Cap.

The torture break forces us to leave the experience when we’re out of likes, but we will constantly want to check back on the countdown timer (Core Drive 6: Scarcity & Impatience, Game Technique #65). I want to start swiping again!

When the 12 hours are done, Tinder sends a push notification saying “New likes available, come meet your match”.

Yes! My first match! The back of the screen darkens and my profile picture is neatly displayed next to my match to enforce the win-state: Social pairing! Tinder offers two neutral choices: 1. Send a message, or 2. Keep swiping. I can easily one-click back to the game. Tinder also offers the possibility to share my match, but there is no obvious trigger for me to do that (I tried to share it with myself and the text displayed a SHORT-url to my matched profile, and which number she was). I decide to click “Send a message”.

Now what should I write? Tinder automates messages under my matches’ profile picture: “Everybody likes a thoughtful person”. This is social proof, but not very strong, and I am still not sure what to do at this point.

There are no clear actions for me to take, and my cheeky one-liners probably won’t hold. By clicking the GIF-button I can browse and search a selection of GIFS which does reduce the barrier of engaging with my match.. Tinder says GIFs sent are 30 % more likely to receive a response than messages (TIME, 2016).

Empowering users to use their creativity and freedom supports the evergreen mechanic, where a developer does not continuously have to add more content to an experience to keep it going (Core Drive 3: Empowerment of Creativity & Feedback). When it comes to texting my skills are the worst, so I try clicking on her photo.

The integration with Facebook and Instagram comes handy at this point, and if we have common interests or mutual friends it shows. There are no obvious triggers for me to start writing a message or to send a GIF, and I’m a lazy chatter, so I leave my match to get back into the swiping game.

It takes some obsessive swiping before I check out other features in the experience: such as updating my profile, editing search preferences or settings:

The integration with Facebook (and then again with Instagram), already renders a personal profile for me! This reduces the time I have to spend filling in sign-up information. It also increases my feeling of ownership and possession, and some unpredictability and curiosity as I “discover” my profile for the first time. There is limited freedom in terms of editing my profile. The only things I can arrange are my quick bio and 6  profile pictures (to be be uploaded via Facebook).

After trying to come up with a smart introduction for a few minutes I realized I felt an upcoming urge to swipe again! The black hat compulsion won…. Back to the (very addictive) game.

Back at the home screen I notice a blue star at the bottom right, and I click it. “You’ve sent a SUPERLIKE!”. Wow, a nice animation pops up, and a star is sent up the screen! I am not sure exactly what this SUPERLIKE will do, but as I try to click it again a few swipes later; a huge countdown-timer shows in the screen.

11:59:59.. 12 hours before I can use another one, unless I buy Tinder Plus:

At this stage there is no obvious desired action to take, unless I want to buy unlimited likes with Tinder Plus. The red colour does not make this an appealing choice, and with no swipes remaining there is little motivation for me to stay in the experience.

Scaffolding Comments:

•    Tinder nicely takes me straight to the experience, and already after the first dozen swipes I experience cognitive ease, and the swiping becomes close to effortless.

•    Profile-editing and search preferences are open for discovery by the user. Tinder should consider integrating glowing-choices or obvious triggers explaining what the integration with Facebook means (“We built your profile!”)

•    I still miss a way to personalize my profile more (Core Drive 3: Empowerment of Creativity and Feedback and Core Drive 4: Ownership and Possession).

•    Instead of presenting users with Tinder Plus at the point where all likes are spent, and “all hope is lost” – they should seek more gentle ways of introducing Tinder Plus to users.


This is the phase where users have done everything there is to do at least once (according to their perception), and they are figuring out why they should stick around and continue to play the game (especially when there are newer, more exciting alternatives out there).

As I’ve spent my likes and superlike for the next 12 hours, there is no clear motivation as to what to do next. So I enter my matches page:

This screen systematically lists all matches with a clear focus on displaying each one as a face (Core Drive 5: Social influence & Relatedness). Entering this screen of matches, which for the most I have not exchanged a word with, seems to feel more like a trophy-shelf than a library of interesting people. I will give Tinder points for coming up with small quotes when you enter a profile, but the lack of triggers on this page create more incentives to leave the page (and go swiping). Guess I’ll be back in 12 hours…

Endgame Comments:

•    The endgame is fairly balanced, but as you keep liking and super-liking, the countdown timer as well as not wanting to loose my amount of daily likes does create a sense of urgency, where the swiping becomes the main activity of the experience (Core Drive 6: Scarcity & Impatience)

•    Tinder emphasises on Core Drive 5: Social influence and Relatedness throughout the experience, and they provide us all with the feeling of “being in the market”.

