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.

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?

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

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. Use the power of a framework that works, on the human mind: Octalysis.

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

Contact Joris Beerda.


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Using Octalysis to Get Amazing Results from Distributed or Remote Teams

Using Octalysis to Get Amazing Results from Distributed or Remote Teams

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

Motivating Distributed and Remote Teams

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

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

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

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

Doubling meetings to double productivity

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

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

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

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

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

Communication in between meetings: interactions via apps

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

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

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

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

As the leader

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

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

Pay attention to the phases of your journey


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

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

Key questions:

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


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

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

Key questions:

Is the team communicating effectively? 

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


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

Key questions:

Are we reaching our product milestones?

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


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

Key questions:

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

Designing distributed or remote teams with Octalysis

The success of your team will stem from your vision, execution, and empathy as a leader, but the 21st century will also be a world of teams connected by the internet. How you design your workflows and culture for this reality could be your competitive advantage (or disadvantage). You could even approach this from a Strategy Dashboard perspective.

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

Contact Joris Beerda to get started:

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How eBay Changed Marketplaces with a DNA of Gamification

How eBay Changed Marketplaces with a DNA of Gamification

The Age of Motivation Marketplaces

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

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

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

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


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

What’s changed in the age of motivational marketplaces

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


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

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

Attracting Buyers in the age of motivational marketplaces

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

Amazon enters the scene

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

Amazon created a marketplace that motivated both buyers and sellers.

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

Isn’t it just about incentives?

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

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

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

Are you ready to level up your marketplace position?

Contact Joris Beerda:


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Gamification: not only icing on the cake…

Gamification: not only icing on the cake…

Why many gamification projects fail: Part 1

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

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

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


Gamification must be integrated into your product design


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


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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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


How to design a successful Gamification project?

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

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

Levelling up the industry

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

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


Contact one of our experts:

Gaute [at]

Ivan [at]

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How to Use Octalysis to Attract your Competitor’s Customers

How to Use Octalysis to Attract your Competitor’s Customers

Customers are willing to switch, but…

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

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

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

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

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

Why better is not enough

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

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

Researching your Competition with Octalysis

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

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

Using a Competitor’s Product

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

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

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

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

Ecosystem influence and convenience

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

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

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

Using the ecosystem to gain customers in Workplace Messaging

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

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

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

From Slack’s perspective, they might do well to change the frame. Reacting to the big boys is tough though. If they keep their brand sense and elevate loyal companies and users (elitism) they could retain their footing.

Entering a market

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

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

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

Alternatives to network effects: Not everyone is Amazon

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

Carving a place amongst the competition

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

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

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


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

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

Translating attention into action

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

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

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

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

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

The appropriate sequence for your product

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

Quick wins and head starts in email automation software

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

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

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

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


Ownership on social media or mobile-only products

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

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

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


Narrative to set long-term path or vision

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

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

Solving common Onboarding challenges

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

Collecting basic user info

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

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

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

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

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

Interaction with other users

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

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

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

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

Tying a bow around Onboarding

Creating Onboarding experiences is necessary and tough.

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

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


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What if your Startup Fails to Get and Keep Customers?

What if your Startup Fails to Get and Keep Customers?

The pain of failing to get and keep customers

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

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

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

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

Unless you keep customers…

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

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

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

Ultimately, you’re battling for attention.

Building customer routines

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

The nuts and bolts:

There is a lot to consider in your Onboarding.

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

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

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

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

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


Intentional Design

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

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

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

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Super Charge Your Product Offering with Behavioral Science

Super Charge Your Product Offering with Behavioral Science

How behavioral science can hone your offer

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

As people interact differently with technology and distribution fluctuates, you need to understand human behavior in the context of technology. With a working knowledge of your customers’ habits, you can design your offers accordingly.

While the buying action -a single click- seems quicker than ever, the buying decision is often drawn out in terms of interaction points and relationship building.

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

Common problems with the offer

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

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

Fake Scarcity

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

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

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

Sales funnels to match lead times

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

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

Conversion optimization is just a tool

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

People remember how you make them feel.

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

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

What we’ve learned applying Octalysis

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

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

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

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


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

Masters of the shopping cart

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

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

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

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

Reducing friction and cart abandonment in the buying decision

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

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

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

Design better offer sequences

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

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How to do gamification of Corporate Management Meetings

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

The target group:

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


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

Oh yes it can! See below.


VINDA management meeting

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


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


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

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


The Set Up

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

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


Pulling the Executives in: Discovery

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


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


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


Onboarding: first little steps

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


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


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


Scaffolding: how did the executives level up?

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


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


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

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

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


Our approach was designed to make sure that:

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


The result: was our Octalysis design successful?

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


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

it was so engaging and memorable


it was very disruptive and it opened our minds

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

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The Octalysis Approach to Better Training with Gamification

The Octalysis Approach to Better Training with Gamification

Applying gamification to training

As a human resources executive, you know your workforce’s competitive advantage must be maintained regularly through training. The problem? Training often isn’t as effective as you’d like. You hear feedback from employees that it is a waste of time or you don’t see improved results or ROI from the investment in training.

Now, imagine a workplace where your employees love to take training. A reality where staff do not just take training because they think their boss will want them to. Imagine training that people actually use in their day-to-day activities. Unrealistic? Not really. If you design while keeping the employees inner motivations in mind, you can create and maintain short and long engagement with your programs.

