Using behavioural design to foster eco-responsible consumption habits

Using behavioural design to foster eco-responsible consumption habits


I recently flew to Berlin with my colleagues from the Octalysis Group to meet a client. One evening, while walking around the city, we decided to buy water bottles and discovered a national policy that sparked our interest.  At the cash register, the cashier told us there was a 30 cents tax applicable to each of our bottles, as they were made of plastic and carried the following logo.


We were quite surprised that this tax didn’t figure directly on the price tag, as learning about it only at the cash register seems deceiving for the customer. However, the cashier instantly reassured us that the tax was redeemable by simply dropping our empty bottles back in any shop. This is part of the Pfandsystem, a set of German laws to reduce waste and encourage recycling of plastic and glass bottles as well as aluminium cans. This is an interesting move from the government, triggering Octalysis Core Drive 8 Loss and Avoidance in a non-aggressive manner.


Other recycling systems

Before I explain it in greater detail, let me tell you about other anti-pollution policies I’ve seen:

  • Some policies are mainly based on Core Drive 1 Epic Meaning and Calling. Governments focus on raising awareness on the damage of plastic consumption on the environment and imploring people to save the environment by recycling or avoiding certain products. As emotional or persuading their messages can be, we know that Epic Meaning and Calling (a White Hat Core Drive) alone is nowhere near enough to change habits of consumption. Indeed, White Hat Core Drives make users feel good about themselves but create no urgency to act, mostly not when our (wasteful) consumption habits are so ingrained in our daily lives that we become “Status Quo sloths” (anti Core Drive 8 Loss and Avoidance): we will avoid any kind of effort to get out of our comfortable habits.


  • Other governments take a different approach through aggressive tax or restrictive policies, which tend to create negative backlash from the population as people feel deceived or abused by them. Only financial hurt is mostly not enough for people to drop their habits.


  • Finally, some countries like Thailand encourage people and companies to sell their recyclable bottles to recycling companies like Wongpanit, thus triggering Core Drive 4 Ownership and Possession (accumulating wealth) and Core Drive 2 Development and Accomplishment (instant gratification for accomplishing the desired action: recycling). However, these rewards are low, making their impact on consumers’ habits quite limited. Moreover, they only trigger extrinsic Core Drives, which mostly do not foster long-term habit changes. People will quickly expect higher rewards and, when these don’t come around, will go back to their old habits.


The German Way

So, what makes this German redeemable tax system so interesting? Well it combines the effects of traditional tax policies and reward policies, creating a balance between multiple Core Drives.

First of all, consumers are scared of wasting money if they don’t recycle their plastic bottles by bringing them back to a shop (Core Drive 8 Loss and Avoidance). However, the Pfandsystem is not as aggressive as traditional tax policies: consumers can keep on consuming products packaged in plastic bottles and will effectively suffer no extra costs if they just return the empty bottles. They are thus empowered and made responsible for the financial outcome of their consumption (Core Drive 4 Ownership and Possession) instead of simply being forced to suffer a tax.

Another interesting fact to note is that, because of the loss aversion principle (developed by Tversky and Kahneman), the monetary motivation is stronger when we risk losing money than when we could win money. According to that principle, the risk of wasting the 30 cents invested (for which I feel more ownership than for money that has never belonged to me) will create more motivation to recycle a bottle than the promise of a 30 cents reward. A smart move of this policy is that it takes advantage of both sides of this motivation: we fear losing our invested money (Core Drive 8 Loss and Avoidance) and feel rewarded by physically and instantly redeeming our money when depositing bottles in a store (Core Drive 2 Development and Accomplishment).

The final, and perhaps the most interesting, point to make about this policy is that it doesn’t rely only on Extrinsic Motivation, as opposed to most, but instead offers meaningful choices for people to make about their consumption (Core Drive 3 Empowerment of Creativity and Feedback):

  • They can choose to avoid buying goods packaged in plastic bottles to avoid the tax altogether,
  • They can buy plastic bottles but bring them back to the shop to redeem the tax and suffer no effective loss,
  • Or they can decide to pay the extra tax to maintain their comfortable consumption habits.