•    Tinder should consider using more positive and real-life social proof: Show and tell about the people of Tinder: What is the most common way to meet through Tinder? What do most people (that meet in real life) write? Have people fallen in love through the experience?

•    As motivation seems directed at users to collecting matches, and not as much to engage with them, obsessive or unwanted behaviour could occur over time. ) It is evident to some degree that the experience encourages starting conversations, but during the end-game there is a lack of incentives for meaning and long-term relationships (Core Drive 1: Epic Meaning & Calling).

Where is the love?

Overall Tinder has designed a system for high engagement.

Tinder has built a great discovery narrative, with social proof (arguably weak) that love can happen on Tinder. With Facebook integration, the sign-in process is incredibly fast, you are shown a win-state and boom you can start swiping. But as you go through the experience, you feel less in control and more obsessed about spending all the available swipes you have, to collect an increasing amount of matches that you are not talking to. This is very similar to how slot machines work, it is the spinning that is addictive, the unpredictability of what will happen next; the matches are only temporary joy. Over time, the experience becomes a mindless exercise only to feel like I am “in the market” (Core Drive 5: Social influence and relatedness).

In Octalysis we balance White Hat (CD1: Epic Meaning & Calling, 2: Development & Accomplishment, 3: Empowerment of Creativity & Feedback) and Black Hat Core Drives (6: Scarcity & Impatience, 7: Unpredictability & Curiosity, 8: Loss & Avoidance). Too much emphasis on Black Hat techniques creates a lot of urgency, but too much of it in any experience will make us feel not in control, obsessed or anxious. In contrast, White Hat Core Drives make us feel in control, fulfilled and satisfied. Tinder should think about this balance more, as I the experience is mainly Black Hat, leaving me feeling that I have no control over my obsessive swiping. For me online dating may already be more about swipes than looks!

If you want to know more about what Octalysis can do for your organization to drive engagement, contact us at:



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Gamification of Pensions: Octalysis advises UK Government

Gamification of Pensions: Octalysis advises UK Government

Gamification of Government

The subject of pensions is arguably one the most boring topics that you can talk to younger generations about. It is considered uncool and is mostly related to old people and finance. How could it get any less exciting? Many younger people do not seem to care one bit about pensions, and it is endangering their own financial futures as well as that of the pension system as a whole.

So could Octalysis Gamification come to the rescue? Can we perhaps make (preparing for) pensions fun and engaging?

The Octalysis Group just started some initial advisory for the UK Department for Works and Pensions to achieve just that. But why are they so interested in making pension systems fun and engaging? What has changed suddenly? My grandparents and parents surely did not need to be engaged.

Let’s find out!

The Pension Crisis

The population in the developed world is quickly getting older. This means that in the future, there will be more pensioners living off the tax contributions of others. In a sense, the pension fund acts like a benevolent Pyramid Scheme: it can only continue to grow if enough people keep contributing and the majority of the members do not take their money out of the system.

So far this has not been an issue, but we have now reached a state where the collective contributions to the pension funds system are increasingly lagging behind the uptake by pensioners of these funds. Average pension ages are being increased rapidly to try to stop the bleeding. For my age group it is expected that we will be able to take pension at age 73. This is 15 years later than the age that my mother retired at! But will it be enough to save the system? Many doubt it.

So with the future of the pension system (as we know it) in doubt, it is even more important that younger generations save more than their parents and grandparents. The problem is that they don’t. They save even less. Young people seem to have lost any interest whatsoever to start saving and governments around the world have no clue how to change it.

Luckily the UK Government and its charismatic Minister for Pensions, Baroness Altmann, are forward looking. The Baroness has publicly stated that she thinks that Gamification is the way forward for pension systems. Last month we did some initial advisory to help her department discover what Octalysis Gamification can do to create engagement for pensions.

The Discovery Phase of Pensions

In the 4 Experience Phases of Octalysis, the Onboarding Phase is where users find out why they even want to interact with your product. The product here is pensions (more specifically Workplace Pensions).

