Top 10 Secret Ingredients Of Successful Gamification (Part 1)

Top 10 Secret Ingredients Of Successful Gamification (Part 1)

Gamification has grown to be more than a buzzword and many companies attempt to use it to achieve competitive advantage and high ROIs. But many companies fail to implement gamification correctly and projects seem not to create the engagement levels that were expected.

Why is this? Why is it that Gamification is known to increase engagement but many companies struggle to get it right?  What can you do to ensure that your Gamification initiative will be successful?

To help you on your way, we have prepared a list of 10 Secret Ingredients for Successful Gamification. Based on many years of leading the Gamification space, we think that those ingredients will serve you well when developing your Gamification Project.

Here are the first 5 Secret Ingredients of Successful Gamification


Gamification, integrated into your product design

In my practice as Gamification consultant, I have seen many companies that think that Gamification can be added on top of an existing solution. Even worse, they design the core functionality first and then gamify it by adding points, levels, badges, leaderboards or other game mechanics. Unfortunately, this approach has proven to lead to failure so, please, avoid this mistake.

For your project to be successful, you must integrate Gamification into your product design from the start. Follow a design path that creates an engaging experience using the 8 Core Drives of human motivation throughout the 4 phases of the user experience. In one of my previous posts, I wrote that Gamification cannot be just the icing on the cake.

To be successful in getting a high and sustainable return on investment for your business goals, you must consider Gamification as an integral part of the cake, like sugar, flour, eggs and all the other ingredients that make that cake so yummy.


Well Defined and Prioritized Business Metrics

Business Metrics are the key goals, numbers or results that you want your business to improve on or achieve. Defining and prioritizing Business Metrics is an important step to ensure that you know what you are designing for. Does this sound like an easy task for you? Can you create a list of the most important Business Metrics for your business?

You will be surprised to learn that quite often our clients spend days or even weeks to define and agree on their list of Business Metrics. One of the reasons for this is because Business Metrics should always be prioritized starting from the top Business Metric, the number two Business Metric, and so on.

In Gamification, this prioritization is crucial for your motivation design because usually, you will be able to optimize only for one or two Business Metrics. For example, you should decide whether you want to increase new user signups; maximize weekly return rates; share coefficients and user churn. You will have to decide which one is more important for your business and create a design that is optimized based on your priorities.

Another very important aspect of the process of defining Business Metrics is that once defined and agreed on by the team you should not make changes to the list. If you change your Business Metrics in the middle of the project you will have to start from scratch which will be quite disturbing.


Well-defined target users

Always identify your target users before you start with your Gamification design. This will help you evaluate what are the Core Drives and the Anti-Core Drives that motivate them and design a system that addresses those Core Drives. Remember, your ultimate goal should always be to think about and consider people’s motivations and which of the 8 Core Drives motivate best your main user group. If you do your analysis well, you will then be able to implement game techniques that are successful in driving desired behavior.

Moreover, when you form your user groups, do it based on how they are differently motivated and not based on the fact that they, for example, look different. For example, if you discover that people are more motivated based on their cultural differences than based on their gender it will be better to divide them into users from North America and Europe rather than Males and Females.


Good long-term engagement design

When it comes to Gamification, one of the important aspects of the overall success of your project is whether it will be engaging for your audience in a long-term. Will your users keep coming back after a year or two or they will stop using with your solution in a few weeks or months?

Consider for example the cases of Pokémon Go and World of Warcraft. Within days after its launch, Pokémon Go became phenomenally popular and demonstrated a high potential for growth. I still remember seeing groups of people wandering like ghosts around the streets at night, looking at their phones and catching Pokemons. Unfortunately, a little more than a year after its astonishing success the daily active users of Pokémon Go dropped by five times, from 28.5 million to an about 5 million in the US.

On the other hand, millions of people continued to play World of Warcraft for more than a decade without a significant drop in users. I believe that the main reason for this difference can be found in the Endgame design of both games. You may ask, what can I do to create a good long-term engagement design? What are the ingredients of a good Endgame?

The main ingredients of a successful Endgame are the Right Brain Core Drives which make the experience intrinsically motivating through Empowerment of Creativity and Feedback (Core Drive 3), Social Influence and Relatedness (Core Drive 5), Unpredictability and Unpredictability and Curiosity (Core Drive 7).

Intrinsic motivation makes tasks more enjoying and fun to do and will make your users feel empowered and long-term happy in what they are doing. Some of the most successful game techniques that you can use in the Endgame include Unpredictable Rewards such as Easter Eggs, Mystery Boxes, or Social Treasures, Mentorship and Competitions between veteran players, or even ability to design own Boosters that could give users unique advantages over other players.

In fact, there is almost no limit to the number of game techniques that you could use to make the Endgame experience engaging. The only thing you have to do is include the Endgame design in your project.


Extrinsic Rewards

Management / Investors Support

Earlier in my professional career, I was working for one of the largest pharmaceutical companies in the world on a project that according to me was years ahead of its time in terms of scale, impact, and vision. If successful the project would have boosted company’s internal communication, knowledge sharing, personal growth and recognition for thousands of employees with the potential to bring a huge impact to the organization in the long run.

Unfortunately, the project failed and I believe that the main reason for this failure was that there was lack of support from top management.

If you work in an organization where the success of your project depends on the support from senior management, make sure that you create a well-defined strategy to keep all key stakeholders involved.

To be successful you will need to have a buy-in from all key people on the board or if you are a startup from all key investors. Here are a couple of things you could do:

  • When you pitch your idea use Core Drive 2, 7 techniques to make sure it is recognized as a pleasant novelty and as something unexpected, and out of the ordinary.
  • Make sure that the project will provide a benefit to the person you speak with and show this benefit to them using intriguing and well structured visual presentations.
  • Put your big idea into an easily understood context and don’t bombard people with too much information.
  • Identify and address any Anti-Core Drives that may trigger fear and may be considered threatening
  • Show them where they can provide assistance and how they are going to support you.
  • Give regular updates and sync with all main stakeholders


These were the first 5 Secret Ingredients of Successful Gamification. Needless to say, you will need the complete list of 10 to develop a successful Gamification Project. Updates are coming soon so stay tuned and continue to follow our blog.


Curious to find out how we can help to design a truly engaging experience for your organization? Want to know how we can help you design high ROI Gamification design?

Are you struggling to get your customers engaged so they buy your products again and again? How to keep your employees motivated and engaged in their work?

Don’t worry, we can help. The Octalysis Group has a long and proven track record of creating high ROI engagement designs.

Contact us for a free consultation.

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Sounds like Octalysis

Sounds like Octalysis

Does Octalysis really have a sound of its own?

Well, not really, since the 8 Core Drives cover a wide variety of fields by implementing different types of motivators and engagement tools in several application areas, therefore we could rather think of MANY sounds associated to Octalysis.

Our job is to create memorable experiences that people can relate to (which is also our passion!). By doing so we also create high value for our clients (ROI).


Our process covers the entirety of the players journey with a service, product or brand. That journey goes from Discovery to Endgame and is filled with emotions like surprise and delight (Core Drive 7: Unpredictability and Curiosity), fear (Core Drive 8: Loss and Avoidance), optimism and hope (Core Drive 1: Epic Meaning and Calling) and many more.

On the other hand, music is also known to appeal to those human emotions and to amplify/diminish them based on certain parameters.

This becomes evident when we watch a (good) movie that scares us or makes us feel excited to the point of dramatically increasing our heartbeats or making us cry.

That effect besides having a lot to do with outstanding performances of the actors/actresses involved in the scene and a very well crafted script, has also a lot to do with the music/sounds used for that scene.

If we didn’t convince you with the previous example, let us take a look at concerts, which is the purest form of expression coming out of music.

People in concerts demonstrate a wide variety of emotions, based on how passionate they are about the artists and also on the nature of the music itself.














To wrap this part up, let me say that we strongly think that both Octalysis and music are connected through emotions, music is one of the elements of what we call “Sensation”, just like vision, smell, touch etc.

We also call “Sensation” the Hidden Core Drive 9. We use the term “hidden” as it by itself it does not create motivation, but rather deepens it.


Exploring human emotions

There are several frameworks that explain human emotions. For this particular case we will briefly explain the one proposed by Robert Plutchik — Wheel of Emotions . Which by coincidence also has an octagon shape.

The wheel of emotions sets a base of 8 “core” emotions distributed in different “leafs”, every leaf has a varying intensity starting from mild, going into basic and finally landing on intense (serenity→joy →ecstasy).


The wheel has an octagon shape because every core emotion has an opposite one right across it.

You’ll see that the opposite of “joy” is “sadness”, the opposite of “fear” is “anger”, and so on…

The combination between core emotions (leafs) leads to more complex ones. “Dyads” are groups that classify those combinations.

Here you can see a table that classifies the different dyads according to their combined core emotions:

There’s no need to go much further to recognize the main functionality of this framework. It classifies emotions and tracks them into more basic ones.

We as Gamification and Octalysis experts know how to use the 8 different Core Drives to recreate these emotions. We do it in any online/offline experience and therefore we motivate and engage our players.

However, to combine the best of both worlds we also need to know how music works around human emotions.



Music parameters that influence human emotions

Previously we talked about certain music parameters that if met, could lead to amplify/diminish human emotions. Those parameters seem to be Timbre, Rhythm, Harmony, Melody (still in consideration) and Texture.


The timbre is what gives its “identity” to each instrument. That identity determines how we perceive its sound and how listening to it alters the emotions perceived on every note.

Studies have shown that some instruments tend to recreate more positive emotions.


