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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Gamification: not only icing on the cake…

Gamification: not only icing on the cake…

Why many gamification projects fail: Part 1

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

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

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


Gamification must be integrated into your product design


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


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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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


How to design a successful Gamification project?

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

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

Levelling up the industry

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

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


Contact one of our experts:

Gaute [at]

Ivan [at]

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How to Use Octalysis to Attract your Competitor’s Customers

How to Use Octalysis to Attract your Competitor’s Customers

Customers are willing to switch, but…

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

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

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

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

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

Why better is not enough

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

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

Researching your Competition with Octalysis and Applying Product Gamification

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

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

Using a Competitor’s Product

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

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

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

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

Ecosystem influence and convenience

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

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

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

Using the ecosystem to gain customers in Workplace Messaging

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

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

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

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

Entering a market

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

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

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

Alternatives to network effects: Not everyone is Amazon

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

Carving a place amongst the competition using product gamification

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

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

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


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Attention to Action: Crafting the Best Onboarding Sequence for Your Product

Attention to Action: Crafting the Best Onboarding Sequence for Your Product

Translating attention into action

Once you’ve gotten your customer’s attention (Discovery), you need to wow them with a powerful Onboarding sequence.

At The Octalysis Group, we see two types of companies. In the first category are companies that don’t understand how valuable their Onboarding could be. These companies don’t get the value of engaging user right from the early stages of their experience.

The other group of companies knows they lose users very early in the customer experience lifecycle. They correctly spend a lot of time, attention, and money to build what they believe is a great Onboarding experience. But what they are missing is effectiveness.

In both cases, a design styled to the varying needs and motivations of customers is the only way to carry them into the Scaffolding and Endgame phases of your product experience.

In this article, we’ll examine why different types of products require different styles of Onboarding. Defining and understanding these differences is one thing, and identifying what style you should use and implement another. Gamification and human-focused design will be our guide. Let’s dive in.

The appropriate sequence for your product

An email marketing software solution is different from a social media site is different from a charitable giving community is different from a telecoms provider. Users are simply expecting different things from these experiences. You probably know the foundations of what your users expect for your product. This foundation is important because once you know what the “rules” are, you can break them effectively and in your favor.

Quick wins and head starts in email automation software

When a CEO decides it is time to market a product to the public, email automation usually enters the conversation. While careful thought should be given to this frame of marketing, companies want and need a head start when so many other parts of their business take higher priority.

This is why email automation software like Mailchimp or AWeber provides email templates. Then, the user starts with a beautiful canvas to quickly create marketing content. This makes the user feel smart (Octalysis Core Drive 2: Development and Accomplishment) which is very important in the Onboarding of new users.

Drip and LeadPages do one better, offering ‘concierge’ services (with 24-hour turnarounds) on gorgeous and effective email campaigns.

Newsletter services like Revue or TinyLetter do similar. They also give users the choice to publish to various social media channels with one click.


Ownership on social media or mobile-only products

Most social media sites don’t use lengthy signup processes. Often, users are given the option to sign on with Facebook or Google or Twitter (even on competing platforms!). This gives the user speed and convenience. This is especially true if your product is built for mobile first–its painful to input too much text information on a smartphone.

Later, the Onboarding sequence can ask for information to fill out an avatar or profile creatively. LinkedIn does this effectively with its progress meter and comparisons to your colleagues and people ‘similar to you’ in your network.

Engaging with and building up an identity in an experience is an effective way to build feelings of ownership (Octalysis Core Drive 4) of your experience. The more more ownership I feel the harder it is for me to not return to your product.


Narrative to set long-term path or vision

In the case of charitable communities, a completely different message should be communicated during Onboarding. For example, the Head Start could appear in the application of a credit or matching bonus for the first donation or contribution. The Onboarding should ideally capitalize on (Core Drive 1: Epic Meaning and Calling) to remind users of the higher purpose that likely brought them to the product to begin with.

Creating long-lasting White Hat motivation upfront is crucial for charitable giving, even if they balance this with Octalysis Black Hat triggers later.

Solving common Onboarding challenges

Regardless of the type of product you have, you probably face one or more of these common problems. Let’s solve them.

Collecting basic user info

Collecting basic info can feel tedious to a user but is often crucial to the value your product will later provide during Scaffolding. How to solve this conundrum?