In this phase we want to create curiosity based on something new and exciting that is also supported by other people we can relate to. At the same time, we want to create some urgency to act/buy now (rather than to appeal to a vague ‘Good Cause’).

Unfortunately, Workie did not learn about Octalysis or Behavioral Science when he started his promotions, which meant the campaign was doomed to fail.

In fact, the video already fails within 10 seconds. The commentator laments about Workie (the embodiment of Workplace Pensions): “…at the moment, unfortunately, people are ignoring him”. The producers try to appeal to Octalysis Core Drive 5: Social Influence and Relatedness, to make people want to act (out of pity). In fact, what they achieve is the opposite. If nobody wants to engage with Workie, why should anybody? In this case, anti-Core Drive 5 leads to Core Drive 8: Loss and Avoidance. People have just become even less enthusiastic about pensions!

In Yu-kai Chou’s book Actionable Gamification, Yu-kai writes about a National Park in Arizona that was trying to prevent people from stealing their petrified wood. In an experiment, when they put up a sign that says, “Many past visitors have removed the petrified wood from the park, destroying the natural state of the Petrified Forest,” theft of the petrified wood not only did not decrease, it nearly triple! That is because when people see that it is the Norm that people are stealing, they think they should steal too.

So does the video at least bring anything exciting or a promise of future benefits for citizens? Strangely enough no. In the full 42 seconds clip there is no promise of anything that would make me feel accomplished or excited. There is no Core Drive 2: Development and Accomplishment.

In addition, the only thing that is (initially) mildly exciting, is Workie itself as he looks somewhat novel (but not necessarily slick or likable for a younger generation). But since he is actually a boring, slow-trotting and negative character, that excitement wears off within seconds. So we are left with no Core Drive 7: Unpredictability and Curiosity push, and the lack of excitement adds to Anti Core Drive 8: let’s not waste my brain cell and valuable time to care about what this character has to say.

In the end we are only left with Core Drive 8 motivation, the type that makes you anxious and not in control. The final nail in the coffin here is that Workie starts to talk about fines and that you “need” to get a pension “by Law.” But obviously, if nobody is getting a workplace pension, why would you conform with the law huh? Social Proof tells your brain you don’t need to, so now the Big Brother threat sounds hollow. Also, by pointing out it is a legal requirement to compensate for  it not being appealing, Core Drive 6: Scarcity & Impatience will cause people (especially the younger generation) to want to rebel against it even more. “Oh, here is something that no one likes and you don’t want to do. Please have sympathy. But if not, Big Brother will force you to do it against your will!”

In fact, if there should be Core Drive 8: Loss & Avoidance (which generally drives urgency which is good), it would be much better to show negative consequences of these people ignoring Workie . “Look, everyone is ignoring Workie. They don’t care. But oops! Look what happened to them later.” The fear tactic should not be about making the government sound evil, but from the actual negative effects of such behavior.

Also, we know from Behavioral Science that when there is a fear tactic, there MUST be a simple direct action item that alleviate that fear, or else people move into denial mode and prefer to not think about it. At the end, the narrator talks about the website to learn more about the workplace pension, which is good. However, the Desired Action can be more clearly presented on the screen, as opposed to the passive message, “Don’t ignore the workplace pension.” It should be actively telling them to visit the website now with large fonts, preferably with a friendlier shortcut URL. We know that every action that the brain can’t comfortably process will hamper conversion rates. Having a long URL will create that cognitive dissonance and make people who have an intention to do something procrastinate until later (until they retire?). It is better to have a shorter link such as that continues on the story of Workie and how the audience can help him make the future better for everyone.

The future of Gamification in the UK Pension System

Baroness Altmann, the Minister of State for Pensions recognized the failings of the previous campaigns. She has come out as a fan of Gamification and we think that is a smart move. Pensions is a boring topic, so it is not easy to create engagement around the theme, based on content alone. You need to make the experience surrounding pension systems more engaging and Octalysis Gamification can help.