Designing for these motivations isn’t easy, but it the Octalysis Framework offers us exactly the right tools to do exactly that. In the end it is all about the correct balance for between short and long term motivational design and how to make the experience fun and rewarding. Gamification and game techniques will equip us with additional tactical tools.

Let’s consider two strategies to first encourage active participation in corporate training, and second to make corporate training ROI positive for your company by employee application to daily work activiites.

Give people meaningful choices

People like the feeling of making a meaningful choice. People like the feeling of agency. When encouraging training, don’t compel your employees. Instead, make them feel impelled to get the most out of training.

As game designer Jesse Schell reminds us, even the illusion of choice is often enough.

During Onboarding-level training, imagine there are two training sessions to attend. Instead of informing employees they will be doing both, allow them to choose which of the two they will intend first. Then offer the second or third training sessions as bonuses. (This also serves to get more data on whether you have made the correct hires.)

During Scaffolding (3-6 months on the job), present opportunities for training, explaining to employees that your team (or the company at large) is facing a certain problem, and there is knowledge within this training which could help resolve the epic challenge. Again, we are giving a meaningful choice and a narrative as gamification techniques to intrinsically pull employees into the training.

Post-training, we can offer varying projects to allow the employee to demonstrate their new understanding and give further development opportunity. Here, we are introducing an extrinsic motivator into our training activity loop.

Gamification enables learning at your own pace

By removing the competitive aspect from training, employees will feel good about what they’ve learned instead of concerned that they aren’t learning at the same pace as their teammates. Instead of feeling judged, employees will take chances and get out of their comfort zones. New skills will be learned faster. Fresh ideas will blossom.

If you’re using a Learning Management System (LMS), managers or trainers can still monitor progress and give encouraging feedback or assistance as a mentor figure.

This style of a system allows top performers to do more work in the same way that as a child I earned the right to do more homework by progressing more quickly through the math textbook and tests.

Think: how can we reduce competition in learning settings while inspiring collaboration? In the Octalysis framework, competition is Black Hat, while collaboration is White Hat. Over time, people will feel much better about collaboration–this is especially true for training and learning environments too.

Emphasizing growth over stagnancy

We’ve covered a short-term approach to getting employees to attend, participate in, enjoy, and benefit from training.

But now let’s cover a long-term motivation, growth.

Growth is an easy story to tell. The current globalized story is all about growth. By asking an employee how or she intends to grow, most employees–even if they are satisfied with their current role–will likely reply that they’d like to be better at one thing or another.

Especially when compared with stagnancy, growth feels like an intrinsically good thing.

Now that your employee as made the meaningful choice about growth, it is only left to guide your employees toward training, skill acquisition, skill development, and other pursuits which will help them as an employee and will also help your team or company.

You do not necessarily need a robust gamified system to achieve the above outcome. If your management team is equipped with the persuasive tools and conversational abilities, half the battle is already won.

Further, by giving your employees ownership over their learning (Core Drive 4: Ownership & Possession) or designing a leveling system (dynamic, but mainly Core Drive 2: Development & Accomplishment and Core Drive 3: Empowerment of Creativity & Feedback) are two ways to emphasize growth.

If you’re looking to create a tangible system of training and development, appointment dynamics and leveling systems can be useful. These are advanced considerations.

Appointment dynamics and skill trees

When people see the path they are on, it becomes easier to walk it. Additionally, by showing people what other employees like them have achieved, you provide social proof toward a development and accomplishment aim.

Khan Academy shows learners the possibility space of a learning journey. Degreed Pathways and Team Treehouse curriculums are more clear-cut learning routes to walk. Duolingo, meanwhile, uses Protector Quests (Game Technique #30) to strengthen skills that need revisiting. This particular technique motivates players through Core Drive 4: Ownership & Possession and Core Drive 8: Loss & Avoidance, and pedagogically aligns with the latest behavior and learning theory.

Levelling up

In the Octalysis framework designed by Yu-kai Chou, a Level System (Game Technique #85) is a Tier 3 system which dynamically motivates players through accomplishment and creativity. Why creativity? If given an advancement schedule, players will try to figure out creative ways to move ahead through the system. If properly designed, the learning will come in direct correlation with advancement.

Start at the beginning, defining training

Often, training is done to please the boss or manager, driven by avoidance behavior.

Further, classroom training often does not transfer into daily activities. This is to say the knowledge expected to be acquired by the employee isn’t grasped at the level with which the employee understands and desires to use that new knowledge in their daily activities. Gamification and human-focused design aren’t being applied correctly.

If the employee doesn’t apply learning day-to-day, training ROI is negative.

Let’s turn that around.

In the variety of companies with which The Octalysis Group has consulted on employee engagement to behavior science to training design, it is clear that a close eye on the desired actions and win-states of employees (from the employee perspective) is required before the company thinks about how it will serve its own business metrics.

The Octalysis Group runs workshops for companies to walk them through the details of their employee types and the win-states they would like to carry them toward. These workshops can stand alone, but often, companies get so much value they decide to work more with us to see what magic we can create together.

To learn how we can assist your firm in creating better training for your employees, get in touch with Joris Beerda right now.

Joris Beerda, Managing Director The Octalysis Group

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

Joris‘ career in creating engagement spans almost 20 years, in 4 continents and 17 countries.

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The Astronomy of Corporate Employees: Stars, Proto-Stars, Novas, and Black Holes

The Astronomy of Corporate Employees: Stars, Proto-Stars, Novas, and Black Holes

Using Astronomy to Understand Your Employees

Just as there are many types of entities in the universe, there are also many types corporate employee types. By recognizing these types of employees you can design your employee engagement and development can help them navigate to become stellar members of your enterprise.