First, many sites use ‘sign-in with’ APIs for Facebook/Google/Twitter, allowing one-click signup.

If you must use a signup form, try making it more interesting and fun with interactive fill-ins or elements of ownership and creativity. Based on entries, your product could actively stack interactive fill-ins with various game elements:

  • elitism: making a person feel special about being part of a certain group
  • free lunch: reward before doing anything
  • boosters: an item that make something else more powerful or effective

LinkedIn goes a step further using co-creation and third person empathy: they activate your peers to get ‘recommendations’ and ‘featured skills and endorsements’.

Interaction with other users

For products where interaction is key to the experience, consider designing for watercoolers, conformity anchors, or evanescent opportunities (contact Joris Beerda if you would like to find out what these features are).

Slack’s #random channel defaults for all new users, immediately making new users to a team feel at home in a ‘watercooler’ and casual setting.

Conformity anchors (‘most people do this’) give users direction in the context of meaningful choices.

Evanescent opportunities (‘you can only attend this live webinar event during onboarding’) can help to increase activity during the crucial early sessions. Ditto on discounts in the first few days of a product enticing users to make a commitment to stick around long term (careful, this is Black Hat). But since you have your customers’ attention and have just given them value, it can work!

Tying a bow around Onboarding

Creating Onboarding experiences is necessary and tough.

Once you’ve built and tested your Onboarding, you can use Octalysis to brainstorm new game techniques for your specific problem areas. Adjusting designs based on user behavior is the next step. We have helped hundreds of companies with this.

If you want us to help you design better Onboarding, contact Joris Beerda:


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What if your Startup Fails to Get and Keep Customers?

What if your Startup Fails to Get and Keep Customers?

The pain of failing to get and keep customers

Can you stomach the failure of your startup failing to get customers?

Without happy early customers, you can’t possibly dream of achieving the growth metrics needed to attract investors.

That’s why customer onboarding is crucial to a startup’s success. And creating an awesome onboarding experience isn’t easy. In fact, it’s one of the most difficult things to do.

If you’re losing customers, you probably don’t have an expert understanding of customer psychology. With it, you can build customer loyalty.

With Octalysis Gamification, you can bring laser focus to your user Onboarding and decrease your chance of falling flat on your face.

Unless you keep customers…

It doesn’t matter how great your product is if you can’t successfully get people using it consistently.

Everything is against you. You’re facing large incumbents and cutthroat competitors.

Not only that, you’re facing inaction and a reluctance to change their ways in customers who you have to convince to switch from the incumbents or the competition. You’re facing status quo sloth. From the word Go, your product needs to seem significantly better than competitors to convince people to go through the friction and unfamiliarity of switching products and routines.

Ultimately, you’re battling for attention.

Building customer routines

Once you’ve captivated someone’s attention (through a promising and captivating Discovery process), you can start to plant a seed that will evolve your user experience into a user’s mental routines. People need to start imagining how your startup’s product or service will change their life in the future. Paint customers a pleasant picture of their future selves interacting and benefitting from your product, complete with a feeling of success or happiness and lots of social proof.

The nuts and bolts:

There is a lot to consider in your Onboarding.

Onboarding is in between your Discovery and Scaffolding phases (see the 4 phases of a user journey). Various player types will arrive to interact with your product and you should account for the major ones. The CEO visitor is different from the Innovation Intrapraneur, who is again different from the Operations Executive.

One overriding thing to consider for all your users in this initial phase of their journey with you:  make them feel really smart and accomplished (Core Drive 2: Development and Accomplishment). Overload them with confirmation design that they have made the right choice and give them plenty of win states.

A taste of development and accomplishment for a quick and easy action gives a motivational boost into the next Desired Action. As Onboarding continues, you can ratchet up the difficulty as your users become familiar, allowing them to “unlock” normal functionality that you saved in the earliest moments of Onboarding. If you keep users in Czickszentmihalyi’s flow state, with just enough difficulty to avoid boredom and just enough forward progress to provide a sense of accomplishment, you’re on the right track.

As you consider how to do this, there are many tools and game techniques at your disposal:

During onboarding,  highlight existing customers testimonials (“social proof“) or “pro tips” from happy veteran customers. Think of providing links to your community pages where users are showing off how they use your product (Core Drive 3: Empowerment of Creativity and Feedback). All of these will confirm to the user that they have made the right choice to visit your product. Many other people have done this too, so it must be good right?