In order to create a more balanced experience and foster durable behavioural change within the population, this policy should include more Intrinsic Motivation. For example, every time somebody returns a bottle, they could stand a chance of winning the tax money that has not been redeemed by other customers (triggering Core Drive 7 Curiosity and Unpredictability). Another feature could be for shops to record the number of bottles brought back by each customer and display the “most eco-responsible” consumers, so they feel proud of being recognised as good citizens and are inspired to keep bringing their bottles back to their local shop (Core Drive 2 Development and Accomplishment, and Core Drive 5 Social Influence and Relatedness).


If you want to know more about the Octalysis Group and how we can help your organisation create engaging experiences that foster behavioural change, contact us at

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Discover the 5 secrets to Octalysis Gamification on a shoestring (part 1)

Discover the 5 secrets to Octalysis Gamification on a shoestring (part 1)

Many so-called Gamification experts try to make you believe that you can make an experience truly engaging by adding some game mechanics like Points, Badges, and Leaderboards

We know this is not the case. Many of those designs fail, giving the Gamification market a bad name. That is why the Octalysis slogan is “Going beyond Points, Badges and Leaderboards”

What if you have no money whatsoever to do real gamification the Octalysis way? What are your options if you can only implement a few game mechanics, are you doomed or is there any hope?


A new hope: Badges & Achievements

If you are into Gamification, you have probably heard about Points, Badges and Leaderboards. These are the most common feedback mechanics that we see implemented in a wide variety of experiences.

However, there is also a reason why the term “PBL’s Fallacy” exists. Many others so-called “Gamification experts” treat a product or service as a single experience and falsely expect to lead to engagement by only adding PBL’s.

There is a reason why our work in Octalysis is recognized worldwide as the best in Gamification: we go “Beyond points, badges, and leaderboards.”

Despite knowing that PBL’s are usually weak engagement methods, we believe that if you don’t have the resources to do more than that, you might as well do it the right way. That is the reason we came up with this first post: to teach you how to create meaningful achievements (badges) from scratch!

First step: Desired Actions

First of all, when we refer to “Badges” in the term “PBL’s,” we are making a direct connection to Achievements since the Badges are just a visual representation of a completed task that is supposed to make your users proud. You might also give trophies, medals, certificates, stamps, etc. and they will serve the same purpose.

Some of our clients have already made attempts to design a Badge system. However, in almost 100% of the cases, the Achievements are entirely soulless. The most recurrent issues are lack of difficulty and lack of complexity, so DON’T DO THAT.

To come up with Achievements that create real value for your users and ALSO for you, you will need to have a complete Strategy Dashboard.

Every successful Gamification activity needs to be based in this document.

The concepts required to come up with the Strategy Dashboard are available for FREE online. In essence, the strategy dashboard consists of 1. Business Metrics, 2. Player Types, 3. Desired Actions, 4. Feedback Mechanics, and 5. Rewards. For this first step, we only want to focus on the third part of it: Desired Actions.

Desired Actions are the third element to define in any Octalysis Gamification campaign.

Desired Actions are all the little steps in the user’s journey: go onto the website, fill out the form, register, come back every day, click on the ad, sign up for the newsletter, etc.

Whereas the Business Metrics are laid out in the order of importance, you want to lay out all the Desired Actions in chronological order based on the player’s journey.

Once you know what the Desired Actions are, you will need to list them like this:

Second Step: Types of Achievements (Core Drives)

One of the main attributes of an Achievement is its Type. The Type defines the very nature of the Achievement, its core motivation. Of course, when we talk about motivation, we are referring directly to the 8 Core Drives.

The second step consists in materializing the 8 Core Drives in the context of the experience.

“But HOW can I do that?!” you might wonder…Well, it is simpler than you think.

It depends on your particular product, service or experience. Sometimes CD1 is just helping others, contributing to a common (mostly non-profit) cause, choosing to buy a product over another (based on loyalty), etc.