Just as we have achieved with other Governments Institutions and companies, the key lies in making the experience so engaging that people hardly feel they are focusing on pensions. It is the experience around it that creates the engagement push. The interaction with pensions will now lead to win states in the game, so all of a sudden it becomes fun and rewarding to deal with planning your financial future. We have designed Gamification for all sorts of boring and “unsexy” topics, ranging from healthcare all the way to SEC compliance training for financial firms. Before our designs, people would only learn about these rules because their boss told them to do it (Core Drive 8, you do it because you are afraid to lose your job or promotion). Now they learn in fun ways and even are excited to interact with the content when they are not at work!

It is not yet clear where our contacts with the UK Government will lead to. It would be great if the UK Government and the Octalysis Group could work together and resolve these challenges in engagement. Octalysis is ready to play its part. Pension systems are essential for societies. We are happy to help avoid a future where the elderly have no money and have to rely on family and friends to survive.

Let’s use the power of Octalysis to prevent this dreaded image from ever becoming a reality.

If you want to know more about what Octalysis can do for your organization to drive engagement, contact us at:


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Playing the Starbucks Game – An Analysis through the Octalysis Lens

Playing the Starbucks Game – An Analysis through the Octalysis Lens

Starbucks was one of the first iconic chains that transformed commodity consumption into a daily gratifying experience. For years, millions of coffee enthusiasts treated Starbucks as their “third place” beyond work and home. This is not only because of its culture and overall experience, but also because of their highly effective gamified mobile app.

The main structure of Starbucks’ loyalty program is a “stamp card,” where a customer gets a “stamp” every time they make a purchase. After a certain number of stamps, a free reward is given. Other stores have this type of marketing initiative, but these “cards” tend to be forgotten or thrown away. I have collected many of these but rarely have I followed through to receiving the freward, except Starbucks.

So why was I so engrossed with Starbucks? Why did I keep going back even when its coffee isn’t necessarily superior to coffee from other mom-and-pop stores?

After my constant visits to Starbucks, I noticed my motivation was fueled by its loyalty program’s gamified experience. I’ll be using Yu-kai Chou’s Octalysis Framework to analyze the reasons behind my motivation in this Starbucks Experience.

For those who are not familiar with the Octalysis Framework, you can read about it on The Octalysis Group Website. Throughout this article, I will also define keywords on Octalysis and gamification. Hover over underlined words to view the definition.

Overall, Starbucks incorporates mostly Left Brain Core Drives, which deploys Extrinsic Motivation to reel in and keep their customers. The Left Brain Core Drives include:

But unlike other companies that apply these Core Drive, Starbucks went a few steps further and tied them in with Right Brain Core Drives, which deploy Intrinsic motivation such as (Empowerment of Creativity and Feedback Core Drive 3; Social Influence and Relatedness (Core Drive 5); and Unpredictability and Curiosity (Core Drive 7) to increase sales.

I will analyze how this implicitly gamified design uses the 8 Core Drives in each of the 4 Experience Phases: Discovery, Onboarding, Scaffolding, and Endgame. Let’s first start with the Discovery Phase.

Discovery Phase of the Starbucks Experience

The Discovery Phase is when a user, or in this case, the customer, becomes aware of and decides to try out the experience. For Starbucks, it is obvious that a Starbucks coffee shop is easy to find. Placing a shop every other block becomes a trigger that creates “cognitive ease.” This is a concept expressed in Core Drive 2: Development and Accomplishment, which allows the customers to easily achieve the desired action of buying their food/drink. This ubiquitous placement primes us with a sense of familiarity, and thus we subconsciously succumb to social conformity (Core Drive 5: Social Influence and Relatedness).

But even if there’s a Starbucks everywhere I go, what really triggered me to make that first purchase and transition from hardly ever drinking coffee to becoming a coffee addict? What made me stop going to my favorite local coffee shop that used aromatic Peruvian coffee beans? Well, my friend gave me a Starbucks gift card.

But so what? There are other coffee chains and we all know that a gift card is not a novel concept, so why Starbucks? To answer the first part, let me reference Dan Ariely’s “Predictably Irrational.” He states that Starbucks owed much of its success in the beginning by “selling fancy French coffee presses, showcasing alluring snacks” and offering their sizes as Short, Tall, Grande, and Venti along with “high-pedigree named” drinks.

Starbucks created a new anchor, an anchor that gave a different ambience, a different feeling — a feeling of “Elitism.” This sense of pride may be downplayed in the U.S. or European countries, but it definitely is strong in other areas of the world such as Asia where people would brag about buying a drink at Starbucks. Whether or not you have a sense of “Elitism” with Starbucks, it doesn’t matter, the brand has now become anchored into the minds of many coffee consumers as the go to coffee shop.