“The emotions Happy, Joyful, Heroic, and Comic were strongly correlated with one another, and the violin, trumpet, and clarinet best evoked these emotions”.

However, negative emotions also have an association with other instruments because of their timbre:


“Sad and Depressed were also strongly correlated and were best evoked by the horn and flute”.


(Study: “The Correspondence of Music Emotion and Timbre in Sustained Musical Instrument Sounds”. By Bin Wu, Andrew Horner and Chung Lee).


Already intrigued? We have more posts coming with an in-depth guide on how to alter the intensity of your players’ emotions.


Use Octalysis To Create Memorable Experiences

The Octalysis Group loves helping companies think about how to better engage their employees. The people working for you matter and they will make your business thrive if you motivate them correctly.

we can help you design unforgettable experiences for your employees.

Contact or

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Easter Eggs Want to Be Found: Using Easter Eggs to Motivate Employees

Easter Eggs Want to Be Found: Using Easter Eggs to Motivate Employees

The Easter Egg I Never Found, But Could Have

When you think of Easter Eggs, you probably first think of colorful eggs hiding around the house or your backyard, carefully hidden by your parents.

Almost everybody who has looked for these hidden eggs, can still recall these experiences years, even decades, later. Easter Eggs create fun, creativity and friendly competition.

Many games incorporate Easter Egg techniques in their designs. Here is one:


Training Oneself to Look for Easter Eggs

The Witness is a game by Jonathan Blow which taught players how to be attentive of their surroundings.

The gameplay experience of The Witness worked so well that players started seeing patterns outside of the game.

This is an example of incredible habit formation. It’s an example of a game which succeeded in one fascinating way: how to form habits through Easter Eggs.

This is all well in good in a game, but how do we use Easter Eggs in serious business settings? And can it help Innovation? How can we make employees more engaged?


Letting Employees Plant the Seeds of Innovation

Some companies pay extravagant amounts of money for consulting on everything from strategy, process, to innovation.

But what if you could design into your culture a way to reward employees for insights into innovation?

What if innovation seeds could be planted?

Noticing and Building a Collaborative List of Problems (And Working Toward Solutions)

Employees notice problems in the business every day. But I bet many of your employees keep these problems to themselves.

Some employees aren’t assertive. Others are worried about speaking out. Some, when they do offer solutions, get discouraged when you don’t apply every single suggestion.

But what if employees were trained to look at problems as Easter Eggs? To look out for them with curiosity and pleasure? And to share them with the team and the leadership regularly? (Just like a child shows her mom and dad all the eggs she found!)

Before designing Easter Eggs, let’s review how we look at them from a gamification lens.

Sudden Rewards (Easter Eggs)

Octalysis has build up a large body of knowledge about rewards. With regards their context as well as the Core Drive motivation connected with it (The Six Contextual Types of Rewards in Gamification). Let’s look at some rewards that drive curiosity.

Sudden Rewards are rewards that are not advertised and that the user doesn’t expect to receive for taking a specific action. In other words, whereas Random Rewards are unexpected rewards based on a certain expected Trigger, Sudden Rewards are rewards based on unexpected Triggers.

Participants get the element of surprise and an emotionally positive boost. This unexpected reward can lead to repeated behavior in the seeking of the elusive and unexpected reward.

Two reasons why Sudden Rewards work:

  • They get great word-of-mouth because everybody loves to share something exciting that happened to them that day. They’ll tell their friends about what they got and their friends will want to participate in the hopes that they’ll get an Easter egg as well.
  • They cause speculation if done correctly, yes even obsessive behavior. If sudden rewards seem random, participants will wonder how they can replicate the experience for hack the system. They will start to develop theories about why they won, and other participants will be interested in testing these theories to either prove or disprove that the Easter Egg is real.

They can also lead to Core Drive 3: Empowerment of Creativity & Feedback when users try to test and replicate the experience but  in different ways.

Help Your Employees Find More Easter Eggs

The Octalysis Group loves helping companies think about how to better engage their employees. The people working for you matter and they will make your business thrive if you motivate them correctly.

Give us the chance to help design unforgettable experiences for your employees.




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Discover a secret Gamification trick to make your employees happy at work

Discover a secret Gamification trick to make your employees happy at work

Companies are putting a lot of effort to improve employee engagement and thus create a better working environment, reduce turnover and ultimately improve business outcomes. Nevertheless, according to recent Gallup research, only 15% of people are highly involved in and enthusiastic about their work, while a stunning 85% of employees worldwide are not engaged or are actively disengaged in their job. Worrisome for any business leader or HR manager for sure!

In The Octalysis Group, we see a huge potential for Human Resources Gamification to bring value and help companies gain a competitive edge. We have already shared some of the amazing results we achieved with our clients, including the sales team of a major FMCG distributor in Europe. Let me share some further tips on how can you create a better employee engagement program that drives long-term motivation. I will introduce you to the magical world of  Boosters

Extrinsic rewards do not create long-term engagement

Extrinsic Rewards

Employee engagement programs mostly offer extrinsic rewards to motivate employees. Think of pay raises, bonuses, benefits, promotions, coupons, free stuff and so on. Companies continue to use extrinsic motivators because they are easier to implement and because managers believe that people work mainly in their companies for money and status. Often, in the short term, extrinsic design can create some engagement for sure. In the long-term, however, extrinsic motivators do not bring good results. Even worse, over time, larger and larger rewards are needed to sustain the same level of motivation in people and if rewards are removed, the desired behavior is often extinguished, leading to employee disengagement and a decrease in morale. In addition, extrinsic design limits creativity, selflessness and cooperation, which are hallmarks of successful companies in the 21st Century.

An interesting example of how extrinsic rewards can decrease employees intrinsic motivation to perform a task, something known also as the Overjustification Effect, is the 9-month attendance award program implemented at an industrial laundry plant in the USA. The main goal of the program was to reduce employee absenteeism and tardiness and thus improve productivity.

During the program, employees with perfect attendance (no unexcused absences and no tardies) for the past month had the right to enter into a draw and win a $75 gift card. Quite unexpectedly for the management of the plant, at the end of the program, it was discovered that there was actually a 1.4% decrease in average employee daily productivity. The most productive and punctual workers suffered a total of 6-8% decrease in productivity, workers were 50 percent more likely to have an unplanned single absence and while employee punctuality improved during the first few months of the program, old patterns of tardiness started to emerge again in later months.

We will explore the reasons for this results at the end of this article (see if you can figure them out yourself) but as we can see, also, in this case, extrinsic rewards failed to deliver long-term results. Having said that, I certainly do not think that you never design for extrinsic motivation when designing your employee engagement program. What I want to point out is that if you hope to achieve long-term results, you want to gyrate towards more intrinsic motivation.

The advantage of using Boosters to improve employee engagement

Employee Engagement

Some of the most powerful game techniques to help create an intrinsically motivating employee engagement program are Boosters. Boosters are rewards, usually limited under certain conditions (time, quantity, etc.), that make your employees more efficient at their work and help them be better at what they do.

Here are some examples of using Boosters at work:

  • Giving a cab driver a brand new cool car or access to VIP clients for a limited time;
  • Hiring a famous guru to spend some time with an employee and serve as his or her mentor;
  • Giving scientists a limited access to a supercomputer that could help them solve problems much faster;
  • Supplying well-performing employees in a call center with a more technologically advanced headset that would help them serve clients much faster and in a more efficient and convenient way.

As you can see, the reward itself is not something people can just spend or take home and forget about in a couple of weeks. It is something that makes them better or helps them excel at work. Boosters empower people within your organizations with a new bonus or advantage that will increase their motivation towards doing their work better. Employees will be putting even more energy and effort to take as much advantage as possible from the situation and thus they will do their job better, faster and more efficiently. Moreover, as people usually have only a limited access to boosters, Core Drive 6: Scarcity & Impatience would motivate them, even more, to perform better (or do any other Desired Action) so that they could gain access to Boosters again and again.

Why do Boosters drive long-term employee engagement?

Let’s explore the reasons why successful Boosters engagement design has higher potential to drive motivation than programs based mainly on extrinsic rewards.

Boosters design is a game technique that sits under Core Drive 3: Empowerment of Creativity & Feedback in the top right corner of the Octalysis Framework. This means that Boosters are at the same time White Hat and Intrinsic in nature. White Hat motivation makes people feel powerful, fulfilled, satisfied and most importantly in control of their own actions. Intrinsic motivation makes the task more enjoying and fun to do. Embedding White Hat and Intrinsic motivation in your employee engagement program will make people feel empowered and long-term happy in what they are doing. This sounds like a jackpot, doesn’t it? Unfortunately, designing a successful Boosters Engagement Program is not an easy task and requires a thorough business analysis and knowledge of behavioral science.

How could the industrial laundry plant have used Boosters to reduce employee absenteeism and tardiness?

Before I give you a couple of examples of how Boosters could have looked like in the laundry plant, let’s explore some more information about the business processes in the company:

  • Cleaning services occur at five plants of approximately 35 workers, supervised by two managers who focus on worker efficiency and overall plant productivity.
  • Payments are the same across all plants. Workers receive a guaranteed base hourly rate and hourly wage bonuses based on daily efficiency scores above the expected performance score of 100.
  • Workers are cross-trained on many tasks but tend to specialize in a few, amongst which they alternate throughout each day.

Booster Example 1

Employees with perfect attendance and no absences for the past five working days can choose which tasks to do on day 6. Moreover, day 6 brings an additional 20 % bonus on efficiency scores above 100.