CD2 could be achieving different milestones, reaching objectives, and overall tackling obstacles that are MEANINGFUL to the user. Remember that our brains have a natural desire to feel progress, to experience growth, and to see numbers go up.

CD3 gives you the chance to engage your users with White Hat, Intrinsic motivation. This Core Drive can be materialized by asking the users to perform any activities that involve creativity and/or strategy (often in games we see this as the “pacifist” type of Achievement).

CD4 is based on the principle that because you own something, you want to improve it, protect it, and get more of it. It can be reflected in the real world with things like accumulating currencies, acquiring collectibles that are part of the user’s collection set, or merely owning new things.

CD5 relates to almost any sort of social activities behind themes like mentorship, competition, envy, group quests, social treasures, and companionship. Interacting with other users is the primary way to recreate this Core Drive in real-world experiences.

CD6 can be evoked mostly by creating a sense of urgency like time frames to perform certain activities and even more important to get specific results. You can also think about creating a limited amount of Badges so only a few high-performing players will be able to get them (among other things that generate Scarcity & Impatience).

CD7 is the main force behind our infatuation with experiences that are uncertain and involve chance. This Core Drive is trickier to implement as a Type. We usually introduce a sense of unpredictability by merging the concept of the Achievement with a Sudden Reward (also known as “Easter egg”). At this point, the user doesn’t know the Achievement even exists, but he will get it after performing without previous knowledge) the Desired Action.

Hiding the Achievement’s requirements from the users will create a pleasant surprise when receiving the Badge (or any Achievement Symbol) and will also spread the sense of unpredictability among the community.

This method is even more useful for Achievements that could be easily “cheatable.”

CD8 motivates through the fear of losing something or having undesirable events transpire. Some ways of implementing CD8 as a Type is to ask for a reasonable amount of commitment like log-in streaks, or to prevent users from doing Undesired Actions.

Once you have the Core Drives concept clear, you can add new columns to your file.


You made it to the end of the first part. I just gave you the two first right tools to craft meaningful Achievements from scratch using the Octalysis framework.

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

First step: Desired Actions

We will now craft an Achievement, step-by-step.

Let us use Facebook as an example. One of Facebook’s main Desired Actions could be uploading content to their platform.

Now that we know the Desired Action let’s go ahead and type it down.


Second step: Types (Core Drives)

We just decided that the main Core Drive for this Achievement is CD2, as it empowers the user with a sense of development and accomplishment. The Type we chose to evoke this Core Drive is “High Quality”.



This looks a bit empty, doesn’t it? Well, to look at the whole thing you will have to wait a little bit for the second part to come out (it won’t take long!)

I’ll see you soon… 🙂

Use Octalysis To Create Memorable Experiences

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

We can help you design unforgettable experiences for your audience.

Contact or

More info at:

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eSports and Octalysis Gamification: a great match!

eSports and Octalysis Gamification: a great match!

eSports are a Big Item

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

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


Games but not sports?

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

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


Gamers don’t move!

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


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

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


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

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




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


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


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


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


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


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


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

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


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


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


Learning from successful games

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


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


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


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


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


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


Game on!

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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 us for a FREE consultation now



Violin and Sheet Music by Gavin Whitner

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Find out how Epic Meaning can super charge your employees

Find out how Epic Meaning can super charge your employees

Create a higher meaning for employees

When employees buy into higher meaning, they will work harder and be happier.

We’ve previously written about how to manage various employee types, and how to retain employees through workplace gamification.   We’ve even created successful employee motivation designs for existing companies.

But once you understand the Player Types in your organization, you still need to do something about it to get the most out of people, craft a winning culture, and get business results.

Many leaders understand that creating meaningful vision and mission gives employees added motivation. For some employees, it is the reason they join a company. Companies like Tesla, Google and Apple have proven this point beyond any doubt.

But having a great epic meaning or being a place where an  employee can find her calling is not enough. One crucial part of work is the sacrifice it takes to do it.

