Find out how Epic Meaning can super charge your employees

Find out how Epic Meaning can super charge your employees

Create a higher meaning for employees

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sacrifice augments Epic Meaning & Calling

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

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

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

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

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

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

Designs that ignore sacrifice are doomed to fail

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

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

But there is more to a great design than Epic Meaning

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

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

Octalysis is one way to get started.

Let  us audit your employee experience today.

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

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

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

AirBnB Killed the Hotel Star (Or did it?)

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

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

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

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

The Problem: More Guests?

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

Simple. By engaging them.

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

Let’s take a look at how we did it.

Product Gamification: How we did it

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

Attention through Product Gamification

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

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

See how product gamification can work for you.

Give us a shout.

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

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

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

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

Extrinsic rewards do not create long-term engagement

Extrinsic Rewards

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

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

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

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

The advantage of using Boosters to improve employee engagement

Employee Engagement

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

Here are some examples of using Boosters at work:

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

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

Why do Boosters drive long-term employee engagement?

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

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

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

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

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

Booster Example 1

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

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

Booster Example 2

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

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

Booster Example 3

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

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

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

So why did the attendance program fail?

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

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

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

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

Contact us for a free consultation.

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How Rebel Soldiers Created my Octalysis Journey

How Rebel Soldiers Created my Octalysis Journey

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

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

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

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

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


From rebels to non-lethal motivation

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

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

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


Feeling the Experience

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

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

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

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


Back to the real world

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

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

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

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


And what happened with the Tribal Rebel?

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

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

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


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How to Mimic Octalysis Engagement without Gamification

How to Mimic Octalysis Engagement without Gamification

Because Not Every Situation Requires Gamification

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

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

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

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

Build a Great Culture

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

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

What culture do you want?

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

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

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

Increase Transparency

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

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

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

Have Actionable Meetings

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


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

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

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

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

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

Allow Flexible Work

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


Never see your employees and have them surpass your expectations?

Obviously, the second.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Getting Started with Behavior Design (and Change Employee Outcomes)

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

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

To get started, email us:

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BitCoin: How to Make Cryptocurrency Engaging with Human-Focused Design

BitCoin: How to Make Cryptocurrency Engaging with Human-Focused Design

Bitcoin needs to be more human-focused

When fortunes are made and lost in new technology frontiers, someone will write a story about it. BitCoin has been in the news a lot, and probably will stay in the news for the foreseeable future.  This happened before with Web 1.0 and Web 2.0.
Obviously, anyone trading BitCoin, or Ethereum, or LiteCoin, is interested and engaged (probably daily) with news and actual transactions of the digital cryptocurrency. BitCoin creates a sense of missing out combined with incredible unpredictability.
We know from human-focused design that the human brain likes unpredictability and is very curious.  But how can BitCoin (or the blockchain technology at its core), be designed better so as to be truly engaging in the long term for humans?
After the speculative interest, the scarcity, the unpredictability, all fall away, will there still be a natural human way to engage with BitCoin? (Or whichever digital currency wins out and becomes mainstream?)
Let’s take a glance at why BitCoin is interesting, then examine how we might design it to be even more engaging for the long term.

BitCoin is scarce (scary), and unpredictable (and yet we love it!)

BitCoin seems to have it all from a behavioral science perspective.
But for the moment, BitCoin and other cryptos are all about what we in Octalysis Design call Left Brain / Black Hat. They incorporate intense fear of missing out with massive unpredictability.
BitCoin is built on new technology (blockchain) by an anonymous person. No one really knows who created it. Nice, we have an origin story of mysterious flavor–who doesn’t love that? If that doesn’t make you curious, nothing will. Oh, and to acquire it, teams of miners have networked hundreds of computers to ‘mine’ the scarce resource.
As an investment vehicle, BitCoin has hard-to-track unpredictability. It’s price moves faster than the winds in a storm at sea. People have made and lost incredible value trading, just like the age of exploration merchants sailing the trade winds to and from the spice islands.
BitCoin is in the news. So  you can’t not pay attention. And like an pop culture or tech phenomenon, people like to talk about it. Knowing just a few more soundbites than your peers gives you a leg up in cafe or bar-style conversations.  You might even impress someone in a negotiation setting.
There is a glimpse of epic meaning, too. We’ve already discussed the origin story. But consider the following: the concept of a non-fiat, or decentralized currency, brings to light good democratic feelings. Liberal humanism with the spice of democracy is one of the fastest growing belief systems in the current moment.
There are feel good stories to back up the safe-haven of crypto. For some people, in countries where fiat currencies have inflated out of proportions, BitCoin and other cryptos were literally a way for people to save the value of decades of work (which would have been washed away by their country’s fiat currency inflation). See most recently: Venezuela. People here were able to use cross-border money transfers driven by BitCoin.
This is all fine and good, but…