In this example, on day 6 people will feel empowered to choose the tasks which they are best at and like the most, while at the same time they will work harder to take as much advantage as possible from the efficiency score booster. Giving people an added choices to how to execute their work is Core Drive 3: Empowerment of Creativity and Feedback, responsible for long-term motivation.

Booster Example 2

Employees with perfect attendance for the past 2 weeks have the right to use the newest equipment for a week. Also, they have the right to ask for a “Job Swap”, and take the position of one of the plant managers for an hour.

In this case, the newest equipment will help employees achieve better results and be even more efficient. Moreover, the opportunity to swap jobs with one of their managers will not only help well-performing employees learn more about the job but also bring some fun to the day-to-day plant activities.

Booster Example 3

Workers in the plant with the lowest percentage of employee absenteeism and tardiness for the past month win a 5 % bonus on all efficiency scores above 100 for a period of one month.

This will bring a little competition between different plants potentially adding some Social Influence and Relatedness (Core Drive 5) which will make workers even more involved in following and striving to reduce absenteeism and tardiness rates. Just keep in mind that to be successful in embedding competition in your design you should make sure that it fits the profile of your staff as some people hate competition.

As you can see there are many and different ways in which you can use Booster to motivate desired behavior in your workforce. However, it’s important to note that you cannot just add some game mechanics to your experience and expect it to blossom and become engaging. To be successful in your design, you should embed Boosters throughout all four phases of the user’s journey – Discovery, Onboarding, Scaffolding, and Endgame.

So why did the attendance program fail?

Although the attendance reward program did not mean to do this, it created some very  unexpected outcomes in the industrial laundry plant:

  • The award demotivated the most productive and punctual workers because they believed it was unfair to recognize people for something like attendance while their hard work seems to be neglected.
  • Unplanned single absences increased because employees started “gaming” the program, by showing up on time only when they were eligible for the award and, in some cases, even calling in sick rather than reporting late to avoid disqualification.
  • Old patterns of tardiness started to emerge in the later months because in time, workers got used to the extrinsic monetary rewards and they started looking less and less appealing.

Had the company known about Octalysis secrets, they would have designed the program differently. Boosters would have been incorporated in the design for sure, as well as other Octalysis design gems.

Want to know how we can help you design high ROI employee design? Are you struggling to get your employees motivated and engaged in their work? Don’t worry, you are not alone. The Octalysis Group has a long track record of creating high ROI workplace engagement designs.

Contact us for a free consultation.

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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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Workplace Gamification Gives 3 Simple Steps to Retain Employees

Workplace Gamification Gives 3 Simple Steps to Retain Employees

A White Hat Twist on Workplace Gamification

Most companies don’t get how to retain their employees. They give them performers status. They give out paltry or nice bonuses. They create competition for limited promotions.

In short, most companies focus on extrinsic motivation, which is only one part of workplace gamification design.

Extrinsic motivation is short term motivation. Also, the rewards associated can easily be gotten elsewhere. Guess what? People leave.

So how can we keep them?

Companies need to shift their focus away from extrinsic motivation toward intrinsic motivation. Companies need to make employees feel intrinsically rewarded with a white hat twist.

1. Develop their skills

This sounds easy, but it’s not. Developing employee skill requires dedicated effort and design from managers or the head of HR. Put on your workplace gamification hat.

The key, really, is helping employees find their own ways to use the skills they already have and the skills they are learning. It’s not rocket science.

Google did this with its now famous 20% time, where Fridays were left open for employees to get creative on any project their heart desired. Gmail came out of 20% time. Heard of it? (I bet you use it every day.) What if your employees came up with something your company used every day just by giving them a little creative freedom?

2. Empower employees to create their own paths

Many of your employees are probably frustrated by a couple things:

First, their work lacks creativity.

Second, despite a desire to ‘move up’ in the organization to more influential and creative roles, there isn’t a clear path to do so.

Why not empower employees to create their own paths?

Maybe, there is a sweet spot where an employee can creatively help to solve a big problem for the company while also developing their skills. With the autonomy to tackle the problem head on, the employee might even show you she is capable of bigger roles in the near future.

3. Let veteran employees teach the less experienced

In Actionable Gamification, we learn how proper motivational design can bring new employees into a core activity loop during the Scaffolding phase which successfully develops them toward an Endgame with a company.

In Reinventing Organizations, Robert Laloux described the trend toward the empowerment of the individual, from centralized business structures to more decentralized ones. Simply by adjusting their internal workflow engines and productivity models, some companies are attracting top talent . The top talent often does best in decentralized structures because they are not constrained by outdated centralization or bureaucracy.

Veteran employees are key to your company’s success. They know how things go and they are loyal to the company.

You should design a culture that lets veterans teach less experienced people. Give them a chance to stand out for great work in front of their peers. Remember, their behaviors and routines matter more than their performance. So praise the behavior over the performance.

Retain more employees with workplace gamification

Every person has a personality. Learn your employees’ nuances. Some individuals want to stretch their creativity. Others want to maximize their task efficiency without a penalty for less hours worked. As an HR designer implementing gamification in your workplace, use a flexible motivational design approach. Accommodate and empower all employees (including the very best and very worst) and durable to sustain attacks from the black holes in your organization.

At the Octalysis Group, we help you balance your motivational design in a time in history when people are more important than ever. Don’t skimp on workplace gamification. Use scientifically backed behavior design instead.

A encouraging lifelong learning.

Contact Joris Beerda now:


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How to Make a Ride in a Self-Driving Car Truly Engaging

How to Make a Ride in a Self-Driving Car Truly Engaging

Better Human-Focused Design Experiences in Self-Driving Cars

Self-driving and autonomous cars are the future. Maybe you already took a ride in one today. How was it?  Did you feel it was made for you?

Did the car have human-focused design? Did it leave you feeling empowered? Or the opposite? If you don’t drive a car, is self-driving a car still engaging?

Let’s explore how we can design better self-driving cars, from the user or rider perspective.

I want to feel great riding in one I own.

Actually driving a car yourself feels much different from being in a self-driven car. You own the steering wheel, the driving experience. When you shift gears, the car feels a certain way. You have Ownership (Octalysis Gamification Framework Core Drive 4: Ownership & Possession). You also have choice on how to drive: aggressive, economical or efficient. You feel empowered by your driving style (Core Drive 3: empowerment of Creativity and Feedback).

When I take my self-driving car out for a spin, will it feel the same as when I take my Ferrari out for a Sunday drive? Will it be as ‘cool’ to drive by the cafe with the top down if I’m not even the one behind the wheel?

So how do we duplicate that feeling self-driving cars, particularly the ones we buy and own ourselves?

In the short-term, just as it is fashionable to own a Tesla, it will be fashionable and trendy to own a self-driving car. So bragging becomes a thing.

One simple way would be to create an interface which allows you to poke or say hi to nearby riders also in a self-driving car. This interface would combine elitism from Core Drive 1: Epic Meaning & Calling, with social elements of Core Drive 5: Social Influence & Relatedness.

This equation gets even more interesting once ‘everyone else’ also owns a self-driving car. What is still special about the new technology? And how can I set myself apart from the rest? More importantly, how can I feel special. The type of driver who enjoys driving needs to be designed for. Once everyone has a self-driving car, giving the owner a way to differentiate themselves creatively from others will also by key.

This is a question motivational designers will have to answer to woo potential customers. Answer this question expertly and you may be able to draw a huge crowd of potential buyers.


I want to relax.

Some people see no issue with losing the steering wheel.

What they are trading for when they buy a self-driving car is time. TIME is money, and they want more of it. More time to relax as they move from place to place. Maybe they’ll even put their feet up and play a video game with their friends, or plan an activity at their destination.

While they may not care what other people are doing in their self-driving cars, they do care about the creativity and autonomy they have in theirs. They want to be kept entertained. Could manufacturers and designers create surprises for this rider/owner type?

Going one step further, designers focusing on relaxation could instill a sense of progress as the car learns how to best keep you relaxed and entertained. The more you drive your car, the more your car will know what to offer you where. With current technology, this outcome might be achieved through applications of machine learning and deep learning.

I want to work.

Some people will use the extra time and attention (not driving) to complete their work on their commute. Then they can spend more attention on family when they get home.

A cohort of this group probably uses public transportation, anyway, and won’t need to be designed for in the same way.

How can in-car experiences adapt and change to make work easy, convenient, comfortable and fun?

Is it possible we will actually look forward to our morning commute to plan the workday or our evening commute to focus on the last activities and deals of the business day?

As goes for relaxation goes for productivity: if machine learning and deep learning can be incorporated to make productivity skyrocket, so much the better for this rider type.

I want to explore.

With your hands off the wheel and your eyes off the road,  you have much more time to look around at everything around you.

For some, self-driving cars will enable creativity and exploration. With appropriate interfaces and feedback, the rider will be able to influence the flavor of this creativity and exploration.

For example, videographers will be able to capture amazing footage for their films completely solo, just by renting a self-driving car.

People who want to visit new places can spend all their time looking out the window. In-car apps can provide details of landscape, scenery, and historic sites.

This user is really looking for a sense of connection with her environment. She wants to be surprised, delighted, and informed about her whereabouts in a way she hasn’t been ever before. Ideally, even an everyday commuter can learn about the city within which she works.

Oh, there will be music, food, and drinks, too.

Time, Attention, Engagement

Self-driving cars, if designed with these user motivations in mind, will thrive. If they are designed with our innate motivational drivers, from meaning to creativity to social influence to curiosity, they will be owned by every human before long.

People will get to put their time, attention, and engagement toward the activities they care about instead of being frustrated by road rage and traffic jams.