By understanding sacrifice, we can use it to make Core Drive 1: Epic Meaning & Calling even stronger.

Sacrifice augments Epic Meaning & Calling

From a behavioral economics standpoint, sacrifice simply stems from opportunity costs. When an employee is working for you, they aren’t working for someone else. She is doing the most important projects in her department in lieu of others. She is, by definition, not doing many things she could have done elsewhere.

As a leader, it is your role to help your employees understand these tradeoffs at the business level.

At the emotional level, Epic Meaning becomes strongest when the Anti Core Drive 8: Loss & Avoidance is not pulling one away from being motivated by Core Drive 1: Epic Meaning & Calling.

Every second, every minute, every day that an employee is wondering if this work is the right work for her to be doing is time taken away from your core objectives and business metrics.

Instead, the employee should understand that she is making sacrifices (not doing many things) and feel good about that decision. Then, the sacrifice becomes apiece with the calling of the work.

It is not just about compensating your staff with money and status. These are extrinsic rewards and will lead to short term motivation. Bring in Epic Meaning and Calling and you will be rewarded with people that have a long term goal, vision and passion.

Designs that ignore sacrifice are doomed to fail

As a leader, Head of HR, experience designer, or team manager, you absolutely  need to understand the sacrifices your team members are making. Don’t be tone deaf to their individual lives or needs.

If you don’t pay attention to employee signals about Core Drive 8: Loss & Avoidance, then the sacrifice an employee is making to work for your company may slowly deteriorate their other motivations. They could burn out, or change companies.

But there is more to a great design than Epic Meaning

Epic Meaning and Calling is only 1 of 8 motivational Core Drives in Octalysis. To best design long-lasting and engaging employee experiences, you need to understand and apply the extrinsic and intrinsic motivation at the right time. You need to know when to remind your employees about the sacrifices they are making. This trigger shows your empathy as a leader and reinforces their core activity loop of work within your company. It validates the employee and shows her you care.

Even better, you could use Octalysis to design an experience that carries employees  through Discovery, Onboarding, Scaffolding, and an Endgame (long-lasting, veteran employee) with your company.

Octalysis is one way to get started.

Let  us audit your employee experience today.

Email us: and tell him this article sent you to him.

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Did AirBnB Kill the Hotel Star? 712% ROI in Product Gamification

Did AirBnB Kill the Hotel Star? 712% ROI in Product Gamification

AirBnB Killed the Hotel Star (Or did it?)

You have heard the tune: “Video killed the radio star.”

For awhile, it seemed like AirBnB was digging graves for traditional hotel chains.

One hotel chain came to The Octalysis Group with this fear.

They had reason to be worried, but we at TOG knew that with a product gamification design backed by behavior science, we could help. And we did.

The Problem: More Guests?

Hotels need guests to stay in business and thrive. If guests are staying at AirBnB or other house-sharing services, then they aren’t staying at the hotel. How to recapture them?

Simple. By engaging them.

La Quinta wanted to increase conversion from interested guests to paying guests. La Quinta’s ROI: 712%.

Let’s take a look at how we did it.

Product Gamification: How we did it

At the beginning, Lucky Diem created a familiar slot machine design. Users see the Spin Button in the form of a Desert Oasis (a large Win-State action that visually attracts the user). Spinning gives the chance to win points and collectables.

Tokens are requires for play. Enter Scarcity (Core Drive 6: Scarcity & Impatience). A wheel of fortune style game can later generate additional tokens.

In addition, users can be surprised with Instant Grand Prizes on any spin.

Even though the Grand Prize is rare, the mere hope of attaining a large prize makes the experience enjoyable. “Maybe this time…” (Core Drive 7: Unpredictability & Curiosity).

All the while, the users general La Quinta points are adding up! Users feel a sense of accomplishment (Core Drive 2: Development & Accomplishment) and a prideful ownership (Core Drive 4: Ownership & Possession).