First, let’s investigate our galactic employee types.

Stars, Proto-stars, Novas and Black Holes.

In this post, we examined what kind of employee types are often present in corporate settings. We used the names: stars, performers, politicians and survivors. But did you know that astronomy can give us additional insight into company culture and how to prevent corporate politics to overpower performance.  Have a look below.

The importance of Stars

In the Universe, stars are the catalysts for life and its main source of energy. Similarly in companies, high performer Star Employees are important assets. They drive innovation and they are also your internal and external brand ambassadors. Without Stars for your staff to follow, the main result will be mediocracy.

Proto-stars: almost there

Before they become stars, high performers are Proto-stars. They have all the elements in them to shine and become shining examples for the rest of the company, but they need the right circumstances to do so. In the Universe, the only thing they need to become stars is a lot of (positive) energy. If the energy is intensive enough, Proto-stars will turn into stars. In companies, we need to give Proto-stars skills and management training so that they can channel their hidden energy in a way so that they can shine.

The Black Hole: suck you dry

A Black Hole is a burned out (proto)star. It sucks all matter around it in itself and nothing escapes its negative gravitational pull. The corporate equivalent of the astronomical Black Hole is the corporate leech that plays corporate political games and sucks all energy from the company and its staff .

It sucks energy mainly from Performers and Stars (the ones with the highest energy in the company). If encouraged, it can lead to virtual collapse of innovation and performance in the enterprise

Nova: if only I…

Nova’s are burned out (proto)stars that will most likely never shine again. They just hang on to survive in their current low energy mode. They are neither good nor bad, they just sit and survive. In companies, many non-performers take this role. They are not good enough to be Proto-stars, and so they take the road of least resistance. In the Universe, Nova’s can turn into Black Holes if the negative environment is strong.

Similarly, in companies, if Nova’s are under the influence of Black Holes, they run the risk of turning into Back Holes themselves, thereby severely damaging the reproductive energy of the company. Less innovation, less performance, and more politics are the results. No good!

Designing your Universe

If you want to safeguard your corporate universe from collapse into a constellation with many black holes, you need to apply the right institutional HR design. This means that negative corporate political games need to be discouraged, while high performance gets publicly praised.

Designing an engaging work environment for people is a key challenge for even the very best organizations. However, such design goes well beyond giving extra bonuses to performers and scolding corporate players during appraisals. By applying Octalysis human focused design you ensure that  your corporate universe healthy will remain balanced and sustainable.

Sounds complex? Don’t worry, The Octalysis Group can help. We have been supporting companies across the globe to create high performance employee engagement. The expected results?  Less political games, more innovation and higher performance.

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

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

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Why Human Resources Gamification Improves Employee Engagement

Why Human Resources Gamification Improves Employee Engagement

Human resources gamification creates engagement

Imagine a workplace where your employees effortlessly know which problems to solve and work together to solve those problems, each and every day.

Gamification and human-focused design are relative newcomers in the space of workplace and employee motivation. Yet they have already shown marked increases in employee output, collaboration, and productivity.

You have the chance to improve employee engagement too with human-focused design, but it isn’t easy.

The most common problems

Through human resources Gamfication with attention to human-focused design instead of function-focused design, your firm can create a culture and foster behavior that self-perpetuates into loyalty, engagement, and ultimately your company’s longevity and prosperity.

But there’s usually a problem: employee motivation.

Most work experience designs are usually either too extrinsic and, less often, too intrinsic.

Extrinsic motivation isn’t enough

Work is often too focused on extrinsic motivation. People are primed to be in it for the money. Or they are mainly motivated to work at your company because they are afraid to lose that position. You could say there is too much black hat design in the job (the motivation that engages but doesn’t make you feel in control and therefore makes you feel bad about the activity in the long run).

Let’s consider sales roles, often cited as a low-engagement and high-burnout job.

Some salespeople burn out simply because they just don’t believe in what they are selling. But even they do, sales is often an exhausting activity. For example, I would be happy to tell you about Audible, which I use almost daily, but after a while I predict I would tire of telling other people they should use it, too. Should they? Maybe they  shouldn’t.

In addition, lead gathering or even the high stakes of a nuanced sales conversation grow repetitive. Also, sales people have to do with high amounts of rejection and fear of loss (Octalysis Core Drive 8: Loss and Avoidance). From a list of 100 prospects, maybe only a hand full may be interested, let alone happy, to receive your sales call.

There are just not enough intrinsically motivating aspects in the sales (and other ) job. The creativity involved in listening and problem-solving and negotiation is limited and often not enough to keep the individual motivated. There simply isn’t enough intrinsic motivation to balance the extrinsic nature of such a sales role.

A greater emphasis on white hat, intrinsic design (the design that makes you feel good and in control) can make a big difference here. Create meaning, make space for creativity, an interactive community, or awaken curiosity with surprise design elements all are able to bring harmony to even a plain cold calling sale role.

But it’s not all about intrinsic motivation either

But designing work to be overly intrinsic arguably isn’t sustainable either.

Consider volunteer work. Most volunteers don’t volunteer for more than 100 hours a year. There isn’t enough extrinsic motivation to make them do it: you earn no money, and there are no consequences if you don’t show up for example.