Now, how to create that engagement is our speciality. We have done it many times before and can do it for your company too.

To learn more about how to use the Octalysis framework or the Strategy Dashboard (backed by science in behavior design) to analyze experiences and design better ones, contact us now. We will help you discover how to make irresistible human-focused experiences.


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Using Waves of Emotion to Seal Future Desired Actions

Using Waves of Emotion to Seal Future Desired Actions

Send Waves of Emotional Reward

How are you ensuring your customers return to your product or service again and again?

The Scaffolding and Endgame phases are the phases where you ensure repeated satisfying experiences. Where you help your customers reach Win States again and again.

In Scaffolding and Endgame, you can send waves of emotion flowing over your customer. In Octalysis design, these waves are known as Feedback Mechanics (which can take the form of rewards), and they help bring the customer back or propel them forward to future Desired Actions.

Let’s first learn what kinds of waves you can send, and then how to implement these waves into your experience. For this we use Gabe Zicherman’s SAPS reward classification. SAPS is a reward classification that stands for Status, Access, Power, Stuff.


Status Waves

Consider the role of a customer service agent in a growing worldwide brand. This agent is among the top performers in her cohort, completing 99% of all requests faster than average with a near-perfect customer satisfaction rating. At the end of each day, she feels good about her accomplishment.

But how, as the employer, might you prevent this employee from burning out? (After all, you’ve had similar top performers burn out from too high a work rate.)

Consider using short term boosts in performance by giving  status waves, a boost to the decor, gear, equipment, or other physically or visually noticeable accoutrement in the office (that her peers will notice). So they only get this reward for a limited amount of time, so if the performance discontinues they will lose their perks.

Now, when this top performer is slowing down, losing her status to someone else will keep her motivated with this touch of Black Hat.

In this case, Core Drives 2, 4 and 5 work in tandem with Core Drive 8: Loss & Avoidance.

Access Waves

Access is another type of wave you can weave into your experience.

The same customer service agent, by meeting daily and weekly Key Performance Metrics, may get the Reward of additional access.

This access can take many forms.

For example, she may get access to beta features in the customer service software, or to an AI assistant in the company’s AI-powered software solution.

In this example, since the Access might actually lead to more efficiency for the agent, her peers may in turn be motivated to reach her level to attain the same Access.

Those peers would be motivated by Core Drive 5: Social Influence & Relatedness to attain the access reward (that is dangled via Core Drive 6: Impatience & Scarcity).

For the agent herself, Core Drive 2 and 4 work in tandem with Core Drive 8: Loss & Avoidance.

Power Waves

Power is another type of wave. As a reward type, it shouldn’t be overlooked.

To stay consistent, let’s think about the customer service agent. How could her manager create feedback mechanics involving Power?

Just one example: The Agent, upon reaching KPIs for daily, weekly, or monthly targets, could be granted enhanced power to weigh in on decision-making. This vote gives the agent more power than her peers. It also helps the company choose the right AI-power solution (especially in a world where AI-powered customer service solutions could change customer service and improve bottom-lines for businesses).

Stuff Waves

You could also reward your employees with stuff. A simple t-shirt can go along way toward creating long-term motivation in the Scaffolding and Endgame. In the case of a t-shirt, gift, or other small stuff reward, a Core Drive 7: Unpredictability & Curiosity mechanic called The Mystery Box could be used.

Imagine, the agent who performs best in a given week receives a random reward at the end of the week. Once achieved, this reward provides mid-week motivation for an employee performing at the top of her cohort. After all, she won’t know what the reward at the end of the week will be, and she sure won’t want to miss out!


At the Octalysis group


We help companies identify the effectiveness of their Feedback Mechanics. Are the feedback mechanics successfully driving additional and future Desired Actions as part of a Core Activity Loop?F

or companies advanced in design practice and implementation, this approach manifests as a positive ROI dive on the crucial moments of their already profitable product moments. It is all about understanding your user’s motivation and designing for the phases of that motivation.

Get started today. And let us show you how we use behavior science to create impressive emotional waves for your employees.


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The best way to really empower your employees

The best way to really empower your employees

How much control is too much?

Is your organization’s hierarchy and perspective on control decreasing or shutting down motivation for your employees?

As the Head of HR or in your role as a manager of people, understanding how to wield control is critical to employee motivation. You need to get your motivational design right to unlock productivity.

Throughout the 1900s and early 2000s, companies with centralized control and tiered decision-making ruled in a an efficiency first, machine-like approach to winning. This evolved into an outcome driven approach, where good outcomes were reinforced at the total level of the company, irrespective of their impact on employee motivation.

In the 2010s and beyond, there is a trend toward decentralization, the empowerment of teams, and the removal of strict managerial controls on processes and team workflow. Could decentralization be the missing piece of unlocking the motivations of your best (and worst) employees?

Control and its impact on motivation

There are several types of control in the workplace that relate to employee motivation.

Control over one’s tasks and projects.

This is the amount of autonomy an employee feels she has or actually has in the choosing and the method of completion of tasks and projects. Traditionally, roles were put in silos for the sake of efficiency, and employees didn’t have much choice over the tasks to me be completed. In these cases, giving autonomy to employees on how they accomplish the tasks can improve motivation.

When combined with Core Drive 1 and Core Drive 2, an employee can be quite independent and productive.

Control over HOW one performs her tasks and projects

As a leader, manager, or HR designer, if you have successfully gained buy-in from employees on the mission and/or vision of the team or company, then you can assign tasks by attaching the necessity of those tasks as part of accomplishing the mission and vision.

Then, you can give employees the freedom to explore the best ways to accomplish those tasks. In the Octalysis framework, this usually is done by giving employees a healthy does of Core Drive 3: Empowerment of Creativity & Feedback. Tactically, this can be achieved by offering meaningful choices or even a blank slate of freedom.

To increase the intrinsic motivation, you could build sharing systems where employees share the knowledge of new ways they’ve found to do great work. This would play on Core Drive 5: Social Influence & Relatedness.

Control over career progression

As a designer of HR systems, you have the difficult but exciting task of monitoring many levers of motivation. One of these levers is career progression.

Control matters here, too.

How open and transparent is your organization in monetary or status development? What about growth by learning?

Your organization might have strict guidelines on what constitutes upward movement at the individual level. Maybe an employee needs to hit all their Key Performance Indicators.

Maybe there are intangibles: They need to be likable; They need to make work fun for others.

The trick is to make promotions really engaging.

Often, promotions focus too heavily on Black Hat design.

  • Core Drive 6: Impatience & Scarcity: Hard to reach, but you want it
  • Core Drive 7: Unpredictability & Curiosity: Unclear who will get it
  • Core Drive 8: Loss & Avoidance: “If I do not get it I lose all the progress I did leading up to it, and my effort was all for nothing

Why not add some White Hat Design?

Promotions are not just a title. Promotions can be empowering. When I get promoted, I get boosters, access, power.

Control over measurement of development and accomplishment

What is your company measuring at the level of the employee? Effort, results, creativity, influence on the team?

In forward thinking organizations, HR designers and teams often incorporate their employees in a discussion of what the metrics should be for productivity. This use of Core Drive 5: Social Influence & Relatedness, draws on the positive-feeling of collaboration and the problem-solving nature of Core Drive 3: Empowerment of Creativity & Feedback.

A discussion of intrinsic and extrinsic motivation relating to control

The Octalysis Group has consulted with and analyzed the HR structures and motivational designs of hundreds of companies across the healthcare, energy, government, and ecommerce landscape.

We have analyzed models which have limited controls and organizations that exercise strong controls. And everything in between.

How you use control affects employee motivation and ultimately team productivity.

Let us help you take the first step in understanding where you are using control in your overall employee motivation design. From there, we will unlock actionable insights to use a  healthy balance of control and freedoms for good!

Let’s begin your analysis to remove control barriers and apply control where it will best impact your bottom line.

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Why Lean, Agile and Gamification Design Don’t Always Mix

Why Lean, Agile and Gamification Design Don’t Always Mix

Why You Shouldn’t Fail Fast

The dogma of scrum, lean, agile and failing fast to learn is flawed.

Designing a motivating experience isn’t always achieved through the strict application of agile. Small iterations sound nice in theory but they also can break up the experience power of designs.

What users want is a seamless experience that keeps them motivated throughout.


Why the Fail Fast Convention is Flawed (It Builds Frankensteins)

Do you really want your product managers to fail , and fail often, and fail fast?

Silicon Valley has spewed this rhetoric for a few years now. Sure, like any philosophy, it may have helped to create some giant successes. But when applied to Gamification design, it can be a recipe for wasted time, wasted effort, and wasted resources.

If you want to produce a truly engaging user journey in a gamified product, you need a cohesive design to create it. Agile is good at producing an arm, then a leg, then a head, then a body. You may achieve a working Frankenstein, but is that the experience you want for your user?

The Octalysis way, the entire journey

We aren’t saying we don’t believe in the power of iterations. Striving for constant improvement will help almost any design. We too are wary of building a tanker that can’t change course anymore.

But, as a baseline, we at least need an engaging activity loop to be present in all four phases of the experience.

We bring our design lens from the multifaceted Octalysis Gamification Framework to every one of our hundreds of business consultations and designs. Because our framework hones in on human ‘s deepest motivational needs, we are able to increase the success rate of product designs precisely because we can address user needs across the 4 phases of an experience (for several different player types at once!).

Even better, we can predict the success of our designs based on our application of the framework across hundreds of projects, across numerous industries.

“Our product is different.”