The small chance of winning the grand prize does not bother people much, as the mere hope of winning a large prize is enough to make an experience fun. In that sense, because the prize is so enticing, people are more motivated to continue playing, while being content that their general La Quinta points are accumulating (Core Drive 2: Development & Accomplishment as well as Core Drive 4: Ownership & Possession).


The power of product gamification allows companies to hone in on their most important business metrics. In this case, understanding behavior science and designing for humans achieved impressive results.

  • Viral Coefficient of 530%
  • 34% of the users returned every single day (DAU)
  • Users spent 3.75 minutes on average daily
  • 14% of the users ended up becoming paying customers
  • 712% sales lift against the control group

The results above came from deep work: months of scarcity design, large spreadsheets that understand the economy, the right interface and triggers at the right time, and so much more.

Octalysis design is all about using a clear understanding of the 8 Core Drives of motivation.

Attention through Product Gamification

The hotel chains that have survived the AirBnB boom paid attention to something really important. What’s the answer? Easy: customer engagement. But knowing the answer doesn’t allow you to design the best solution to get there.

We at The Octalysis Group have helped hundreds of companies consider how to improve their business metrics. One of our specialties is product gamification.

See how product gamification can work for you.

Give us a shout.

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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 to Mimic Octalysis Engagement without Gamification

How to Mimic Octalysis Engagement without Gamification

Because Not Every Situation Requires Gamification

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

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

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

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

Build a Great Culture

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

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

What culture do you want?

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

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

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

Increase Transparency

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

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

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

Have Actionable Meetings

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


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

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

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

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

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

Allow Flexible Work

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


Never see your employees and have them surpass your expectations?

Obviously, the second.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Getting Started with Behavior Design (and Change Employee Outcomes)

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

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

To get started, email us:

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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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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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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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Motivating your Employees is Easy with Octalysis

Motivating your Employees is Easy with Octalysis

How can your Company make your employees’ life truly meaningful. How can you get them to brag about your company outside of their work hours?

Wait just a minute, you don’t get it? You already make life great for them. They get a decent wage, pension plans, get days off, can collaborate on cool social platforms and your people get a lot of autonomy. Your company has nailed it. Right?

If this is how you’re thinking about workplace gamification and employee motivation design, you’re probably doing it wrong.

It is quite difficult to optimize employee motivation. (We’ve written about employee types over here–must read if you like astronomy). You know that you have to balance intrinsic and extrinsic motivators, while providing triggers for those motivators. A better manager will also account for the varying strengths in their team, and design for different player types. The work place design already incorporates recessive and dominant motivators personalized by the individual or employee.

But something is still missing. Your staff turnover is higher than you would like it to be. At work people are doing an okay job, but they are not LIVING the company. They are not embodying the spirit that you see it, the way you feel it.

Why is this happening?

Simple: you have not created an Epic work place yet where relevant Meaning is created. And if you do, people are not aware about it enough.


Making employees lives EPIC (through workplace gamification)

With more and more choice about where to work and what to work on, top employers must consider why a given employee would, given so many other great options, choose their company over a competitor’s.

The best answer will include but not be limited to making the employee feel like the work will add value to their lives.

  • Employees at SpaceX can easily say they are helping to build the first mission to Mars.
  • Employees of Habitat for Humanity are helping build sustainable housing for people in need.

Now tell me: how does your company energize people for their yearning to be part to something bigger than themselves?


Epic Meaning & Calling

At first glance, it seems a company needs a strong sense of what we refer to in the Octalysis Framework as Core Drive 1: Epic Meaning & Calling.

Epic Meaning and Calling is a White Hat Core Drive that sits on top of the Octalysis octagon. It is empowers us as we have an innate wish to be part of something bigger than ourselves. It addresses our need for purpose in life. Most importantly it is a long term motivator that can inspire people for decades, centuries even millennia (look at the enduring power of religion).


Your company’s purpose, often defined as your company’s mission, need not be as lofty as going to Mars or building homes for the needy the world over. But you probably need something.