Or consider charitable donations. We can click a button on our smartphones to save lives, but why don’t we do this more? It is because the intrinsic motivation isn’t enough to make us take the this action. As a result, many people automate donations so as to get past the hurdle of finding the inspiration to do what they know they should do.

Harmony between extrinsic and intrinsic motivation

When you succeed in creating harmony between extrinsic and intrinsic motivational design, your employees will feel this every day. It will feel just right. Not too intrinsic that they do not work hard to achieve your targets. Not too extrinsic that they start hating their targets.


The Octalysis Group designs for such balanced experiences for many companies worldwide. We love to see the feedback when we hear that sales people are finally “being heard”. That it is not only about KPIs, that they start to feel that they do meaningful work with other people. That there is more trust. More autonomy.

Activity Loops Building Toward an Endgame of Loyalty

So far, this all may seem tricky and terminology-heavy. Let me put it simply. While the science of the brain hasn’t been unraveled, we at The Octalysis Group understand how motivation works.  And we have spend many years fine tuning our approach so that we have the tools and understanding to create long term employee engagement in corporations, government organizations as well as start up companies.

The target for any company is to create incentive-driven activity loops that motivate people well into the Endgame of an experience. The End Game is when an employee understands what needs to be done well, has leveled up in his journey. This is where the Veterans in your company reside. And many veterans leave because there is nothing more for them to experience. Their job has become too monotonous and uninspiring.

However if you create a balanced design you will notice that people will choose to stay with your company regardless of what another company offers them. Just like I will probably always stick with Apple no matter what Samsung, Huawei or Google does.

In the case of the slowly burning out salesperson, while we may not be able to change the work itself, we can change the environment.

Does this sound overwhelming?

As I mentioned, experiences are usually either too extrinsic or too intrinsic. At the Octalysis Group, we have a lot of hands-on experience both in diagnosing which parts of an experience have gone awry and also enjoy designing improvements to those experiences. If an experience, for example, is too extrinsic, we could introduce intrinsic motivators like narrative, community, and surprise.

These design changes should come with the experience. Just like developing a game, the design for humans must come in the design itself, not as an afterthought. We understand how to embed these motivational triggers into an employee’s workflow instead of making it stick out like an irritating itch.

Understanding the Core Drives of human behavior is a starting point to analyze the nature of an experience and moving toward the design of something new that works.

What we do, and how we do it

Whether you work with us as a client, advisory, or workshop (great for pitching to senior managers in your organization), we will introduce Octalysis and take a deep dive into your company’s employee engagement design.

To learn how we can assist your firm in creating employee engagement, get in touch with Joris Beerda right now.

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

Joris‘ career in creating engagement spans almost 20 years, in 4 continents and 17 countries.

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Octalysis Gamification and the Hypocrite Brain

Hypocrite apples

My friend told me the other day that she is really angry about the destruction of the Indonesian rainforest by palm oil producers. “It’s a shame! All these poor animals that die just because people want to buy highly processed food that is full of palm oil. It makes me sad!”

The following morning, I saw her prepare breakfast and she layered a nice sandwich with chocolate paste (which is full of palm oil).

Another friend (who is a diplomat) told me that she was very happy to go on a cruise with other diplomats to an island that was endangered by climate change. There, she would join a conference to discuss ways on how to mitigate climate change. She was well aware that cruise travel is highly contributing to climate change, but it did not seem to matter.

How come we are all so hypocrite sometimes? How come my friend wants to save the world’s forests by not eating palm oil products, but then cannot help herself to really really want to eat that processed chocolate bar (with a lots of palm oil in it)? What’s wrong with us? Let’s find out and maybe even find a few Octalysis angles!


Successful Irrational Beings by design?

We know now that we are highly irrational in our behavior and seemingly not completely in charge of what we want and need. Leading psychologists, like Benjamin Libet ( maintain that we actually do not have free will. We only have free wont: the power to consciously not do things that we unconsciously want to do.

Great, so we are irrational weirdo’s? Surely there is more sense that we can make out of our brains? Isn’t there a very rational reason behind all this rationality? How can Homo Sapiens have become arguably the most successful creature ever and be an illogical being? Man cannot become the Top Dog on this planet by being mainly plain stupid and designed badly. Right?

Many of our decision biases, errors, and misjudgments might actually not be design flaws; instead, they may be great design features that have brought us where we are today. Moreover, our biases and inconsistencies may exist because we do not have one super brain that calculates a net motivation balance and then acts on it. Rather, our brain is fragmented in different components, all with different purposes and different time objectives. Some of these work together and some of these don’t. It explains our inconsistencies and biases and it explains why these biases are so important for us.

So why is this important? Well, once we accept the fact that we do not have one big centrally guided brain, but possess merely a collection of semi-independent parts, it becomes much easier to understand why people can be motivated simultaneously by, for example, Epic Meaning and Calling as well as Scarcity and Impatience. Or why we really want that last brownie in the shop now, while simultaneously are struggling to save every penny we can spare for a pilgrimage to Jerusalem or Mecca. Also it makes it easier to know how certain design can empower certain motivation, while keeping other motivation “down” (even if they exist at the same time in our brains).


The Brain’s priorities

Text Brain
Lots has been written about the factors that determine what we find important in life. Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs has become well known for detailing what humans think they need and in what order. According to Maslow we desire to fulfill in order: Physiological needs; Safety needs; Love and belonging; Esteem; Self-actualization and Self-Transcendence.

Deci and others have taken another angle and looked at needs that all human beings share. Their Self Determination Theory states that Autonomy, Competence and Relatedness are needs that are priorities for humans.