What made the gift card different was that it was synced to a mobile app. The owner of the card can sign up for a Starbucks membership to receive bonuses and rewards that links it back to the card. With the mobile app, you can store as many cards as you want virtually, allowing you to share your card with family and friends to help you score more rewards. In addition to this, Starbucks is well known for their cute, artsy cards that make them even more appealing.

One issue, however, is that there isn’t a strong push for the desired action of downloading the app. From my personal experience, I actually didn’t download the app until after I shared my card with my family and needed two ways to swipe my card.

This weak link exists among the three mediums: membership sign up, card registration, and app download. When a customer obtains a card, it isn’t very clear right away that they need to register their card and sign up to receive benefits. Also, if a customer who doesn’t have a card directly signs up on the site, they still don’t receive benefits because they need a registered card to swipe.

Then they’d have to make the effort to buy the card and register before earning a point on their next purchase. The process isn’t streamlined and can cause frustration within the user. Core Drive 8: Loss and Avoidance pushes them to avoid the action and eventually the customer may never go through the loyalty program.

Downloading the mobile app leads the user to the desired action of signing up but not visa versa. The push to download the mobile app is very low in the experience and can be a critical area where users don’t continue past the Discovery Phase of the loyalty program.

Starbucks needs to make the information about the membership and mobile app more transparent and noticeable in their overall experience through better application of Triggers and possibly Black Hat Design (since it drives urgency). But once the customer discovers the membership and the mobile app, it’s on to the Onboarding Phase.

Onboarding Phase of the Starbucks Experience

The Onboarding Phase occurs during the first few purchases the customer makes and includes the learning process of the menu, the decision to sign up for the membership, and finally learning about the loyalty point system.

The loyalty point system, mentioned earlier, mainly pushes the extrinsic core drives. The customer starts out at the Welcome Level, moves on to the Green Level, then to the Gold Level where you earn a physical shiny golden card. Each level has its own benefits and requirements to unlock the next level (Core Drive 2: Development and Accomplishment and Core Drive 6: Scarcity and Impatience).

The onboarding phase of the membership is well implemented during this phase because the customer needs only 5 stars (5 swipes) to reach the next level. This makes the customer feel accomplished and progressing.

Once the customer has made their first few purchases, leveled up to at least the Green level, and earned a reward, they then enter the Scaffolding Phase.

Scaffolding Phase of the Starbucks Experience

Within Starbucks, the Scaffolding Phase occurs when the customer becomes a regular customer and makes purchases consistently. During this phase, the customer starts to learn not only how they can modify their drinks (Meaningful Choices – Core Drive 3) and purchase items habitually, but they also engage in more initiatives the company introduces. To list a few:

  • Leveling Up
  • Starbucks for Life
  • Star Dash

Starbucks also gained habitual weekly visits to the store by laying out different free-app cards from the iTunes store every week, and promoting new products seasonally, thus pushing Core Drive 7: Unpredictability and Curiosity within the customer.

Levelling up

Level and reward system within the loyalty program increase Core Drive 2: Development and Accomplishment, pushing customers to make purchases to accomplish higher levels within the loyalty program to obtain rewards and privileges (defined to be Core Drive 4: Ownership and Possession).



The interface of the mobile app has a feeling of extravagance, quality, and class to it as well as a fun interactive to-go cup to filled with Starbucks points, or “Bonus Stars,” in the form of gold stars that move around based on how the user moves their phone. The point system uses the common “buy X number of items and get a free item” technique. After a customer makes a person, they are reminded clearly that they have received a new reward – in their email, message box, and their history box within the app.

Once a customer registers their card, they are at the “Welcome Level” where they receive special Birthday Perks and a 15% discount off purchases. After obtaining 5 stars, the customer levels up to the “Green Level” where, in addition to the perks of the previous level, the customer receives free in-store brewed coffee and tea refills.