So start thinking today about how you can create a meaningful company purpose. Is your enterprise liberalizing mobility for consumers (like Uber)? Is it giving meaning to people’s shopping choices? Are you serving humanity through recruitment?

Analyze what your company does. Frame it into something epic and, most importantly, communicate it and incorporate it in your work place design. Try it, it works!

A touch of creativity in workplace gamification

But, Epic Meaning & Calling isn’t enough. There are examples of employees getting burned out at companies like Space X despite Musk’s vision to go to Mars.

In the Octalysis Framework, the Core Drive which has the most enduring impact in any motivational system design is undoubtedly Core Drive 3: Empowerment of Creativity & Feedback. This is the motivation you feel when you have autonomous choices and the freedom to “do it your way”.

When coupled with Core Drive 1: Epic Meaning & Calling and Core Drive 2: Accomplishment & Development, you have rounded out the White Hat portion of the Octalysis octagon.

Base your workplace and workflow design around these core drives and you will  create long-lasting, happy employees, who truthfully speak well of the company even when they aren’t at work.

Course correcting

Now is the time to make your meaningful choice for your company. Will you start the process of turning your workplace culture around, or will you let it continue to drag and eventually die of neglect?

Talk to us now. We can help you make that epic shift in the work place.

Managing Director

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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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The Real Reason Pokemon Go is Failing

The Real Reason Pokemon Go is Failing

It was fun, but…

We previously wrote about what Pokemon Go did well, but why did the Pokemon Go hype not last? How did the game lose millions of players, seemingly overnight?

Only a few months ago Pokemon Go looked like a huge success: 750 million downloads; 1 billion dollar in revenues in 2016; 28 million daily active users in 2016 in the US alone. Nothing seemed to be able to bring the mighty Pokemon down.

Yet only a few months later, its grandeur has faded. Seemingly forever. Its active player base has evaporated. Globally, only 5 million people now play the game on a daily basis. And the number seems to be falling continuously.

What went wrong in a game that seemed to be such a huge success? Find out below how basic design flaws brought the Pokemon Go down.

404 error: no endgame

Pokemon Go was very successful in engaging a huge number of people through a mix of extrinsic design (XP, Collection Sets, Scarcity design and some unpredictability in finding new Pokemons). This help to get many people to jump on board.


However, for a successful end game to exist, the design needs to switch to intrinsic motivational design to create the needed unpredictable fun (Core Drive: 7 Curiosity and Unpredictability), autonomy (Core Drive 3: Empowerment of Creativity  and Feedback) and meaningful social interaction (Core Drive 5: Social Influence and Relatedness). Unfortunately Pokemon Go failed in this aspect almost completely.

Many players began scratching their heads after realizing they were constantly picking up similar pokemon time and again in their area (it is only so exciting to find the same Ratata or Pidgey or even, though I love them, the Magikarp). This predictability led to a decrease in Core Drive 7 Curiosity and Unpredictability. There was just less and less to wonder about and explore in Pokemon Go.

The Pokemon Gyms would have been a great place to create exciting social interaction between players through combat and collaboration. However, new players find the top 1% of players have already created “monopolies” in gyms. Essentially, these hard core monopolist gamers spent more time and effort, significantly so, to level their Pokemon, essentially preventing interaction from other players in this game element. This has created a scarcity overkill: it was just to hard for most players to do any meaning social game interactions. No Core Drive 5 either then…

Finally, the way combat is designed is pretty lame and lacks the ability to strategize (Core Drive 3: Empowerment of Creativity and Feedback). Most players are disappointed that combat doesn’t feel like the Pokemon games of their youths.

So what we are left with is mainly extrinsic design:

  • You keep adding Pokemons to your collection of Pokemons
  • You gather XP and level up
  • And high scarcity of available Pokemons cause you to grind (walk, travel) a lot to get more Pokemons.