The Octalysis Framework has folded the analysis of what motivates us in a coherent framework. The 8 Core Drives for motivation show us what human core drives need to be present for any motivation to exist. If none of these Core Drives are present, there is no motivation and no behavior happens.

But the problem with motivation is that it is not a black and white picture: we are motivated by different needs at the same time. Maslow’s hierarchy nor the Self-Determination Theory cannot explain why some poor people without housing use their money for alcohol, rather than improve their house for example. This is where the concept of the Elemental Brain comes in.


The Elemental Brain

Fragmented Brain
Most people that think about their brain, think of it is as one unit that weighs options, needs and wants and then somehow autonomously makes the decision on whether to act or not. Some of us have accepted that sometimes we do or think things subconsciously and against our, what we then call “Self Interest”. But we still feel that The Brain is in power.

The problem with this thinking is that if The Brain makes these weighted decisions, what or who does the weighing and who is in charge? And if there is something in charge, what steers that something? Also, what is “doing things against our Self Interest”? Surely everything we do is for some reason or another? Isn’t eating that extra chocolate bar also in my Self Interest? Doesn’t it also fulfill a need that my Self, or should we say our Selves, has identified?

More and more it is clear that there isn’t a Something or Self that is making our decisions. Rather there are most likely different, often competing, parts of our brain that want different things at the same time. Sometimes these parts communicate with each other and sometimes they don’t. Sometimes their ‘wants’ get resolved and sometimes they co-exist.

In this way, Martin Luther King was known to have various mistresses, but at the same time he preached family values and sexual restraint. Obviously some elements did not resolve their differences…

In the same vein, there are elements in your brain that are responsible for communicating with the world around you (what Robert Kutzban in “Why Everyone (Else) Is a Hypocrite” calls your ‘Press Secretary’). Their role is to show to your friends and family that you are complying or even excelling to actions, norms and values that connect you to the group or groups you are part of.

So one part of your brain may want to “do” one thing, and another part may make you feel that you want to do the opposite, but meanwhile you tell your colleagues that you will actually do something else. An example: I tell my colleagues that I will work hard on my tasks in the weekend. Another part of my brain makes me feel that I should mow the lawn. What I do in the weekend is play games instead. All motivations exist at the same time, yet only one wins out over the others.


Designing to catch the elements

In Octalysis Design we use our knowledge of elementary motivation to create experiences that appeal to the users’ brain components that we want to be in charge. We know that motivation is a function of:

  • Environment: the way we design the user experience determines a large part of the motivation we create. By tweaking our designs to either more short term oriented brain elements or rather long term elements, we will get a very different motivational outcome.
  • History: we all carry a history of how we have been raised, what we have experienced before and how we always do things. Often you do not want to do new things because of this Status Quo Sloth situation (Octalysis Core Drive 8: Loss and Avoidance). At the same time  once we have done the “new thing” a number of times, it becomes a habit and it can supercede our previous habits.
  • State: the way you ‘feel’ determines what elements are more dominant. We know for example that ovulating women tend to have more affairs. And when you are hungry (or see pictures of yummy food that is out of reach) or stressed you often take more short term extrinsically motivated paths.

As you can see this goes further than determining a Player Type to see what “person” you have to design for. Johnny is not just an Explorer or Killer. In fact he can be both. He may be a “socializer” at work in between colleagues, a competitive “killer” at home and an explorer during his nature walks. The way we design and what state we can bring people in through our designs has a major impact on how the Player Type evolves along the way!

To conclude: there is a lot more fragmentation in our brains than we know. This makes that people can be seen as hypocrite or even weak. But in a sense, we are all hypocrites. Even the most distinguished people have contradictions in their behavior, even flagrant ones (as the abuse in certain religious institutions has shown us).

These kinds of excesses are awful and cannot be condoned. But they also have a positive flipside: you don’t have to be so hard on yourself the next time that you break your good intentions. It is part of human nature. More importantly: don’t be so hard on others whenever you feel they are hypocrite. You now know that all human beings are hypocrite sometimes.

From a design perspective, our insights into how our fragmented brains really work helps us designing better for really engaging experiences through Octalysis. This is what we do at The Octalysis Group, day-in and day-out. If you want our help in designing high quality design for your product, company or organization, contact us:



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Is the health crisis an engagement crisis?

Long road

In the 21st century we have the largest, oldest and longest living population the world has ever known.  In 2014, the world population totaled around 7,3 billion people. In developed countries, 20% of the population was aged 65 or above, with a life expectancy of around 80 years old.

What is the cost of this expanding and ageing population? Well, developed countries now have health expenditures between 10% and 12% of their Gross Domestic Product. The greatest spender? The United States, with 17% of its GDP, or a staggering 3 trillion dollars. Wow…

Naturally not all health costs are age related. The point is that many diseases and conditions that lead to health expenditures can be avoided by something very simple: changing people’s lifestyle habits. If we all ate healthier and exercised more, these costs could be drastically reduced (there are a lot of articles corroborating this affirmative. If you want to know more, you can start by reading here, here or here.)

Big companies and startups have tried thousand of different initiatives to tackle this issue. By the end of 2015, there were 165,000 mHealth apps available for download in the Apple iTunes and Google Play stores. Unfortunately, a mere 36 of them (or 0,02% of the total) generate nearly half of all downloads. And none of these have conquered the market in any significant way. Not even Apple, Facebook or Google managed to be really successful with their mHealth apps.