Intentional Design

Once you have your Onboarding design done, you are ready to introduce users to their  Core Activity. This is where they come back again and again to interact with your product and do Desired Actions: liking, commenting, sharing, buying, commenting. Give them something to do on your pages, something they want to return to again and again. Careful use of motivational triggers, mechanics, or incentives/rewards will help you do this.

Then, you can use Octalysis to brainstorm new game techniques for your specific problem. Adjusting designs based on user behavior is the next step. We have helped hundreds of companies with this.

If you want us to help you design better Onboarding, contact Joris Beerda:

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Super Charge Your Product Offering with Behavioral Science

Super Charge Your Product Offering with Behavioral Science

How behavioral science can hone your offer

You run an e-commerce business or a multi-million dollar software-as-a-service company and the way people are buying your products is constantly changing.

You need to understand human behavior in the context of technology. With a working knowledge of your customers’ habits, you can design your offers accordingly.

While a single click completes the purchase, the buying decision is often drawn out. It requires many interactions. Actually building a relationship.

If you’re not fine tune your offer you are missing out on business and leads. Let’s see how behavioral science and Octalysis give us a mindset and tools to approach this problem.

Common problems with the offer from a Behavioral Science Perspective

Your customer goes on a journey. From the moment a potential customer reads your first blog post to the moment they click ‘buy’ should be a carefully thought out sequence of interactions taking into account the buyer’s motivations.

First, let’s look at some mistakes to avoid.

Fake Scarcity

In a world of more and more abundance, scarcity still matters. In the Octalysis framework, scarcity is extrinsic and Black Hat, which means it can drive short-term behavior.

But scarcity shouldn’t be faked. People are smart and can be offended by shows of scarcity when this scarcity is merely manufactured.

Consider using Core Drive 6: Scarcity & Impatience sparingly, especially in lengthy buying process where a relationship must be fostered first prior to making a sales pitch.

Sales funnels to match lead times

If you are selling a $2,000 or even a $10,000 product, you might not be able to sell it with one pitch.

Getting a decision maker’s attention is difficult, but once you’ve done that, you can proceed to develop a sequence of interactions that captures your intended buyer’s motivations. You can use a variety of external and internal motivators, triggers, and rewards, for example by making your target feel smart (Core Drive 2: Development & Accomplishment) or by helping them see how their competitors are already using it (Core Drive 5: Social Influence & Relatedness).

Conversion optimization is just a tool

Conversion optimization is much more than an A/B test. If applied rigorously only get you to local maximums if you started with the wrong premises.

People remember how you make them feel.

The same goes for product offers. How someone feels in the moments leading to a buying decision stem from reactions and emotions related to your selling funnel.

If you make your customers feel great, you have the opportunity to bring them to a customer Endgame where they will buy from you for years to come.

What we’ve learned applying Octalysis

Ultimately, these visceral reactions and emotions arise from motivations and interactions with your company and /or product, whether through a sales page, sales person, or chatbot. You have the power to influence these motivations appropriately.

You must start with asking the question, what is it we are actually offering? Often, what are you offering goes well beyond a simple product or service to an experience.

The next question is who are you offering this product to? The operations executive and the innovation entrepreneur and the CEO probably will all react differently to the content and style of your interactions.There are different Player Types on the other end of a purchasing decision. Build a plan to address each.

You should use a different mix of Core Drive design to reach each of them.

The buying action is just one part of the overall core activity loop of an experience a customer has with your company.

Masters of the shopping cart

Amazon is a master of getting items into a shopper’s cart and through the entire checkout process while also developing customers in Endgame consumers.

Boosters like the Wishlist or Recommended Items inch a buyer closer to the buying decision without burdening them with big decisions. The shopper can say “Yes” a few times before they say Yes to the final purchasing decision. “It’s on my wishlist, so it must be good.”

We know from Octalysis that this behavior is described by Core Drive 4: Ownership & Possession. Even though a virtual wishlist verges on the edge of imaginary (it is simply data on a server), people’s brains begin to associate ownership with the wishlist. Interestingly, there can grow a cognitive dissonance between the ownership on a wishlist and the lack of physical ownership, leading to a purchase decision.