Why BitCoin is boring

BitCoin doesn’t do anything. It is simply another indicator of value in a world where more and more people don’t know what to do with their money. There are reasons to be bearish about BitCoin.
BitCoin isn’t really safer than your fiat currency, at least if you’re in most stable countries. If someone hacks your BitCoin wallet and sends all your BitCoin to someone else (the hacker, usually), you can’t get the BitCoin back, because all transactions are final. This fact stands in stark contrast to fiat currencies held or backed up by institutions like big banks or companies like PayPal, who monitor fraudulent activity and reimburse customers. Here we see loss and avoidance in clear display.
For traders and the average holder, BitCoin’s value fluctuates eclectically. Yes, no one can take it away from you if you are storing it in a crypto wallet or on your device (outside of the hacks previously mentioned), but its value is subject to much scrutiny amidst the hype.
As of late 2017, there’s not that much BitCoin will easily buy you in the consumer world. Outside the exchanges, BitCoin is not a common transactional payment at your local coffee shop or bakery. So the BitCoin you have just sits there and accrues or depreciates in value, depending on the tides of the market. Some people just don’t want one more thing to worry about.
For many, ideas of democracy and freedom fall flat.
BitCoin may not be the crypto that ends up being valuable. It might be another crypto which emerges later.

How to make BitCoin and crypto more interesting

Since BitCoin is primarily an investment vehicle (with unknown outcomes), why should the common man or woman want to invest time and energy to:
a) get Bitcoin or
b) do something with it once they have it?
There are many banking institutions, firms and technology companies working on making crypto part of their future services, or making crypto easier to attain. But they don’t have to be the only ones.
What anyone working on  BitCoin and crypto and blockchain needs to consider is this: How can BitCoin and crypto be turned into an experience for a person to enjoy for a long time?

Cement the value proposition, starting with epic meaning.

Most descriptions of the democratic nature of cryptocurrency (the non-reliance on corrupt governments or self-interested banks) are overblown, or at least omits one key detail: that BitCoin itself is not immune to corruption. Few people truly understand the intricacies of BitCoin and its underlying blockchain technology, and these people have the most interest in spreading the positive messages about democracy, decentralization, and freedom. Who doesn’t like freedom? Sometimes these stories sound too good to be true, which isn’t a good sign for the astute consumer. If these messages can be brought down to the practical level, where a common man or woman can see how this epic meaning affects his or her life today and next week, then crypto will get more attention from these commoners 🙂 (including me).
Examples like,  which reclaim value for content creators, publishers, and consumers, is an example of a blockchain application that is built on the epic meaning and calling of returning value to the people who created the value. These applications need to be inserted more vigorously into the conversation.

Use creativity to build applications, infrastructure, communities, and ecosystems.

There are many promises being made about what the blockchain can do for our future, but the only application of blockchain technology that matters today is cryptocurrency, which, as we’ve discussed above, boil down to a simple investment vehicle.
Once the other promised applications of blockchain technology are built, from an infrastructural and consumer standpoint, it will become more interesting for the regular person on the street. The point here is to create motivation through Core Drive 5: Social Influence & Relatedness.
Just one potential example that will require some design: When I can use blockchain technology to get credit for great undercover journalism in a war-torn country, maybe I could gain reputation among a cohort of international journalists. This is reputation a university will never grant me, but the blockchain could.

Take me on a Journey

The experience of BitCoin is not yet a journey many people want to take. Instead of thinking of the purchase as a function-focused transaction, the human element needs to be added.

Discovering Bitcoin, buying it, nurturing  it, making it grow, and using it for some meaningful activity will allow users of BitCoin to have a fully-realized motivation experience with the product.