The reason? A clear lack of engagement in these apps. Habit changing takes time, months or even years, and it is not an easy task to keep users engaged for a sustained period of time. Crafting an engaging app requires thorough understanding of human motivation, and cannot be achieved by simply adding a few game mechanics or nice visuals.

The Octalysis Group is known for designing long lasting user engagement using the Octalysis Framework. So let’s use Octalysis to analyze Fitbit, one of the biggest players in the healthcare and fitness market, and see how they fare in creating long-term engagement.



Fitbit (NYSE: FIT, valued in $2,6B) is an American company that sells activity trackers that measure data such as the number of steps walked, heart rate, quality of sleep and stairs climbed. The company’s value proposition is that by measuring the user’s vital data and presenting it to them, it is possible to grow awareness for their own health and incentivize the adoption of healthy habits.

This data driven approach is a mainly Left Brain strategy (CD4: Ownership and Possession for measuring your own health and CD2: Development and Accomplishment for achieving your own goals). There is also a small Right Brain touch of CD7: Unpredictability and Curiosity, since you never know, for instance, how many steps you actually take in a day or what distance you have walked.

The Discovery Phase of any product begins when users first hear about the product or experience. If I search for “exercise tracker” on search engines, Fitbit is always one of the top 3 options. If I search for “exercise app”, it is also usually well ranked among the top 10.

When I click on Fitbit’s webpage, the first image I see is a shining and beautiful new tracker that triggers both CD4 – Ownership and Possession (“I want this!”) and CD7 – Unpredictability and Curiosity (“What does it do? How much it costs?”). These are effective prompts for me to commit to Fitbit`s desired action here: buy their trackers. The app itself is not considered of main prominence on their website and it is only mentioned after some scrolling down.

If I go directly to the Apple Store and search for “fitness” or “exercise tracker”, the results are not very encouraging for Fitbit. Their app appears on top 30 in the first search and top 50 in the second.

Fitbit website

Their presentation in the App Store is consistent, tough. They have a decent number of qualified reviews (which triggers CD5 – Social Influence and Relatedness) and they show some cool screens containing progress bars, badges, graphs and others (that resonates well with CD2 – Development and Accomplishment).

Fitbit app 1

In a nutshell, Fitbit`s Discovery Phase is strong in CD2 (follow my health developments with the progress bars, points and badges) and CD4 – Ownership and Possession (build my complete fitness profile).



The second phase of the user’s experience to Octalysis is called Onboarding and it has the goal of teaching the rules of the game to new players. It starts when users download the app and ends when they have learned the fundamental skills needed to play the game and achieve early win-states.

After installing Fitbit, I am presented with a sequence of colorful screens that keeps transitioning in my phone with different value propositions for me: get active, eat better, manage weight and sleep better.

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I guess we want all of that, right? The call to action is very clear here too: Join Fitbit or Log In. Since I do not have an account yet, let me see what happens when I click the “join” button.

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Oops! Apparently I must own one of the shining Fitbit trackers to join the party… and I do not. Fitbit could use this screen to try to convince me of the importance of having a tracker for a complete experience, but it simply shows me a list of all their trackers. They all look nice, but I am still not convinced why I should buy one to count my steps if my phone accelerometer can do that for me and even estimate how many calories I have burned.

So I guess this is game over for me with Fibit, right? Oh no, wait! Take a look at the above screen again. Hidden in the bottom, there is a timid “No Fitbit Yet? iPhone 5S tracks the basics” message. Well, I guess I will have to satisfy with the basics then!

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After choosing to use my phone, Fitbit decides to tell me about what their trackers can actually do. This is not a smart decision. During the Onboarding Phase, the product/system must do everything possible to make the users feel smart and accomplished (CD2), and not questioning their choices.

I know Fitbit’s business is very dependent on selling their tracking devices, but I am sure they have better places to show me how my experience can be enhanced with their trackers.

Proceeding with the Onboarding experience, Fitbit asks me to input some vital data:

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The interface for inputting data is very clear and intuitive (even fun!) and I do not feel bothered for sharing some personal data, since I hope this will make my experience more personalized. How could I trust a health app that does not even know my height and weight, right?

Since I am still onboarding in the app, it would be smart if Fitbit asks me only for the most relevant data for personalization purpose (spoiler: they do) and also shows me some sort of progress to have an idea of how many more inputs lies ahead of me (spoiler: they don’t).

After some Terms of Service and Privacy Policy screens – I assume mandatory for this kind of app – I finally arrived at the promised land: Fitbit’s main screen!

If you are not familiar with Fitbit and are following this experience with me, I propose a small exercise. Contemplate the screen below for 8 seconds – the usual attention span for mobile phone users – and answer me: where would you click first? Important: If you are under 18, you can contemplate the screen for 4 seconds or less. I don’t want to keep you waiting for endless 8 seconds. And if you are a goldfish, you can take your whole 9 seconds, don’t worry. I will wait.

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So, what is your answer? Where would you have clicked?

  1. In the “red alert” email verification label?
  2. In the “number of steps” counter?
  3. In “calories burned”?
  4. In “Track exercise”?
  5. Somewhere in the inferior Dashboard/Challenges/Friends/Account menu?
  6. Anywhere else?

You could argue that it depends on the user goals with the app, but let’s assume that it is just a user trying to know the app better, like you and me. What we are trying to figure out here is: according to Fitbit, what is the desired action in this screen, the first one the users see and probably the most important in their entire experience?