Finally, to obtain the last level, the “Gold Level,” the user has to work harder by gaining 30 stars within 12 months and maintain that level by completing the “30 stars in 12 months” requirement every year (Core Drive 6: Scarcity). This allows customers to receive a freebie of their choice every 12 stars and the beautiful shiny personalized Gold Card I mentioned earlier. The pairing of Core Drive 2 (Accomplishment) and Core Drive 6 (Scarcity) is so strong that even NFL Wide Receiver Chad “Ochocinco” Johnson gave a video rant about how deeply disappointed that his Starbucks Gold Card was stolen because of all the coffee he had to drink to obtain it. He was even more disappointed about having his Gold Card than his credit cards stolen. And it was “not just any Starbucks card, but a Gold Starbucks card.”

Starbucks has elegantly implemented, what Yu-kai Chou calls the  “Collection Set” Game Technique #16 because:

  1. Stars are easy to obtain with a swipe of a card or a simple scan off your mobile phone and the feedback is instant and clear.
  2. Obtaining stars is tied into other Core Drives such as Creativity (a little), Social (a little), Ownership and Possession, Loss and Avoidance, and Scarcity

Starbucks for Life

“Starbucks for Life,” held during the winter season, is an initiative similar to McDonald’s Monopoly game that uses the “Collection Set” Game Technique. The customer, driven mainly by Core Drive 4: Ownership and Possession, earns a chance to unwrap a virtual gift box after making a purchase and the gift box can hold a number of icons that belong to a section: starbucks for life/a year/a week/a month.

Collecting 3 icons under a group rewards the player with the respective prize. Many companies use this game technique, but players tend to stop playing after learning about the nearly impossible probability of winning. This behavior is the result of what Yu-kai calls an Anti-Core Drive, when a core drive prevents behavior instead of motivating it. The anti-core drive of scarcity makes the user feel that the chances of not obtaining the prize is so high that the player gives up. Starbucks, however, provides meaningful feedback to the user, telling them how much of each prize is available and uses Social Proof (Core Drive 5) through the “Map of Cheer” to keep customers motivated by showing winners from all over the nation.This allows customers to feel like they have a chance (Core Drive 2)!


Giving users the chance to open the gift box not only gives the obvious sense of Curiosity and Unpredictability (Core Drive 7), but it also a bit of Core Drive 3: Empowerment of Creativity and Feedback by allowing the user to feel that they are being creative with the timing of their gift openings. Some players also feel they are more in control by thinking that if they spread out the openings, they are more likely to receive a new icon.

One downside of Starbucks for Life is that it’s not very well integrated

with the mobile app. It’s advertised on their website and emailed to customers who are registered, but there is no feedback on the app. What cutomers see most is their mobile app (assuming they use it, and many do) when they make a purchase. Emails usually get ignored and are considered as spam, websites go unvisited, but every time a customer takes out their phone to scan, they open the app and if this initiative is a mechanism the company wants to promote, then advertising it in the app would be highly effective.


Another improvement would be to also display that they earned that extra chance to unwrap the gift box when the customer earns a Bonus Star. By doing so, the company can also use this initiative to increase the number of app downloads and sign ups. Stores can give out tickets for those who don’t use the mobile app or are not registered, then place restrictions on these tickets to be only redeemed if they download the app and become members can increase the business metric of more app downloads and sign ups.

Overall, Starbucks’ approach stands out by taking a common game technique, which is high in extrinsic motivation that drive customer purchases, and ties it in with other mechanics that trigger Right Brain Core Drives (intrinsic motivation).

Star Dash

Star Dash is another initiative that uses the Bonus Star as the main game economy to drive behavior by giving out extra Bonus Stars for a certain number of purchases. At this point, the customer has gone through a few rounds of rewards and Core Drive 3: Empowerment of Creativity and Feedback may start to kick in for some people. Some customers start to get creative by trying to maximize on their Bonus Stars by spending as little as possible such as swiping for a little pack of almonds or the cheapest drink.

Also, if they’re close to receiving a free reward, they might purchase enough to get the extra Bonus Stars and gain the reward to redeem for the item they really want to have and then use that redemption as another “purchase” to stack more Bonus Stars.

The Star Dash acts as a booster to instill not only Core Drive 2 (Accomplishment) and 4 (Possession), but also Core Drive 3 (Creativity & Feedback). For Core Drive 3 to work well, the feedback needs to be quick; and the mobile app does just that — the reward shows up instantly, and can be redeemed right away with a simple scan of the phone.