We would love to see an app which turned your BitCoin purchases into an avatar or creature which needs to be taken on a multi-year journey. Visualizations have been shown to create intense attraction and engagement from Tomagotchi through to Farmville and Snapchat.

If this journey incorporates the evergreen Core Drive: Empowerment of Creativity & Feedback, so much the better. If every day I need to water my plants to make them grow, the more engaged I will be. This metaphor needs to be applied to the entire BitCoin and blockchain space.

Make cryptocurrency human-focused

Even if I invest time in getting crypto and putting it in a wallet (and learning how to manage this wallet and the various streams of news around Bitcoin), there is not much for me to do with it. By contrast, I can do much more with US dollars, or Pesos.
When BitCoin and blockchain technologies build for humans and human needs today, instead of in the future, they will broaden the usage rate of these somewhat difficult to understand and use technologies. When BitCoin and blockchain technologies are designed to create a user journey through the 4 phases of an experience, they will begin to prosper.
The Octalysis Group has a proven track record of analyzing new technology and business models to bring products to market for maximum impact and engagement levels from humans.
Give us a shout!
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Workplace Gamification Gives 3 Simple Steps to Retain Employees

Workplace Gamification Gives 3 Simple Steps to Retain Employees

A White Hat Twist on Workplace Gamification

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

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

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

So how can we keep them?

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

1. Develop their skills

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

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

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

2. Empower employees to create their own paths

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

First, their work lacks creativity.

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

Why not empower employees to create their own paths?

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

3. Let veteran employees teach the less experienced

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

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

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

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

Retain more employees with workplace gamification

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

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

A encouraging lifelong learning.

Contact Joris Beerda now:


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

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

Better Human-Focused Design Experiences in Self-Driving Cars

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

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

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

I want to feel great riding in one I own.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


I want to relax.

Some people see no issue with losing the steering wheel.

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

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

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

I want to work.

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

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

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

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

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

I want to explore.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Time, Attention, Engagement

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

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

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

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


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Using Waves of Emotion to Seal Future Desired Actions

Using Waves of Emotion to Seal Future Desired Actions

Send Waves of Emotional Reward

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

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

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

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


Status Waves

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

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

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

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

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

Access Waves

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

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

This access can take many forms.

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

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

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

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

Power Waves

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

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

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

Stuff Waves

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

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


At the Octalysis group


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

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

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


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The best way to really empower your employees

The best way to really empower your employees

How much control is too much?

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

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

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

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

Control and its impact on motivation

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

Control over one’s tasks and projects.

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

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

Control over HOW one performs her tasks and projects

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

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

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

Control over career progression

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

Control matters here, too.

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

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

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

The trick is to make promotions really engaging.

Often, promotions focus too heavily on Black Hat design.

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

Why not add some White Hat Design?

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

Control over measurement of development and accomplishment

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

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

A discussion of intrinsic and extrinsic motivation relating to control

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Why You Shouldn’t Fail Fast

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

The Octalysis way, the entire journey

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

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

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

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

“Our product is different.”

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

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

Analyzing human motivation, then designing for it.

Understanding the motivations of humans can be tricky.

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

The secret sauce.

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

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

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

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

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


Contact us right now.

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

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

5 ways to make employees happy

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

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

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

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

Intrinsic / Extrinsic

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

Extrinsic motivation exist when your employees are mainly motivated by:

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


Intrinsic motivation at the work floor exist when work:

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


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

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

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

White Hat / Black Hat

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

Too much Black Hat catches up to you.

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

Common examples of Black Hat motivation:

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

Meanwhile, White Hat motivation feels good.

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

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

On to the 5 ideas!!!

5. Merit-based compensation

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

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

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

If employee creates x value, then y compensation occurs.

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

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

This arrangement should allow a balance of:

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

4. Logical progression of compensation

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

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

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

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

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

  • potential
  • progression

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

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

This way, you create a balanced motivational arsenal.

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

3. New opportunities

Your company has many diverse problems to solve.

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

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

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

This way, the following Core Drives are invoked:

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

2. Team or Cross-Functional Projects

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

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

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

The Core Drives in play:

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

5. Team Retreats

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

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

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

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

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

Retreats, if communicated correctly, provide:

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

Balanced approach

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

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

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


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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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Never lose a customer again with Octalysis design

Never lose a customer again with Octalysis design

Oh no! I got bored. Immediately…

I just arrived on your website. I see a headline. It’s okay. I skim the marketing copy. It’s meh. There are a few buttons, but they do not look very appealing. Should I click on one of them?