The correct answer is clearly letter A. Or B. It could be C also. And maybe D… I think you got the point. There is no clear desired action in this important screen and since all of the elements are new to the user, it is easy to feel lost here. “Feel lost?”, I can hear you and Fitbit’s UI designers scream, “this is the simplest app screen I have ever seen! It is simply a dashboard!” Exactly. It is simply that and nothing more. What kind of action a dashboard prompts you to do? Look at it and if nothing changes (hopefully, otherwise you would probably not understand what is happening), then you are gone. Imagine that we – the users – are like Homer Simpson in front of a power plant control panel. If there is not blinking, we will assume everything is fine and we will keep eating our donut. If everything is blinking, we will panic and probably will not act either.


This is the feeling Fitbit’s above screen gives me: it is all fine and static, so I can go eat my donut safely.

Since I am not planning on doing an exercise right now, I am prone to leave the app now and return to it later, after some steps. Or maybe return in the end of the day. Or after some long random walk to see how many steps I did. If I remember that I have downloaded the app, of course. The point is that a successful app should never leave the users with this kind of decisions or might risk losing them.

For Fitbit’s fans, a comment: Fitbit app has hundreds of things that are done right in their main screen. It is visually simple; the colors are great; it lets me login first and verify my email later; it shows me some progress and many more good designs. Take a look at the following screen, for instance.

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Pretty cool, right? This is the “Challenges” section of the inferior menu bar and it presents me with a series of challenges I can commit myself to. If I click on the first one (apparently the only one I can do alone), it challenges me to hit my “daily step goal”. Not sure what this is, but let’s do it! By the way, very nice and thoughtful option of “starting tomorrow”. Probably by choosing this option the user will be reminded of the challenge first thing in the morning. This is a great use of the Choice Perception (Game Technique #89). If a user clicks in a challenge out of curiosity, for example, he is presented with two main options: start now and start tomorrow. If he does not want to start now, the Start Tomorrow option seems tempting; after all, it will not sound as if he is not willing to take the challenge. But if you stop and think, both options are the same: start! And certainly this is the desired action in this screen, so way to go Fitbit!

If I choose any other challenge that demands at least one more participant or click in the “Friends” option in the inferior menu bar, I end up in the following screen.

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Is it just me or this is the cutest fox ever? She just wants to play and is even offering me ice cream. And I do not even need to worry about her safety, because she has her helmet on!

Every app with any kind of social interaction (in other words, every app except for you lantern) deals with the problem of making the user invite their friends to use the app or showing them their friends that are already using the app. The latter is easier and is usually achieved by social login. But how to prompt users to invite their friends for something they do not even know yet?

The simple answer is: let them know the app first. The best way to ask users to invite their friends is after the First Major Win-State, that moment when the users reached a ‘wow’ moment and would almost automatically think: “Cool! I wanna share this with my friends!” When the app allows user invitation at any moment, like Fitbit does, the most important advice is to never leave the users with the bitter taste of a bad experience like “You have no friends” and nothing else. There are at least two much better options to dealing with this problem.

The first you can find out in most of The Octalysis Group projects (do the words Scarcity and Curiosity sound familiar to you?), but the second is exactly what Fitbit has done: use some sense of humor.

Using humor is a great UX practice and makes users wondering, “When the next joke is coming? Are there more funny screens?”, which resonates with CD7 and help in the engagement process.

The second phase of the user experience – Onboarding – ends when the user has done all the main desired actions at least once and is familiar with the game rules. Fitbit app has a lot of desired actions, but we will consider this phase finished with the following screen.

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This is the “Account” tab of the inferior menu, the last main option. My eyes are immediately caught by the first half of the screen, where I can review my profile, sync and set up new trackers and also buy a Fitbit tracker if I am convinced they are essential to my experience (and so far, I am not). My eyes were not attracted to what is below the “Shop Fitbit” button, mainly because they are colorless and not attractive. Keep that in mind, because this will be decisive for my future experience with the app.

Having done the main desired actions at least once, now it is time to start walking and running with my phone to see how Fitbit will help me to be healthier.


My plan was to keep the cellphone in my pocket for a whole week and check Fitbit at the end of each day to see how I was doing. Unfortunately, this plan only lasted three days (check the screens below).

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They look like three days of complete failures, right? The problem is that I was walking! On Tuesday I have even walked more than usual, parking my car more distant than where I usually do just to take some more steps. Nevertheless, it was a failure again.

I have decided to explore the app one more time to try to make my experience more rewarding, because I am still on the first steps and feeling accomplished remains a priority. If I get a whole week of failures with no explanations, the sense of development and accomplishment (CD2) is gone and probably I will be gone too.

My first try was to go back to the “Goal Day” challenge screen to see if I could change the challenge parameters in some way or at least find out what the step goal actually is, but that was in vain. Then I have tried the “number of steps” in the first screen, but all I could see was my step count history. I was about to give up when I clicked in the infamous “Account” tab once more, simply because it was the only one I have not clicked yet. And there it was.

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You are probably thinking that I am stupid for not seeing this before, right? I mean, in case you have already seen where I am supposed to click to change my daily step goal in the above screen (it is still not obvious!). In my defense, when I am testing a new product, I like to turn the “stupid mode on” to make sure the experience is crystal clear to the user. Sorry to say this, Fitbit, but yours is not. The customization of such an important feature is hidden in the bottom half of the last tab screen, vaguely named “Account”.