Endgame Phase of the Starbucks Experience

After going through Starbucks Experience for a long period of time and experiencing everything all that the customers think they can, the customer then enters the Endgame Phase.

Luckily for Starbucks, caffeine is an addictive and a reward in itself so quitting may not be so easily done. However, nothing stops the customer from purchasing at another coffee shop and making that their new habit. This is why the Endgame is important.

Aside from the three dominant extrinsic core drives that exists in the overall experience, Starbucks mostly uses Core Drive 7: Unpredictability and Curiosity in the Endgame Phase to keep the customer engaged by releasing new drinks and food items and other novel products such as seasonal drinks, mugs, coffee beans, and freebies.

A newly released feature allows the customer to order and pay via the phone so the customer can save precious time by skipping the line, triggering Core Drive 6: Scarcity and Impatience.

In this phase, Core Drive 5: Social Relatedness and Influence isn’t very strong and overall, Starbucks is weak in this motivation. The environment itself welcomes social gatherings but the experience can be more compelling by increasing this drive.

Most customers in the Endgame Phase are motivated by this Core Drive 1: Epic Meaning and Calling, a core drive I haven’t mentioned much besides the “Elitism” Game Technique #26 and should be made stronger in this Endgame experience.

This Core Drive is implemented in the company’s business model, but is not at the forefront of the general experience, especially for the Endgame customers.


Starbucks used to have the “The Way I See It” initiative where its cups had meaningful quotes about life and social issues. Unfortunately, some quotes were removed because they were considered controversial, such as The Way I See It #289, an opinionated quote on global-warming. But despite its removal, they set a strong precedence to the Starbucks culture and connection to its customers.

Nowadays, though not very prominent in Starbucks’ mobile app, the company is very active in other higher purpose campaigns such as the 1912Pike commitment where they plant a tree for every bag of 1912 Pike coffee purchased.

Yu-kai Chou states that it is very important that the meaning and purpose a product presents, has to be believable to be effective. Otherwise, it can backfire. Starbucks works hard to make sure its statements aren’t false promises nor fluffy and they take action and connect to the community proactively (Core Drive 1: Epic Meaning and Core Drive 5: Social/Relatedness).

The downside is that the average customer is highly unaware of these philanthropic programs. Higher visibility and integration of this core drive can push engagement further because Core Drive 1 (Epic Meaning/Calling) is a strong motivator within Endgame customers.

Overall the Endgame Phase for Starbucks relies heavily on Core Drive 4 (Ownership and Possession), 7 (Unpredictability and Curiosity), and 8 (Loss and Avoidance). The Bonus Stars play a major role and the desire to maintain the Gold Level keeps a lot of Endgame customers to continually engage in the experience.

Potential Improvements

Now that we’ve analyzed the overall experience through the 4 Experience Phases and 8 Core Drives in each, let’s see how Starbucks can improve. First, they already have many initiatives in place to trigger Core Drive 1 (Epic Meaning and Calling) and Core Drive 5 (Social Influence and Relatedness) which are the drives that are more lacking in the overall feel of the experience. To make it stronger, they can tie these weak Core Drives into its star system.

One idea is to use the “plant a tree” program by introducing it in the Onboarding Phase. Customers can start small by contributing with a cup of coffee instead of buying a whole bag of beans. Also, instead of a coffee cup, sometimes they can use images of a sprout that grows every time the customer makes a purchase.

Starbucks has another existing feature called “MyStarbucksIdea” where customers can input their ideas on how to make the Starbucks Experience better. This feature is similar to Lego’s LegoIdea initiative where customers input an idea, others vote and discuss about it, and see if the company will make the idea happen. A great feature, but lacks visibility. Again, Starbucks can take advantage of the Bonus Stars to promote more Social Game Techniques such as referrals or gifting a drink via the app.

Core Drive 3: Empowerment of Creativity and Feedback is usually difficult to implement in these types of environments where extrinsic motivation is the driving force for behavior, but we can take advantage of the point system and implement the “Chain Combo” Game Technique.

For example, Starbucks has seasonal themes such as holiday lattes. The customer can earn a buildup of 2 times (2x) or 3 times (3x) the Bonus stars if they order from the holiday lattes consecutively in a row within a certain time period.