Wow so many options! Now I feel stupid. What do I do now? Maybe this page link? Meh, not what I was looking for. A second later, I’m getting bored. I leave your website and may never return.

You made me feel dumb and you lost me. Because I wasn’t sure what to do. I lost confidence. I felt lost. And you lost too: a chance to convert me into a trial, then a lifelong customer. What a waste.

Never let people feel this way when they experience your product or service.

Designing a motivating experience that intrigues me, empowers me and makes me feel that being on your site makes sense. It is easy. I want more. Here is how we do it:

The time-lapse problem

Both on and offline, not knowing what to do next is uncomfortable. Humans are constantly in search of stimulation. Often, our eyes find something. We give it attention, and bam!, emotions, excitement, and curiosity arrive.

If I am using your website or app and for a moment I don’t know what to do, I might feel stupid (a particularly strong emotion) driven by the lack of Core Drive 2: Development & Accomplishment, and decide to quit. I will choose other apps which will make me feel smarter.

Free will, free won’t

We’ve noticed that users can feel dumb if they don’t know what to do next. Famed psychologist Libet developed the idea that while we can’t always choose what we give attention to, we can choose to quit.

This is called free won’t.

It feels good to have an idea and to take action on it. Taking no actions feels lame, boring, or unproductive.

Don’t let your users exercise their free won’t.

Seamless activity loops is what we drive toward in building a series of desired actions. If each micro-decision can provide a clear path to the next desired action, with rewards and incentives finely tuned, then the user will experience something akin to a flow experience.


Investigating your design

Until you investigate your experience design in detail, you may be wrongly attributing outcomes to any number of problems your cognitively biased mind provides, simply arising in thought.

One way to begin training yourself to see problems in your own designs is to notice when you quit other experiences.

When do you leave Facebook? When does Instagram get boring? When do you stop opening new tabs in your Chrome browser? When do you stop answering emails?

The Hitchhiker’s Guide to your own designs actually begins in the wild. Once you’ve acquired this training, you can return to your own designs. A few years down the line you may nail it…

But, there is a much easier and time effective way to come to the best design. A design that engages your users from the start to end. From when they first see your product advertised, through to the moment that they have become your brand ambassadors. It is called Octalysis.

At The Octalysis Group, we can guide you to craft that ideal design. Or even design the full experience for you. Benefit from decades of Gamification and Human Focused Design experience and never have your users leave you again.

Don’t miss out on the lifetime value of that customer before they have a chance to learn what value you can add to their life.

Contact us now.

Managing Director

The Octalysis Group


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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 Snapchat Employed Follower Scarcity to Make Users Feel Smart

How Snapchat Employed Follower Scarcity to Make Users Feel Smart

Plenty of Users, but None of them are Following Me

This was a common thought among early Snapchat users.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Snapchat’s Octalysis Graph

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

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

Scarcity of followers

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

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

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

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

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

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

Building Scarcity into Your Product

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

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

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

Contact Joris Beerda.

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How to Create and Strengthen Brand Loyalty through Octalysis

How to Create and Strengthen Brand Loyalty through Octalysis

Creating loyalty through marketing and customer relationships

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

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

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

Yu-kai shared with me that

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


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

The Core Drive Analysis


Creating loyalty

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

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

Maintaining loyalty (not losing loyalty)

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

Tactics to maintain loyalty:

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

Email outreach

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

Product quality

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

Customer support

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


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

Balancing rewards

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

Customer Tiers

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

Building better loyalty

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

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

Contact Joris Beerda to get started:


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Making Facebook Better with Octalysis Gamification

Making Facebook Better with Octalysis Gamification

Facebook versus Snapchat…Fight!

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

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

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

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

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

Facebook for Everything

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The business side is where Facebook gets really interesting.

So, what about Facebook for Business? Implementing Product Gamification

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

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

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

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

Facebook Video Advertising

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

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

Can Facebook Advertising be improved?

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


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

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

To Skip or Not to Skip?

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

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

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

What about Instagram?

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

Improving Products that Already Seem Great with Product Gamification

Like Facebook, your product may already be Great.

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

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

Contact Joris Beerda.


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