You may think you are building something new, something special. Something different. This may lead you to build fast, to favor iteration over planning. Why? If you are doing something new and different, why not take your time to design for the correct human motivations?

But even if your product is different, the human beings that are using your product are the same human beings that are using every other product on the planet.

Analyzing human motivation, then designing for it.

Understanding the motivations of humans can be tricky.

That’s why we build the Octalysis framework and tested it rigorously against many of the best products , from Facebook to Snapchat to Self-Driving Cars.

The secret sauce.

Most experiences are either too extrinsic or too intrinsic OR either too White hat or too Black hat (the user feels too much control or too little control).

These 4 areas represent quadrants of motivation that you definitely want to play with in your product design. This way, you will be harnessing motivation to generate desired actions, the beginning of a core activity loop.

Now, as you iterate, you’ll have a context within which to iterate. Your user journey can remain stable while you tweak the design to provide the right motivational nudges for the different types of users in your experience!

The result of patient design: people eventually start coming back for more and more.

Talk to us today and we’ll give you an audit of your entire user experience from the Octalysis design perspective.


Contact us right now.

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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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Your business priorities are wrong

Your business priorities are wrong

Your business priorities are wrong

When Zynga tried to maintain their #1 position in the mobile gaming world, they were only trying to improve Daily Active Users and Monetization.  All that mattered was near term results. All day every day. Zynga became very good at creating mechanics to lure and keep a user addicted in the short term. Signing people up fast and making getting them to pay was the name of the game. In Octalysis terms: they added more and more Black Hat techniques to their games every day.
Then Zynga found out that their dark ways came at the expense of a very high churn in the Scaffolding phase and huge player dropout before the Endgame.  Players were burning out and Zynga’s revenue stream dried up with it.
It turned out that Zynga had their priorities wrong and, hence, the design was off…
I’m sure you have heard of prioritizing. And we all have, right? But did you know that almost ALL our clients are finding out what their real priorities while they work with us? Some find that they have way too many priorities, but some find that they simply have the wrong business objectives all together!
What is it that we see and they don’t? Because we don’t just focus on a particular aspect of the user journey (like getting them to sign up). The Octalysis Group focuses on design that gets getting people to use your product for the long term, from the Discovery phase to the End game! If we do not know what key longer term success factors we design for, our end game is null and void.


Transactions versus Happy Sellers

When we were called in by eBay, we noticed several things.

eBay could have chosen to emphasize transactions (since they make fees per transaction), but instead–in the early days–they focused on better seller ratings.

If buyers and sellers had strong ratings, they could increase trust on their platform.

Trust led to more transactions.

Without trust, transactions would decrease.

Knowing trust was their key metric, eBay shifted its focus to designing an experience that encouraged buyers to leave seller reviews. Additionally, they encouraged sellers to provide amazing experiences for buyers, from appealingly designed product detail pages to shipping and delivery experiences.

Near-term and long-term health (and growth)

Are you venture-backed and seeking fast growth? Are you an incumbent business trying to hold on to marketshare against small competitors?

There are many places in between these two extremes, but identifying the most important metric for the near- and long-term health of your company or product line should be derived from your vision in the context of the marketplace and industry dynamic where you do business. A company looking for an exit will plan business activities differently from a company engineering themselves for longevity.

Once you identify your North Star, you will have the freedom to pursue varying strategies to achieve it.

Examples of Business Metrics

Here are several examples of business metrics:

Daily active users: If you are a growth startup featuring a mobile app, this metric tracks engagement on a daily basis. You will have to define what active means to you. Is 5 seconds active? 5 minutes? It turns out that defining this at a very granular level will force you to make important tradeoffs that will influence design decisions.

Recurring revenue: Monthly recurring revenue (MRR) is a standard way to measure subscription model businesses. If you are a high-investment driven business, then consistent cash coming into the bank account might be your highest priority metric. This metric also helps you to understand your business’s retention, and, when combined with churn rate as a secondary tier metric, helps you understand the ratio of customers acquired to customers retained.

Lifetime Value: The liftetime value of a customer, or LTV, is also a useful business metric. If you spend on advertising and understand your cost of acquiring a customer and also have a solid understanding of how long you can retain him, then the LTV becomes a great first priority metric.

The key thing to remember is that these business metrics will be achieve if your users perform the desired actions leading to the user win-states. These win-states correspond to your underlying business metrics.

What’s more, you will, through the exercise of properly reassessing or defining your business metrics, be forced to establish a priority of metrics, including those that on the surface seem contradictory. This is where the magic and creativity of design begins.

Which Core Drive is Driving Your Business Metrics?

Many companies (even ones that are in good financial positions) choose business metrics that can be forms of vanity metrics or the Points, Badges, and Leaderboards Fallacy.

Don’t fall into this trap.

Defining your business metrics and their priority is only the beginning. What comes next–the Strategy Dashboard–is critical to implementing behavioral design into your product or service or overall experience.

We have helped hundreds of companies improve their design process and paved a road to design implementations that grew their business.

Let us start helping you today.

Contact Joris Beerda:

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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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How Snapchat Employed Follower Scarcity to Make Users Feel Smart

How Snapchat Employed Follower Scarcity to Make Users Feel Smart

Plenty of Users, but None of them are Following Me

This was a common thought among early Snapchat users.

As a result, during Snapchat’s Scaffolding phase, users are made to work quite hard to gain followers. There is no search to add users. Early on, the only way to get more followers was through a username or phone number or Snapchat code. This is cunning Octalysis Core Drive 6: Scarcity and Impatience design

In Oren Klaff’s book Pitch Anything, Prizing is introduced and compared with three fundamental behaviors arising from our croc brains:

  1.      We chase that which moves away from us
  2.      We want what we cannot have
  3.      We only place value on things that are difficult to obtain

Snapchat’s decision to make users work hard for followers plays on the scarcity and impatience elements #2 and #3. What’s more, after they got those followers, those users experience Recruiter Burden (Core Drive 5: Social Influence & Relatedness) and feel the need to care please these followers.

Here is of course where unpredictability and curiosity come in, the bread and butter and X-factor of any successful content creator. But Core Drive 7: Unpredictability & Curiosity is not the focus of this article.

Before diving deeper into Core Drive 6: Scarcity & Impatience in the context of Snapchat, let’s examine Snapchat from a broader Octalysis lens.

Snapchat’s Octalysis Graph

As a whole, Snapchat benefits from a balance of both intrinsic and extrinsic as well as right brain and left brain Core Drives.

Although I created a complete Octalysis Graph (build your own at, let’s return to Scarcity.

Scarcity of followers

We’ve already discussed how hard it is to get followers on Snapchat. In the early days, people had to build followings through word of mouth. Users commonly shared their username on other platforms, and even used their Snapcode as their Facebook or YouTube profile picture.

The result? Snapchat gets more marketing and press and social proof. (Side note: Snapchat’s decision to make it hard to get followers was a BRILLIANT motivational design decision.)

Not only did they avoid having to build a functional search algorithm inside the app, they also kicked off the following Core Activity Loop:

  • User gets Snapchat and has none or very few followers, but wants more
  • They ask a few friends by sharing their username or cell phone number in a text message or word of mouth
  • If a content creator user 1) writes a blog post, 2) shares with their YouTube following, or 3) tweets about their new account
  • User gains a few new followers, feels smart (Core Drive 2: Development & Accomplishment), and repeats the Core Activity!

The genuine creativity and effort required to get followers means that users care about the users they bring to the platform and engage more heavily with them. (Compare this to your average Twitter followers, who you probably rarely interact with.)

The reward of genuine interaction and connection (especially considering the ephemeral image- and video-based medium) drove engagement between creators and fans. This Booster of Core Drive 5: Social Influence & Relatedness also contributed to additional Core Activity Loops for creators. People continued looking for ways to Hitchhike Snapchat exchanges or stories into their daily routines.

Building Scarcity into Your Product

Like Snapchat, your product may already have some Scarcity built in, but if it doesn’t, you are probably missing an opportunity.

But rather than testing your hypotheses without a properly defined strategy, you should base your design decisions on firm motivational design foundations. Use the power of a framework that works, on the human mind: Octalysis.

Need help with deciding on how to do this? Talk to us today, we are here to help you out.

Contact Joris Beerda.

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How to Create and Strengthen Brand Loyalty through Octalysis

How to Create and Strengthen Brand Loyalty through Octalysis

Creating loyalty through marketing and customer relationships

Just like someone can’t have more than about five really close friendships, it is hard to have extreme loyalty toward more than a few brands. But if your brand is one of those to a customer, the lifetime value of that customer is extraordinary.

But designing for loyalty is very difficult. How do you know where to start?

Loyalty combines many of the 8 Core Drives, but probably starts with Core Drive 1: Epic Meaning & Calling.

Yu-kai shared with me that

The best brand loyalty comes from good CD1 design. People believe in its mission, purpose, or narrative.


In this article, we’ll explore how to create and maintain loyalty using Octalysis gamification. First, let’s look at this from an Octalysis perspective.

The Core Drive Analysis


Creating loyalty

For potential customers and new customers, the best way to design for loyalty is through a strong Core Drive 1 message. Note: this message could be non-Core-Drive-1. For example, Nike’s slogan is “just do it”, which is a Core Drive 2: Development & Accomplishment style of message. But someone who believes in springing to action will identify with this message from a Core Drive 1 motivation.