This same connection is in part why brands are valuable. Understanding and being comfortable with a brand (a sense of ownership or allegiance to) allows the alignment later needed for purchase decisions. If I am aligned and in a relationship with a brand, I’m more likely to support it or buy from it, even if another brand (of which I’m not aware) offers a better product or service in the same industry or need).

Reducing friction and cart abandonment in the buying decision

At The Octalysis Group, our content marketing strategy is intended to assist the pre-sellers in gamification implementations to make the pitch internally to directors or presidents. That is why this article is being written.

In response to a request to implement or “look into” gamification, this article can be printed out and handed to a director or forwarded as is to a president.

How will you use behavior science to make changes to your offers?

Design better offer sequences

If you want us to help you design better offer sequences in your company as well, contact Joris Beerda:

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Octalysis Gamification to Better Equip Sales People

Octalysis Gamification to Better Equip Sales People

Sales gamification octalysis

Better equipping salespeople

Burnout and churn are common problems in fast-paced sales teams. Even among well-designed teams, productivity sustainability can be a pressing problem.

We know long term motivation suffers when there is an over-emphasis on Extrinsic Rewards coupled with Black Hat design. Sales jobs are often only about selling more and more, and competition with your peers. The lack of control on how to do the sales process through pre-made scripts and stringent KPI audits means that people do not feel empowered and leave. Many companies lose a lot of potentially good sales people and churn is close to 50% in many sales companies.

Extrinsic, Black Hat Design is not bad, but it has to be balanced with more White Hat motivational design into your sales teams set up.

Design for more balance in sales teams

Often sales design is all about showing how one person performs versus the rest of the team. The metrics used are all directly tied to more sales and in a short period (a day, week or month). Sub-optimal gamification solutions often just copy this structure and rely heavily on progress bars, leaderboards and intense competition. This is great to get people started in their sales process initially, but it doesn’t keep their engines running for long.

What is often missing is an emphasis on intrinsic design: being able to choose up to 3 paths to success that work and seeing your choices work in practice (Core Drive 3: Empowerment of Creativity and Feedback), being able to achieve your own goals with the help of others (Core Drive 5: Social Influence and Relatedness); or getting unexpected challenges and rewards (Core Drive 7: Unpredictability and Curiosity).


Don’t forget: extrinsic rewards and black hat can get people to pick up the phone to make calls. But it is the intrinsic design where all the fun is created. This is where people do the actions you want them to do voluntarily, even without getting paid for them. They have more fun and you as a sales manager have to pay and threaten them less to do the sales. It is a true win-win. If it is well designed!


Oh one more point, the sales grind can become quite disengaging when it does not seem to support any other goal than making more money and beating the competition. Adding a narrative that people can believe in (Core Drive 1: Epic Meaning and Calling) can add powerful longer term design angles to your overall sales team structure.


Scaling a sales organization

Creating one standout salesperson isn’t enough to ensure the sales team succeeds even in the short run, let alone the long term.

How your accounts work together, manage territories, and manage deal flow in a synergetic fashion matter too. Your Stars will need to interact with Proto-Stars, Novas, and Black Holes or your business cannot function. You’ll also need to carry employees through Discovery, Onboarding, Scaffolding, and Endgame phases.


In a next post we will reveal a case study on how we managed to design a great Gamified sales program that lead to triple digit engagement numbers, over time and for high and low flyers. We did it by exactly the right balance between white hat and black hat; extrinsic and intrinsic design.

How exactly? Find out next week!


The Octalysis Group has years of experience across hundreds of companies.

If you want us to create short- and long-term engagement in your company as well, contact Joris Beerda:

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Using Gamification to Build a Recurring Revenue Business

Using Gamification to Build a Recurring Revenue Business

Designing an Experience around the Decision to Buy

You have an amazing product. Congratulations. Now it’s time to sell it. Enter product gamification.

Since you know what you’re doing, you’ve managed to get people onto your site through SEO and other channels. These people are ready to buy.

But then…they don’t.

It’s the experience surrounding your product that counts, not just your product. One cannot go without the other. Sometimes the experience itself is even your product!
Octalysis designs user experiences that engage your potential buyers and makes the process of purchasing feel great and gets people coming back again for more. Because you have a good product, but more importantly because it ‘feels good’ to come back.