Let’s say there’s 3 holiday lattes. The customer buys holiday latte 1, that’s 1 Bonus Star. The next purchase (Holiday latte 2) can earn them 2x so 2 Bonus Stars, then the 3rd purchase (Holiday latte 3) can earn them 5x so 5 Bonus Stars. If they break the combo, then the increase in weight reverts back to 1x.

The Bonus Stars and freebies acts as the system’s main economy and the desire to obtain these rewards, paired with a supporting core drive, pushes the execution of the company’s desired actions by the customer.

Starbucks’ New Point System and its Possible Impact

Starbucks has announced that they will be changing its point system to be revenue-based starting early April 2016. What it means is that instead of earning 1 Bonus Star for every swipe and earning a freebie after 12 Stars (Gold level), the customer will earn 2 Bonus Stars for every $1 they spend. However, a reward is given after 125 Stars. The table below shows a summary of the changes:


A customer will have to spend $62.5 to get that free item whereas in the original program, if a customer averages $1 per swipe, only $12 is needed for the extra reward. However, of course, it’s very rare a swipe will value at $1, but the customer will have to average over $5 per swipe in the original program in order to break even in the new program.

This changes the economy of the game and for those in the Scaffolding and Endgame phases, they could feel Core Drive 8: Loss and Avoidance if they usually make purchases below $5 because they would have to pay more than they usually do to earn a reward.

However, other feedback mechanics within the experience may be strong enough to overcome this issue. For customers who are going through the Discovery and Onboarding phases, they have no anchor system to relate to so this change may not affect their behavior.

We shall see how this pans out!

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The Scientific Foundations of the Octalysis Framework

The Scientific Foundations of the Octalysis Framework


The Scientific Foundations of the Octalysis Framework

Any serious framework that aims to explain and predict human behavior needs to build on solid scientific evidence. The Octalysis Framework does just that and combines all this evidence in a unified framework for human behavioral analysis. It merges scientific insights from the following academic fields into one coherent analytical and actionable framework for human motivational design:


Behavorial Economics

This scientific field studies the effects of psychological, social, cognitive, and emotional factors on the decisions of individuals and the impact of different kinds of behavior, in different environments of varying experimental values.  Behavioral models typically integrate insights from psychology, neuroscience and microeconomic theory; in so doing, these behavioral models cover a range of concepts, methods, and fields.

The Octalysis Framework most notably has incorporated crucial insights from Noble Prize winners (in particular Daniel Kahnemann and Amos Tversky) and other acclaimed scientists in the field (Richard Thaler; Robert Cialdini; Dan Ariely et al). Most of these insights pertain to heuristics and biases that lead people’s behaviors rather than rational analysis.


Sample literature list:

Kahneman, Daniel; Tversky, Amos (1979). “Prospect Theory: An Analysis of Decision under Risk”

Thaler, Richard H. 1992. The Winner’s Curse: Paradoxes and Anomalies of Economic Life.

Thaler, Richard H. 1993. Advances in Behavioral Finance

Cialdini, R. B. (1984). Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion


Positive/ Motivational Psychology

In particular: the Self Determination Theory (SDT) by Deci, Ryan et al. SDT is a theory of human motivation that concerns people’s innate psychological needs. It is concerned with the motivation behind choices that people. SDT focuses on the degree to which an individual’s behavior is self-motivated and self-determined.


In addition, The Octalysis Framework integrates insights from Flow Theory, by Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi. The flow state is an optimal state of intrinsic motivation, where the person is fully immersed in what he is doing. It is characterized by a feeling of great absorption, engagement, fulfillment, and skill—and during which temporal concerns (time, food, ego-self, etc.) are typically ignored.


Sample literature list:

Deci, E. L. (1971). Effects of externally mediated rewards on intrinsic motivation.

Deci, E. L. (1975). Intrinsic motivation.

Deci, E. L., & Ryan, R. M. (1985). Intrinsic motivation and self-determination in human behaviour

Csikszentmihalyi, Mihaly (1990). Flow : the psychology of optimal experience.


Other Sources

We have been influenced by many other sources as well, in particular from the realm of Game Design and UI/UX Interfacing. Jesse Schell’s A Book of Lenses in particular has been valuable. We consider these sources very valuable but since they are not scientific, we shall not detail them further at the moment.


If you want to know more about the proven science behind our work and the Octalysis Framework itself, or how we can help you create great engagement please contact Joris Beerda:




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