When entering a marketplace where there are strong incumbents, a powerful message can pull loyal fans from other brands. Consider Under Armour ( It entered the sports realm with an underdog message pulling athletes to its brand who blossomed into big names (think Steph Curry, who just landed the biggest contract in NBA history). Social identity theory and shared values have a part to play here. Some consumers want to have shared values with the brand, while others will be loyal regardless of values. Segmenting your customer base allows you to tailor messages to each group. Shared values can be understood from Core Drive 1: Epic Meaning & Calling (a higher value) in combination with Core Drive 5: Social Influence & Relatedness (connection to the brand itself) and Core Drive 4: Ownership & Possession (feeling strongly about a value to the extent that it matters above other buying behaviors in a decision tree).

Maintaining loyalty (not losing loyalty)

Communication is crucial to maintaining loyalty once established. Unless someone is loyal for life, loyalty can wane, diminish, and disappear. Designing the 4 phases of an experience is really important to build the correct habits into your core experience. How you create loyalty during Discovery and Onboarding transitions to maintenance during Scaffolding and the Endgame.

Tactics to maintain loyalty:

This is where email outreach, product quality, customer support, and personalization enter the loyalty equation. Balancing rewards and ensuring customers are treated fairly (by using customer tiers based on engagement) are important. If you have a Standard, Premium, and Pro customer base, the perception of those must match the experience (and the price).

Email outreach

Interactions build and strengthen relationships. How often and with what offering or value are you doing so? Frequency matters, but only to a degree. What matters is the quality and emotional takeaway for the recipient. Relationships involve many of the Core Drives, but revolve around Core Drive 5: Social Influence & Relatedness.

Product quality

Does your product actually solve a problem and stand out? Most people will probably discover your product (Discovery Phase of the 4 Phases) through Core Drive 7: Unpredictability & Curiosity.

Customer support

Do customers leave support calls/chats with a smile on their face? Train your support staff to provide the ultimate in Core Drive 5: Social Influence & Relatedness and creative problem solving, Core Drive 3: Empowerment of Creativity & Feedback.


How are you going above and beyond to understand your user wants and needs? Whether you use a Customer Relationship Management (CRM) tool or a well-versed and caring support staff or a dedicated marketing team, giving users the personalization of Core Drive 4: Ownership & Possession will make them understand you get them and you have their needs foremost in mind.

Balancing rewards

In experiences where rewards are offered (or triggered) through an investment of time or effort by a user, ensuring that the reward feels right will create trust in the brand’s ability to deliver on the next user investment. Variable rewards can be useful here. A detailed look at your Strategy Dashboard is one place to start.

Customer Tiers

These are especially useful in subscription-based business models. These tiers not only inspire user action through Core Drive 2: Development & Accomplishment, but also serve as a light Core Drive 6: Scarcity & Impatience play as well.

Building better loyalty

At The Octalysis Group, we are regularly asked to built strong loyalty programs and we love the challenge of designing loyalty improvements into existing experiences.

Curious to know how we can help your organization create such long lasting engagement?

Contact Joris Beerda to get started:


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Making Facebook Better with Octalysis Gamification

Making Facebook Better with Octalysis Gamification

Facebook versus Snapchat…Fight!

Back in March, millennials were checking Snapchat before Facebook. From a product standpoint, Facebook had two primary options. Build features that were better than Snapchat’s, or clone their effective features. Which did they do?

Only a few short months later Facebook launched Stories in Instagram and reversed their negative trend versus their fierce competitor.

Facebook is actively innovating (and even copying other products), but they aren’t throwing features at customers without thought. Instead, they are using their data and analytics and observing the behavior of their customers on mobile, where the consumption of the internet is going.

But Facebook, as a marketplace for attention between consumers and businesses, also needs to innovate in its business products. To keep businesses’ attention on the Facebook Business platform (Facebook Workplace and Advertising) for the short- and long-term, Facebook is using the 8 Core Drives and a deep understanding of gamification and human-focused design to make decisions.

Facebook Workplace and Facebook video advertising are two areas Facebook seems likely to innovate continuously.

Facebook for Everything

Facebook Workplace and Facebook video advertising are two areas Facebook seems likely to innovate continuously.

Before analyzing the business side of Facebook, let’s look at the consumer side from an Octalysis Gamification Lens.

Facebook relies heavily on intrinsic motivational design, which is crucial for long-term engagement. If Facebook was a game, it would be considered a game with tremendous replay value. That’s the power of product gamification.

People (consumers) go to Facebook when they are bored, excited to share something, or want to know the news. Increasingly, people spend time in interest-related groups or watch live stream video or interact with team members.

Basically, people are going to Facebook for a lot of motivational reasons. However, it still stands strongest in Core Drive 5: Social Influence & Relatedness and Core Drive 7: Unpredictability & Curiosity. We can post whatever we want, in the way we see fit (Core Drive 3: Empowerment of Creativity & Feedback); for others to see and admire (CD5); and we are always wondering what is next on our home feed (CD7).

Facebook could use the following to resonate with consumers even more:

  • CD1: building in causes which I can contribute to (at the level of Wikipedia’s knowledge sharing…Facebook wants a more connected world, but that isn’t why most people use Facebook)
  • CD2: making me feel smart for engaging with my friends’ posts
  • CD6: limiting my engagement to a few likes or comments per day (and building a habit in the process)

But consumers are only one part of the Facebook’s marketplace for attention.

The business side is where Facebook gets really interesting.

So, what about Facebook for Business? Implementing Product Gamification

Facebook recently added Facebook Workplace, bringing its businesses a collaboration and productivity suite.

At a glance, features which improve collaboration between companies (Core Drive 5: Social Influence & Relatedness) are a really smart play:

Enabling communication like this will facilitate cross-promotion, collaboration, sponsorship, and other branding opportunities.

Imagine being able to search a library of businesses to find just the right business (with the appropriate audience) to co-advertise or cross-promote (Core Drive 5: Social Influence & Relatedness) and open creative discussions about how to best execute the vision (Core Drive 3: Empowerment of Creativity & Feedback).

Facebook Video Advertising

Facebook understands that attention is on the mobile phone and that short-form video is in direct competition with television advertising, but also its own medium in itself.

They are helping businesses understand that native mobile video is its own medium and creating an infrastructure to distribute this form of advertisement on their platform.

Can Facebook Advertising be improved?

I did some research to see if I could improve it. Of course, I’m doing this blind (without analytics), which the hundreds of engineers and analytics people at Facebook would have access to. I started by looking at comments from businesses on Facebook.


Expressing lack of transparency in ad products could be a problem, but as long as Facebook’s ROI for advertising is strong, advertisers probably won’t leave the platform in droves.

Facebook could probably provide additional FAQ-esque copy in their Facebook Advertising Onboarding (for new businesses trying Facebook Ads for the first time) to clear up any confusion and prevent businesses from “bouncing” to other ad platforms with their advertising budgets.

To Skip or Not to Skip?

This is a tradeoff between business and consumer experience. No Skip button means you must watch, a negative for the user.

Including a Skip button empowers user but decreases run-time and effectiveness of a Facebook ad, and in the end, diminishes the conversions for the business and the profit for Facebook.

Since consumers are on Facebook anyway and aren’t leaving, Facebook will probably cater toward the business side of its marketplace on the skip video debate. They already have an overload of consumer-only users in their marketplace.

What about Instagram?

Instagram is a huge piece of Facebook’s for-business play. Its visual and scrolling format is a remarkably powerful Core Drive 7: Unpredictability & Curiosity driver. Maybe we will cover this in a future post.

Improving Products that Already Seem Great with Product Gamification

Like Facebook, your product may already be Great.

But staying relevant in a fast-changing consumer and B2B environment means experiments and new features are required. But rather than experimenting blindly, your experiments need to be based on solid scientific foundations and behavioral design. Use the power of a framework that works, on the human mind: Octalysis.

Need help with deciding on how to do this? Talk to us today, we are here to help you out.

Contact Joris Beerda.


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Using Octalysis to Get Amazing Results from Distributed or Remote Teams

Using Octalysis to Get Amazing Results from Distributed or Remote Teams

“The key management skill for the 21st century.” – Stephan Kasriel

Motivating Distributed and Remote Teams with Workplace Gamification

Stephane Kasriel of Upwork believes that leading remote teams is the “key management skill for the 21st century.” Upwork’s Future Workforce study found that over 60% of U.S. companies have at least one team member working remotely at the department level.

Distributed or remote teams, like any teams, work best when a strong leader is at the helm, someone with vision, empathy, and execution.

But distributed or remote teams have the challenge of less face-to-face time and in-person interactions. Products like Slack’s #random channel try to mimic the watercooler effect (Core Drive 5: Social Influence & Relatedness), but they rarely can reproduce a powerful in-person brainstorm or problem-solving meeting.

This post describes a starting point for getting the most out of distributed teams with a gamification and human-focused design perspective on your design.

Doubling meetings to double productivity

Meetings are anathema to modern workplaces, but distributed teams need to meet to have face time, build rapport, and maintain relationships. Ultimately, a focus on results (Core Drive 2: Development & Accomplishment) will keep workers collectively progressing. This is where workplace gamification comes in.

A weekly standup to kickoff the week combined with a weekly retrospective meeting to wrap up the week might be all you need. Here’s a detailed example of this process using Trello, which may also work for your team. Remember, the methodology itself is less important than the trust and accountability and productivity you are engendering in the team. Depending on the complexity of your dev or design projects, you might need something even more sophisticated. Here’s Postmark’s take on defining the regularity and type of meetings.

In the case of the Monday standup meeting, the session helps generate ideas (Core Drive 3: Empowerment of Creativity & Feedback) and solidifies targets for the week (Core Drive 2: Development & Accomplishment) and ensures alignment on responsibility (Core Drive 4: Ownership & Possession). These meetings work best when collaboration is emphasized (Core Drive 5: Socia Influence & Relatedness).