The core mechanic of your customer activity (which leads to loyalty)

You have a business, but you have a problem. Customers aren’t buying at the velocity or volume you hoped for. You haven’t engaged them in the buying process. You haven’t made it a no-brainer to click buy, to complete the cart and checkout.

Game designers consider and test the engagement question repetitively in the design process (even before a product or service goes to market).

Katie Salen and Eric Zimmerman describe the Core Mechanics of a game as

the essential moment-to-moment activity of players.

Consider the players in your game. The players are your customers. Do you know what their moment-to-moment activity looks and feels like in the nano-seconds before buying (or leaving your site)?

If you don’t, why don’t you start with what you concretely have? Use your data.

Finding the leaky pipe

Once you’ve identified the leak in your design, you can take the steps to pinpointing what the problem is from a motivational standpoint.

Maybe customers are on your site, but bounce after two seconds because they were promised something that isn’t apparent on your actual site.

Maybe customers are on your site, but not clicking buy.

Maybe customers are clicking buy, but leaving their carts unfinished.

Usually, the customer is dropping because something about the experience is missing or not resonating. Usually, the experience design is either too extrinsic, black hat or too intrinsic, white hat.

Is your experience too intrinsic or too extrinsic?

If it is too extrinsic, black hat (e.g. focused on rewards and creating urgency) you may have create a lot of push for people to want to get that discount you offer. But then buyer remorse can set in and they back off. Customers do not feel in control. When users do not feel in control, they will find a way to exit the experience.

What about the flip side? If your design is too white hat, intrinsic (e.g. focused on making people feel special and in control) they may not feel any urgency to buy. So they feel good about your product, but after a short while they will start to think about things they really should be doing rather than spending time on your site (like doing their taxes).

The moment-to-moment experience

Dissecting the minutiae of moment-to-moment experience is absolutely critical. When you press ‘Buy now’ on Amazon, you can bet there are 1,000 engineers on the other side of that click.

Why wouldn’t you spend as much effort and attention to ensure each decision your customers’ make is equally persuaded?

Choosing not to go to this level of detail is a losing proposition in a world which is increasingly pushing and pulling on nuances of human motivations is a decision to lose versus that competition.

The Octalysis Group often uses its Strategy Dashboard to investigate the Core Activity Loop. This usually illuminates the problem quite quickly. Identifying solutions is the next step.

There may be four or five steps you want to carry your potential customer through. Each of these decision points may involve multiple actions or reactions in the customer’s mind. Each of these actions or reactions can be tailored motivationally through Octalysis, and it is a mistake to brush these details aside.

Remember, most experiences that perform well seek a balance or harmony between the 8 Core Drives of Octalysis, between extrinsic and intrinsic and Black Hat and White Hat.

Doing the hard work, the risky work

While you make these observations about your customers’ behavior, your business will continue to struggle or flatline. You probably want to implement changes, but you might be fearful of making the problem worse. This is a risk.

At The Octalysis Group, we have experience in delicately diagnosing and recommending design changes to businesses that wish to maintain their business and look for ways to improve revenues.

To learn how we can assist your firm in creating long-term customer engagement and gain a stronger market position, get in touch with Joris Beerda right now.

Joris Beerda, Managing Director The Octalysis Group

Leading Octalysis Expert, International Keynote Speaker, Behavioral Scientist and Managing Director of The Octalysis Group.


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How to do gamification of Corporate Management Meetings

Visualize this: a client comes to you with the request to gamify an Annual Management Meeting of a large Chinese multinational.

The target group:

  • 13 older executives (55 – 65 years old)
  • IT exposure: minimal
  • Previous gamification exposure: nill
  • Opinion about games: for children and losers


Have we not heard over and over again that Gamification is not for older people and not for the board room? Can this even be done?

Oh yes it can! See below.


VINDA management meeting

Our client is Director of Marketing for Vinda Ltd. Vinda makes tissue paper on a big scale. You may know them from Tempo tissues, Libero diapers or Libresse hygienic pads. They are a big company, with a big history.


The Director attended a workshop with Yu-kai Chou and got excited about Octalysis. She really wanted to implement Octalysis in her company but needed help to make sure the top management also felt the same. So why not start with gamifiying the Annual Management Meeting (AMM) with our help?