The above is a fully extrinsic experience design: you mainly play the game because you expect a reward for your activities. Great for short term motivation, but…


Extrinsic ruins intrinsic motivation (in long-term)

Walking in nature is intrinsically interesting, but Pokemon Go is making players feel like this: “now I have to go for a walk just to collect Pokemon.” The extrinsic design bias in the game motivated us to start walking in our surroundings to add to our collection set. But after a while the extrinsic motivation has completely taken over our intrinsic desire to explore our surroundings. Now going out to hunt for Pokemon feels like a chore rather than a fun game. Motivation wanes.

Black Hat

Core Drives, 6, 7, and 8 represent the Black Hat parts of the Octalysis Octagon, and Pokemon Go veers too much toward these drives, and in particularCore Drive 6: Impatience & Scarcity. Here’s a few examples:

  • It is overly difficult to obtain certain Pokemons. The scarcity is just too high and when it is, your initial motivation turns to Core drive 8: Loss and Avoidance. You just give up.
  • Gyms are zones of high competition, the Black Hat expression of Core Drive 5: Social Influence & Relatedness. It is great for highly capable, competitive Alpha players, but for the majority of players it is not motivational. So a potential intrinsic design feature turned into a fully black hat experience (Core Drive 6: Impatience & Scarcity as well as Core Drive 8: Loss and Avoidance)

What does the CEO believe?

When asked, the CEO mentions the collaborative gym raids as the most important recent update.

If I had to single out one, I think it’s the [gyms and raids update] that we just put out. It really is the first new mechanic that gives people motivation to keep playing, to keep leveling up pokémon, to continue to get out and be active. The collection mechanic was something that was really the heart of the game, and it still is the heart of the game for new users, but this [improves] the game for players who have reached a certain level. I think that’s the single biggest change because of that challenge and opportunity of fun that it presents to more experienced players. And also, it’s designed to encourage cooperative play, which is core to our mission.


I understand the emphasis on cooperative play, which invokes social influence, but the change doesn’t address the lack of creativity in the game and tries to smuggle in some achievement and epic meaning (health), which are secondary motivators. It seems Niantic would do well to consider their flaws and omissions instead.

Okay, let’s fix this with common sense and Octalysis

If you’ve gone through the trouble of enabling a vast global location-based tech infrastructure, adding just a little game design on top is totally worth it and will improve your ROI. Here are some recommendations to improve the Endgame.

  • enable trading between players
  • varying types of pokemon found even if searching in same area
  • improving the collaborative raids
  • center on gyms for player interactions, and make the gyms customizable via location-type tags
  • create group or friend quests
  • provide a more items that influence collaboration between high and low level players (option, give lures additional strength when players of varying levels are present)
  • trading or crafting items from home
  • add load out slots for additional combat strategy (CD3)
  • add distance-based quests: a sequential quest starts after a given length of walking, but can then be played while stationary later

These are just to get you started thinking about simple design updates to improve Niantic’s business metric of more daily active users. This video from Extra Credits has even more.

Making a stronger endgame

You’ve got people using your app or website, but you can’t keep them engaged? We’ve helped hundreds of companies think through these Endgame scenarios.

Get in touch right now.

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Will AR/VR change your Motivational Design Strategy? Not yet.

Will AR/VR change your Motivational Design Strategy? Not yet.

Get inside Jeff Bezos’s Head

Imagine you are inside an Amazon strategy meeting. You listen to everything Jeff Bezos says, you hear everything he hears, and see everything he sees. You are sitting on the lap of the CEO of one of the fastest growing companies in the world. And you are there when they decide their next move! This would be a virtual reality experience potentially more valuable than a semester-long course on entrepreneurship at your local MBA program.

So far, this isn’t the kind of experience that augmented reality or virtual reality has given us.

Augmented reality and virtual reality have been pitched as the solution to many human problems. Pokemon Go got millions of unhealthy teenagers outside and exercising! Technology futurists consistently describe the utopias AR and VR might bring to humanity.