The retrospective meeting layers a touch of black hat design to ensure goals are met weekly, while also giving leaders a chance to recognize wins on a regular basis.

If you’re an agile software development team, you might already have scrum kickoffs and weekly sprints, but be sure to add a touch of empathy into these meetings as well, giving the team a chance to share its human side. As a leader, these meetings are a place to live your team or company’s culture.

Communication in between meetings: interactions via apps

Problems and roadblocks arise in business. Ensuring smooth and effective communication in the inter-meeting intervals is crucial. In the presented model, the standup meeting creates the weekly vision (Core Drive 1: Epic Meaning & Calling) and execution goals should be established (Core Drive 2: Development & Accomplishment).

How much should you expect team members to be available online? With the culture you establish, it might be reasonable to ask certain team members to always be on, but you may decide this isn’t best for you, too. Some work requires sustained periods of deep work.

As the team leader, only you can establish expectations and overall culture for the team. How quickly should emails and Slack messages be responded to? What defines what problems are urgent or not? What autonomy does your team have to solve problems on their own? (This estimation requires self-awareness and empathy with the Player Types on your team. Knowing who are the Stars and who are the Black Holes is crucial.)

If your team already uses a platform like Basecamp or Trello for communication, all that need be adapted for is the style of communication that is lost when the team transitions from headquartered to distributed.

As the leader

You probably will want to ensure you are there for your team (you “work for them”) or create a culture where autonomy and independence is what drives creativity and productivity (Core Drive 3: Empowerment of Creativity & Feedback).

You need to communicate effectively and give constructive feedback. Here is a detailed example of how remote leaders can give feedback effectively so as to inspire their team members and actually improve the skill sets and collaboration of the team.

Pay attention to the phases of your journey


You don’t need to dictate a shift to a distributed model. Instead, incorporate your team so as to make the jump to hyperspace together. What concerns does your team have in moving to this model? If you are hiring a distributed team as a satellite outpost, what concerns do they have?

Be sure to hire the right people for distributed teams. People who are self-motivated, excellent communicators, and accountable doers work best. You want people on the team who are willing to speak up, solve problems quickly, and ask questions when something needs clarification.

Key questions:

What questions are you asking new hires? Do those questions help you find someone with traits applicable to distributed/remote work?


As the leader, set expectations for a transition to a remote operating model or build a smooth step-by-step so new employees feel smart (Core Drive 2: Development & Accomplishment) as they get started on the team.

Notice how your team is reacting to the new system. If other projects are in flight, monitor them closely.

Key questions:

Is the team communicating effectively? 

As the leader, am I responding to feedback about the system? 


By now you’ve gone through several core activity loops in your model, whether that be a few weeks of sprints or a complete phase of your project. This is the time to take feedback to better design your system, from process changes through to communication alignment.

Key questions:

Are we reaching our product milestones?

What financial results are we achieving? (Acquisition, Churn, Revenue)


The hope is to create a working environment where your distributed employees and team would not go back to an undistributed model if given the choice. You’ll know you’ve reached this stage through constant communication and feedback and by asking what could be made better.

Key questions:

What is the vision for my distributed team? How do I design for this outcome from the start?

Designing distributed or remote teams with Octalysis

Workplace gamification isn’t easy to do right. It requires a keen sense of behavior and motivational design. The success of your team will stem from your vision, execution, and empathy as a leader, but the 21st century will also be a world of teams connected by the internet. How you design your workflows and culture for this reality could be your competitive advantage (or disadvantage). You could even approach this from a Strategy Dashboard perspective.

At the Octalysis Group, we’ve helped 100s of companies use gamification and human-focused design to improve customer and employee engagement.

Contact Joris Beerda to get started:

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How eBay Changed Marketplaces with a DNA of Product Gamification

How eBay Changed Marketplaces with a DNA of Product Gamification

The Age of Motivation Marketplaces

Marketplaces have existed since people began exchanging food and tools at the dawn of the agricultural revolution. Since then, physical and financial and digital marketplaces have become so commonplace as to be taken entirely for granted.

Microeconomics (the study of individual actors within these marketplaces) evolved as an area of study centered around scarcity. You don’t need to understand everything about microeconomics to understand the relevant dynamics.

Rather, a baseline in Octalysis will provide you with a sound framework for understanding the pushes and pulls of motivation and entering the hearts and minds of buyers and sellers. But you have to explicitly design for that motivation to happen. As we know from Octalysis, if no 8 Core Drives design is present, no behavior happens.

What is actually happening when a buyer wants to buy? And how do sellers provide that? And why do people act in seemingly irrational or hypocritical ways? In this post we’ll first examine what is happening for buyers, then sellers, and then examine a few examples of digital marketplaces.


When a consumer demands something, her desired action is to seek to resolve that demand. Sometimes these pulls are extrinsic. She wants a new pair of shoes to better enjoy her walks in the park (Core Drive 2: Development and Accomplishment). Some are intrinsic. Her mother wants a top end caterer for her upcoming wedding, and she is trying to find the right match (Core Drive 5: Social Influence and Relatedness).

What’s changed in the age of motivational marketplaces

Because most products and services and experiences are packaged and served online, any company participating in an online marketplace must account for the suite of motivations affecting how people experience demand and their expectations about fulfillment. Millennials (and let’s face it, most people) expect instant gratification in achieving desired actions when in an online setting.


As a seller, knowing these differences–between extrinsic and intrinsic motivation–matter greatly. If someone wants a quick win (Core Drive 2: Development & Accomplishment), forcing them to wait to purchase could be a mistake.

On the other hand, if a buyer is long-term intrinsically motivated, a seller could draw out the buying cycle and create a loyal long-term customer. This requires knowing what user types you are dealing with and a careful balanced design of Black Hat and White Hat triggers and rewards aligned with those behaviors.

Attracting Buyers in the age of motivational marketplaces

Attracting buyers who are already in the marketplace is important for a seller’s long-term success. From eBay to Amazon’s marketplace, a seller doesn’t survive unless it attracts buyers.

Attracting buyers in competitive marketplaces requires a competition on price or an other kind of differentiation.

In a marketplace that is supply-heavy, winning on price is tricky, so many companies and brands have involved some level of brand differentiation and attention to detail in one other key area: customer service. If the experience of buying the product or service is enjoyable, the product need not be all that different from a competitor’s. If we make buyers feel accomplished and smart for making a difficult meaningful choice among thousands of products, we have already begun to create an activity loop that will return that customer again and again for those same rewards.

eBay’s DNA of product gamification changed how we buy and sell

In Yu-kai’s book, Actionable Gamification: Beyond Points, Badges, and Leaderboards, Yu-kai hints at why even the marketplace itself must differentiate from other marketplaces:

I did some research on eBay, and shortly after sold my two tickets through the platform (I hope the event organizer does not read my book).

That one transaction was surprisingly thrilling and fun for me. When I received my first bid from an anonymous stranger on the Internet, I almost jumped for joy (cultural joke: but I did not get stuck), and I became obsessively glued to the screen when another bidder joined in on the war.


Yu-kai’s very first experience of selling tickets on the platform gave him the following motivational pulls:

That’s very impressive for Yu-kai’s first experience as a seller, and was instrumental in Yu-kai spending hundreds of hours on eBay building up to be a power seller on the platform. There were other online marketplaces where Yu-kai could have bought and sold goods, but he chose eBay because eBay built gamification and human-focused design into its core DNA from the word Go.

Amazon enters the scene

Like Facebook’s slow erosion into MySpace’s social monopoly, Amazon entered via books and became the powerhouse in online marketplaces in the west, with Alibaba and Flipkart dominating the east.

Amazon created a marketplace that motivated both buyers and sellers.

Because Amazon wasn’t concerned with profits early on, features like Free Shipping were huge attention getters and attracted legions of customers. Amazon could then attract sellers by showcasing its impressive customer metrics. They quickly expanded into verticals beyond books and shoes.

Isn’t it just about incentives?

It may seem on the surface that all that is needed are the right incentives. eBay created an infrastructure which easily allowed buyers and sellers to transact and left great sellers to the top of the pile with an internal rating system. Amazon’s infrastructure was so good and so convenient that it saved people both time and money, and therefore was a no-brainer for both sides of the marketplace.

But creating a marketplace is not just about creating the right incentives. It is about honing in on the desired actions of every actor in the marketplace and ensuring the appropriate meaningful choices are triggered at the right moments to inspire action from those actors. The design of these motivational marketplaces, if done really well, will even account for our hypocrite brain. Product gamification really can produce loyalty.

The Octalysis Group has helped 100s of companies think carefully about how to craft their incentives and core activity loops, each of which is participating in the global marketplace in one way or another. Some are startups seeking to attract waves of new customers. Others are established incumbent conglomerates or government actors. We have truly enjoyed helping these entities think about how human-focused design and gamification might influence their approach and help them win in their ecosystem.

Are you ready to level up your marketplace position?

Contact Joris Beerda:


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Gamification: not only icing on the cake…

Gamification: not only icing on the cake…

Why many gamification projects fail: Part 1

Gamification; Human-focused design, behavioural science, motivation, OctalyisGamification has grown to be more than a buzzword. We see many examples of Gamification being used in banking, education, retail, healthcare, entertainment, media and more. According to Credence Research, the Global Gamification Market will grow at a compound annual growth rate of 23.4 percent from 2016 until 2023. Another research by Research and Markets shows that the Global Education Gamification market is expected to grow at a compound annual growth rate of 66.22 percent till 2020.