AMMs (or AGMs) are normally not very exciting and are often used to tick off decisions that have already been taken in the run up to the meeting. Most attendants are mostly interested in getting the budget items approved for their own business channel. So Supply Chain will only pay attention during Supply Chain and Marketing only during Marketing agenda items. Often the meetings end up as boring affairs with little interaction or synergetic outcomes.

Was it possible to get people really interested in the AMM and get participants to share and become creative across business channels? That’s where The Octalysis Group came in.


The Set Up

Regular readers of this space know that an experience mostly consists of 4 phases: Discovery, Onboarding, Scaffolding and End Game. For short duration meetings like the AMM (which lasted 3 days), the End Game is less pronounced so we will focus more on the first 3 phases.

Because of the age and IT exposure of the target group, we decided to keep the IT components to a minimum. However, since all of them own a smartphone, we knew that an app would not by definition be a bridge too far.


Pulling the Executives in: Discovery

Annual meetings are often prepared well in advance. Participants know what is coming so there is little Curiosity push (Core Drive 7: Unpredictability and Curiosity) to take action. So this year we kept the meeting place and program completely secret.


Then suddenly participants were sent secret codes with which they could unlock the location and agenda. For this they needed to download and app (the experience vehicle) to fill the code in. So we used CD7 to empower a desired action: download and open the app.


After unlocking the app, the users got send messages by email that they were expected to leave questions/issues they wanted to have discussed. It was made clear that the Chairwoman of the company was already in the app and the she had already left some issues to be debated. This led to a big Fear Of Missing Out reaction (Core Drive 8: Loss and Avoidance), and all participants listed many ideas that they wanted to discuss. We used black hat design to motivate people to take action.


Onboarding: first little steps

We grouped the Vinda execs into groups with colleagues from various business channels. Their first assignment would be to cook dinner the night before the AMM in a cooking club. For many managers this was the first chance they had to actually cooperate with their colleagues. At this stage they were still new in the experience so the Social Interaction needs to be non-confrontational and light-hearted. Hence the cooking setting.


The next day the AMM was opened and the group objectives were laid out. We used a game mechanic called Message in a Bottle from the SelfDRVN app to facilitate the process. In the mechanic you see bottles floating in the sea and when you tap on one you can see the message inside and you can leave a vote.


The goal was for groups to try to post and reply to as many questions and ideas as they could. However, per group of 3 they only had 3 posts per session so they really had to discuss and strategize which topics to posts and which topics to answer.


Scaffolding: how did the executives level up?

The strategizing design was very motivational (Core Drive 3: Empowerment of Creativity and Feedback) and led to a lot of cross business unit communication about each others business  channels interests.


The posts submitted were all anonymous, and only the most upvoted ideas were published on a big board with the name of the submitter. This way we overcame the fear of people posting a ‘bad’ idea (we create anti Core Drive 8) while at the same time rewarding (in public) great ideas.


The group with the most ideas upvoted would level up fastest (there were 4 levels). At the end of the meeting groups got handed out an amount of darts depending on the level they achieved. For Level 4 you got 6, while for Level 1 you got only 1. The winner of the AMM is the group that scores the highest total score after throwing all their darts on a dart board.

In theory, even Level 2 could still win if they would throw very well. Deciding who could throw the darts in the group created even more social interaction, as did the dart throwing game itself.

The reward, finally was also designed to generate more Core Drive 5 (Social Influence and Relatedness) motivation. The winning group won a dinner night out to which they had to invite all AMM attendees. So the reward allowed the losers to share the win state of the winners. Only  the winners got Champagne though…


Our approach was designed to make sure that:

  • people stay focused till the end of the meeting
  • they communicate a lot more, across business channels
  • they start caring about each other’s issues
  • the AMM is seen as a fun moment during which new ideas and cooperation are born


The result: was our Octalysis design successful?

Well, let me not bore you with facts and figures (I can tell you the ROIs were high according to Vinda). Here is what the participants gave as feedback:


I have attended many MLT meetings over the past years and this is the best meeting I have ever attended

it was so engaging and memorable


it was very disruptive and it opened our minds

If you want us to create short- and long-term engagement in your company as well contact Joris Beerda:

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