But until humans no longer think like humans do today, we still need to design for humans. Here’s why VR and AR won’t consume the world right away, and also why you can’t forget human-focused design if you are designing within AR and VR experiences. Even if the platforms we use change, if the experience is not designed with Octalysis it may still not be engaging.

Learning from a history of game design

In one important way, VR is suffering from the common pitfall many evolutions of gaming consoles suffered from: graphics before gameplay.

When developers and designers spent too much of their time maxing out the aesthetic capabilities of a new medium, they often forgot to make the games fun to play. Everyone can think of a list of their favorite games and notice that some of their favorite memories of gameplay had little to do with the quality of graphics. Tetris’s graphics aren’t great, but it is still a great puzzle game.

Understanding the basics of VR, AR, and MR

Virtual reality (VR), which can be referred to as immersive multimedia or computer-simulated reality, replicates an environment that simulates a physical presence in places in the real world or an imagined world, allowing the user to interact in that world. The keywords with VR are presence and immersion. And it is here where all those funny-looking glasses are relevant. They are called Head-Mounted Displays (HMD) and we have big players producing them.

360º videos are recordings of a real-world scene, where the view in every direction is recorded at the same time. During playback, the viewer has control of the viewing direction.

360° video is a version of VR created with only real-world content. There is a whole YouTube section dedicated to these kinds of videos. Keep in mind you should watch these videos with some device like Google Cardboard on (they can be considered a cheaper, and more limited, version of the more expensive HMDs). Most 360° videos currently play on Core Drive 7: Unpredictability & Curiosity.

Augmented reality (AR) is an overlay of content on the real world, but that content is not anchored to or part of it. The real-world content and the computer generated content are not able to respond to each other. The keyword with AR is utility. The perfect example here is the Google Glass, since it was created to enhance our real world experience (unfortunately, it was not a huge success).

Finally, we have Mixed Reality (MR) – sometimes referred as Hybrid Reality – as an overlay of synthetic content on the real world that is anchored to and interacts with the real world. The key characteristic of MR is that the synthetic content and the real-world content are able to react to each other in real time.

This is where the secretive startup Magic Leap enters. If you have never heard of them, maybe it is enough to say they are promising the greatest MR experience EVER or that they had a Series C round of investment of almost $800 million lead by Alibaba – without a single product in the market! But we are not here to talk about them. If you are interested in knowing more about them, we recommend this positive and this negative review about them to get started. If you are not that interested, just check out this cool whale they created:

We are still designing for humans

Pokemon Go had many game elements that were carefully designed but lacked an endgame that captured mass appeal (not enough Core Drive 3: Empowerment of Creativity & Feedback).

Experiences like Pokemon Go, which balance careful behavioral design with the state of the art aesthetic experience have better chances of adding value.

Daily, new media reports build hype around potential gamechangers, like VR games influencing medicine, Disney’s use of mixed reality for shared experiences, or Stanford’s fencing marketing campaign.

Notice how in each of these examples, the VR experience is being designed with the human in mind, from Epic Meaning & Calling in medicine, to Social Influence & Relatedness in the shared experience, to Unpredictability & Curiosity in the fencing example.

These examples are using motivational design within the context of the new medium. The experience itself is frame around a core activity loop that keeps the user in the experience through investment and reward cycles.

How will VR/AR impact motivational design?

As VR/AR progress along the Hype Cycle through technology trigger, peak of inflated expectations, through the trough of disillusionment, and into the slope of enlightenment and the plateau of productivity, you might ask the question: how will VR/AR impact motivational design?

On one hand, the answer is simple. Until humans no longer think like humans, these mediums won’t change the core behavior and motivations inherent in human brains. So, it will instead be a question of how motivational designers apply frameworks like Octalysis to these new mediums.

From this point of view, AR and VR will only become widespread if expert motivational designers are included in the teams working on these technologies.

Applying Octalysis to Your AR/VR Design

Motivational design cannot be integrated into your design after the fact. Motivational design needs to be at the core of your design process.

At The Octalysis Group, we take this element of design very seriously.

Are you creating an AR/VR project?

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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