Clearly, the benefits of Gamification have now been recognised as a way to achieve competitive advantage and high ROI. That said, Gartner’s predicted that more than 80 % of Gamification projects would fail. Why such a harsh prediction? What do you need to know for your project to succeed? What are the most common errors in the industry?

In a series of posts, The Octalysis Group will address common misconceptions, misunderstandings and mistakes that occur during the design and implementation of gamification. Our goal is to address these issues. Why? Because we believe that gamification is not only business but also a cause. A cause to change the world for the better. The better we design, the more positive change we can bring to the world.


Gamification must be integrated into your product design


  • “So when does the Gamification come in?”
  • “After that, we will start with the Gamification”


We hear these types of statements all the time, coming not only from clients but also from industry experts, but this approach misses a crucial point. In The Octalysis Group, we know that Gamification is not just adding points, badges, leaderboards or other game mechanics. Designing engaging experiences has more to do with behavioural science and motivation, than just adding these add-on mechanics. It’s like building a game first, and only after starting to think about how to make that game fun!

Behavioural design and motivation are built into successful games the same way it should be in Gamification projects. Ideally, we build for long or even ever-lasting engagement.

Think about a game like chess. Its history can be traced back more than 1500 years, and there are still no signs that the game is getting boring or out-of-date any time soon. In fact, chess doesn’t need patches and updates, new bricks or badges for people to come back to play it. The game is designed to bring endless opportunities and possibilities to construct and test strategies within the game itself; it becomes unnecessary to add more features.

A truly engaging experience has motivation incorporated in its DNA, and that’s where great Gamification must start too. Engagement and motivation start by designing for human motivation throughout the experience and in all phases. Nearly all movies have movie elements in them (actors, sound, visual effects), but those elements alone do not guarantee the director a seat at the Oscars…


Why plug and play solutions often fail to increase long-term engagement

On the market today there are many ready-to-go Gamification solutions that boast of being able to achieve high ROIs in engagement, motivation, loyalty and so on. Unfortunately, the real return is mostly not that impressive, especially in the medium to long term.They may have incorporated a whole host of funky looking game mechanics, but they will not lead to much traction with your target users.

Why? The main reason is that ready-to-go solutions are designed and implemented without considering the specifics of your business and your target audience in full (What are your users motivated by? What’s the motivation for doing these actions already? What are the motivations not to do them?). They do not adequately address specific business metrics (your key goals and the desired actions you want the user to take) and do not take into full consideration power and motivational push of each feature.

In the end, ready-to-go solutions can help increase short term engagement. But due to their lack of customizability, they often become too general to increase long-term engagement.

Gamification, human-focused design, motivation, Octalysis, engagement

The game of chess has truly mastered human engagement and does not need regular patches, updates or new bricks to stay engaging.


How to design a successful Gamification project?

Successful Gamification should start from scratch with defining the business metrics first (the results you want to improve). This should be followed by a thorough analysis of the users you want to engage. If you do this correctly you are on the right path to set up the Strategy Dashboard.

  1. Define what actions do users need to take for your business metrics to improve. No step is too trivial; think about all the actions that require motivation from the user. Examples are entering a web page, creating an account, finding a product, and finally buying a product.
  2. Try to optimise the experience by grouping those actions the 4 different phases of the player journey (discovery, onboarding, scaffolding and endgame). Remember that the first time you open a Macbook you feel different from when you’ve had it for 2 years.
  3. Then think how those different player types will be motivated at all stages of your user experience and only after that start creating your visual and functional designs.

Levelling up the industry

So, great Gamification cannot be just added as a layer to an existing solution. It must be designed by following a meticulously laid out design path. It needs to address human core drive motivation, throughout all the 4 phases of the user experience and for your main user. Only in this way will you be successful in getting really high and sustainable return on investment for your business goals. Your employees will be engaged and your customers will be coming back again and again. For what product or service you bring but, even more so, to re-live the experience around your offering.

Curious to find out how we can help to design a truly engaging experience for your organisation?


Contact one of our experts:

Gaute [at]

Ivan [at]

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How to Use Octalysis to Attract your Competitor’s Customers

How to Use Octalysis to Attract your Competitor’s Customers

Customers are willing to switch, but…

That’s okay, I already have an app for that. 

Often, it’s not easy to get someone to use your product even if it offers them considerable advantages over your competitors. Why? Because they are already using your competitor’s product or service.

Understanding of your competitors gives many advantages, but this one is the most important: ensuring you don’t lack the fundamental features expected by your customers.

Of course, your customers care about benefits more than features, but some fundamental features are too ingrained in users’ minds to ignore. An email service without an inbox is possible to build, but it would be a tough sell even if you convinced a user to leave their current provider.

If you don’t understand what’s out there, you could by accident build a clone or launch a product that is behind others in your space. Don’t build with a blindfold. Instead, use product gamification to make better decisions.

Why better is not enough

Status quo sloth, triggered by Octalysis’s Core Drive 8: Loss and Avoidance, prevents us from leaving situations and experiences and products we are comfortable with. If something is already routine for us, it requires considerable mental effort to change.

Knowing your competitors will allow you to align certain features with customer expectations, or at a minimum understand how you will have to navigate these “conversations” in your customers’ minds.

Researching your Competition with Octalysis and Applying Product Gamification

When we help companies with our product gamification and design expertise, we often bring with us an understanding of the marketplace standards and an analysis of our new client’s competitors. At The Octalysis Group, we have methods like the Octalysis Strategy Dashboard to assist breaking down an experience or product into its fundamental core activity loops.

If you can use behavioral science and product gamification to do what your competition is doing much better than your competition, you stand a chance to convert customers to your product or service.

Using a Competitor’s Product

Understand what your competition is doing is much different than understanding how they are doing it.

Many hotels now have reward and loyalty apps, but simply adding a rewards app into your service experience won’t pull customers away from other hotels.

Within the rewards experience, we created a carefully-designed rewards app for La Quinta Hotels which gave them a 712% ROI versus the control group.

We did this by carefully analyzing other rewards apps and THEN creating an in-game economy that increased usage and conversion rates through an application of the 8 Core Drives.

Ecosystem influence and convenience

Many are familiar with Amazon’s or Apple’s or Google’s exhaustive ecosystems and their network effects. Amazon’s product offering grows more robust by the day. Using Gmail/Chrome gains you refined experiences. Apple products sync across devices and services like iTunes.

As you research your competition, it is important to understand how your product will fit into their daily routines. Is your product part of an accomplishment routine (Core Drive 2: Development & Accomplishment), or a creativity routine (Core Drive 3: Empowerment of Creativity & Feedback)?

Non-intuitive brands like Nike play with this too when they introduced their fitness products: loyal Nike brand followers used their products instead of Fitbit’s offerings because Nike’s products worked with their Nike running shoes and gear. Fitbit might have been able to combat this if they’d designed their offering differently, or perhaps even partnering with leading brands in the early days.

Using the ecosystem to gain customers in Workplace Messaging

Consider the competition for the workplace messaging space. Let’s hone in on Slack and its new competitors, Microsoft Teams and Facebook’s Workplace.

Interestingly, Microsoft’s product looks very similar to Slack’s. Why? Fundamentally, it wants to make it easier for people to switch by removing Anti Core Drive 8: Loss & Avoidance. Not only does it sync with OneDrive and other Microsoft products and services. It looks and feels just like Slack, so you’ll have no worries and a better experience. This is a great example of thinking through their intended player types and building their product to account for those expected player type behaviors.

Meanwhile, Facebook’s Workplace will make sense to many businesses who already have a Facebook page and presence. Instead of logging into a new experience on Slack, they can direct their teams and customers to their messaging solutions right there in Facebook.

From Slack’s perspective, they might do well to change the frame. Reacting to the big boys is tough though. If they keep their brand sense and elevate loyal companies and users (elitism) they could retain their footing. By paying attention to product gamification and available techniques, they can up the ante.

Entering a market

Companies hoping to enter new markets should absolutely account for the context of competitors.

Almost any product by definition enters an existing market (there are very few untapped markets…and there is a good reason to enter existing markets, the primary reason being there are customers there already). Here is where product gamification expertise comes in handy.

Consider Amazon’s latest market entrance: music. With Amazon Music Unlimited, they offer pretty much the same thing as Apple or Spotify but tout that a customer will save $40 over Apple or Spotify annually. Because the product is the same, they can directly appeal Core Drive 4: Ownership & Possession and compete on price. Since most music apps and services all provide a similar experience (it is about the collection of and listening to music), this appeal can work.

Alternatives to network effects: Not everyone is Amazon

Apple spent on Brand to make us “think different”, while UnderArmor showed how a small brand could elevate itself to compete with the big boys like Nike through creative emotional appeals to the underdog mentality. When someone wears Under Armor, they are part of a group (Core Drive 5: Social Influence & Relatedness) that represents the Davids in the David and Goliath story. Steph Curry is a perfect fit for their brand, squaring off against the the Goliath of Lebron James.

Carving a place amongst the competition using product gamification

Between direct and indirect competitors and alternative solutions for a given customer need, it is extremely difficult to create a niche or maintain a power position as an incumbent. However, with carefully designed product gamification and design, it is possible and often necessary to borrow and steal customers from your competitors. They are doing it to you, too.

At The Octalysis Group, we have helped hundreds of companies design motivationally charged products and services to continually wow their customers. It requires patience and craftsmanship, but it works. Here are just a few case studies.

If you want us to help you design products and features to out-compete your competition, contact Joris Beerda:


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