I was curious to see how many opportunities Fitbit had during my Onboarding to link me directly to the above screen. Count with me, please: I can see one, two, three…

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… and an obvious fourth one! There is absolutely no reason for not having a button like the one below in my main ‘Steps Dashboard’ screen:


I have decided to change my daily step goal to an easy 1,000 steps count just to (finally) feel accomplished. I did this, put my sneakers on and hit the road as if I were Forrest Gump, determined to stop only when I had reached my goal.

Ten minutes later and victory was mine.

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Something as simple as that helped me feel more accomplished and willing to try new goals. If the app value proposition circles around accomplishment and measurements, why not making your users feel accomplished as soon as possible?

Addendum: I have decided to explore some more about this step count goal and I have find out in Fitbit’s blog that the default goal is 10,000 steps a day, something recommended by the CDC, but definitely not an easy task to sedentary people. Nevertheless, it would not hurt Fitbit’s app to explain this to the users in simple terms without redirecting to their blog. It could even shows the users some sort of guiding table like the one I have done after a rigorous 5-minutes research on Google.

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The ironic part of a fitness app that does not like to give their users easy wins, is that Fitbit actually has some cool badges and rewarding screens. Take a look at this screen solely dedicated to show me my personal best number of steps in a single day.

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Fitbit has several other cool functionalities, like calories count, eating goals, sleep quality control, GPS tracking during exercises, friendly competitions and more. I could go on and on writing about these, but if you have reached this far, you probably got the idea of the kind of app analysis we do in The Octalysis Group and would be happy with some wrapping up, I suppose. So hold on for three more minutes, because we have reached the Endgame.



The Endgame Phase begins when the users have completed the activity loop of desired actions → win-states → rewards so many times that they are true veterans of the experience. Instead of letting these players leave – after all, they have already used the app a lot -, the system should recognize their value and adapt itself to be even more engaging to them.

Since Fitbit app is daily collecting health information from their users – even if they do not have any trackers -, it is understandable that they reach the Endgame Phase with a CD4 – Ownership and Possession and CD8 – Loss and Avoidance combo. They have already stored so much information in the app that it gets less and less attractive each passing day to change it for some other. Fitbit has also some improvements to do towards Endgame: their experience becomes predictable as time goes by (no CD7) and the the users do not experience any form of Epic Meaning and Calling (CD1).

In The Octalysis Group, we usually conclude the analysis of each of the four phases of a product experience with a summary of the main takeaways and a list of quick fixes. Since I am not planning on sharing more screens with you, I will share some of the Endgame suggestions we have done for Fitbit so you can have a better understanding of the kind of work we deliver:

  • Use a combo of CD4 and CD7 to give users a surprise discount in a new and more advanced Fitbit tracker. For instance, if the user completed all the challenges using a simple step counter tracker, he could get a huge discount in a tracker that also monitors sleeping, so he will be motivated to try the Fitbit app again with a more powerful “weapon” that will work as a booster.
  • Use CD2 to unlock more powerful and “almost impossible” challenges to players that have completed all the available challenges.
  • Use a combo of CD3 and CD7 to allow veterans players to create their own challenges that could be available to all other players. This would motivate CD3 for the creation process and also CD7 to keep coming back to the app to see the new challenges.



The healthcare wearable’s global shipments are expected to increase at a compound annual growth rate of 24.8% over the five years, reaching 162.9 million units in 2020. Not surprisingly, great names like Apple, Google and Microsoft are already launching its first products in this attractive market.

But what is the final verdict for Fitbit experience? Did they solve the ‘gold pot’ problem of the long-term engagement? There are good and bad news for the competition. Fitbit has the upper hand in this market and sells a lot of tracking devices options; so it is not going to be easy to steal its market share. Every day that Fitbit collects data from their users, it enhances the feeling of Ownership and Possession (CD4) and leaves the user afraid of losing precious health history and a system they already know so well (CD8). As long as the years keep ending in December 31th and people keep making new-year resolutions to be fitter and thinner, Fitbit will thrive.

The good news for competition is that Fitbit has not solved the long-term engagement problem. It certainly has a great app that is useful to be combined with its physical trackers, but so far the experience is mainly focused on just one player type (Level 3 Octalysis) and has not been able to adequately balance the eight Core Drives during the four experience phases of the player journey.

The history of the tracking devices for healthcare is in its first pages and Fitbit is helping writing them. As long as user motivation remains a relevant problem for behavior changing, The Octalysis Group will keep tracking this market.

Final note: This blog post is a small sample of an Audit, one of the services The Octalysis Group offer to his clients.


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



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Gamification of Pensions: Octalysis advises UK Government

Pension Gamification

Gamification of Government

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

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

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

Let’s find out!

The Pension Crisis

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

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

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

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

The UK Governement’s attempts to create engagement

The Department of Works and Pensions should be lauded for their attempts to create engagement for pensions. If engagement is left unaddressed, the system could come crashing down and many people would be without any means of income at old age. Not a great prospect for any society!

So in 2015 they came up with a funny character to add some swing to the topic. Introducing: Workie. See below the Ad Campaign featuring the fuzzy animal (“Don’t ignore the Workplace”):


Unfortunately, the campaign was  considered a failure and the video and Workie got ridiculed across the internet and media. In my talks with the UK Government I analyzed with them why this was, through an Octalysis lens:

The Discovery Phase of Pensions

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Gamification: Fun Pensions

The future of Gamification in the UK Pension System

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

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

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

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

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


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