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

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

Better Human-Focused Design Experiences in Self-Driving Cars

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

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

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

I want to feel great riding in one I own.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


I want to relax.

Some people see no issue with losing the steering wheel.

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

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

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

I want to work.

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

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

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

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

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

I want to explore.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Time, Attention, Engagement

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

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

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

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


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Using Waves of Emotion to Seal Future Desired Actions

Using Waves of Emotion to Seal Future Desired Actions

Send Waves of Emotional Reward

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

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

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

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


Status Waves

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

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

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

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

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

Access Waves

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

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

This access can take many forms.

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

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

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

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

Power Waves

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

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

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

Stuff Waves

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

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


At the Octalysis group


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

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

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


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

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

Why You Shouldn’t Fail Fast

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

The Octalysis way, the entire journey

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

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

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

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

“Our product is different.”

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

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

Analyzing human motivation, then designing for it.

Understanding the motivations of humans can be tricky.

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

The secret sauce.

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

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

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

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

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


Contact us right now.

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How Octalysis boosts a Boring Simulation Game

How Octalysis boosts a Boring Simulation Game

A boring Game?

I recently played a rather tedious Business Strategy Simulation Game in my MBA program  The Game is an attempt to create engagement with a potentially bland topic: business strategy.

Although I mildly enjoyed playing the Simulation, I noticed several motivational problems. My in-depth knowledge of Octalysis gave me the tools to analyze the experience and uncover insights about how to improve the game.

Let’s find out what I’ve discovered!

The Setup

The game is played by a team of around 4-6 players simulating the business strategy of a shoe factory.  This simulation is incorporated in business schools and corporations to improve team-work and strategic decision-making.

In the simulation, you’re competing against 2-5 other teams in real time, where 1 year corresponds to 1 week in the game.

Business Strategy Simulation Game - Leaderboard

You make decisions each week (which equals one year in the game) which will change the feedback towards what’s happening in the marketplace and how successful your company will be based on country-based and international ratings. Main indicators are Net Revenue and Profit and Ending Cash but also Image and Credit Rating, based on CSR efforts and customer feedback.

See below the screenshot of the rather overwhelming experience:

Business Strategy Game

After the year is over you’ll get to see a report that mentions your position in the marketplace indicating your strengths and weaknesses, which helps you identify your niche and competitive advantage. This is good Core Drive 2: Development and Accomplishment design and gave us a sense of autonomy in the experience (Core Drive 3: Empowerment of Creativity and Feedback).

Business Strategy Simulation Game - Graph

So-so simulation fun

Well, let’s just say it could have been a lot more engaging. Did I ever feel the need to come back to the experience? Absolutely, because losing the Game wasn’t an option (Core Drive 8: Loss & Avoidance) and I was curious what the feedback to our actions would be (Core Drive 3 and Core Drive 7: Unpredictability & Curiosity). Also, having to wait every week for the next decision gave you a sense of impatience (Core Drive 6: Scarcity and Impatience).

So, if urgency wasn’t the problem in the experience, what was?

Team Work - Business Strategy Game

The relationship to my teammates (Core Drive 5: Social Influence & Relatedness) was of growing importance to the fact that it made us find more diverse and creative Solutions and Strategies (Core Drive 3: Empowerment of Creativity & Feedback) not alone, but together in a team. The problem was, that we felt the need for communication and autonomy and the system did not empower that. So we wanted to have a more intrinsic design but the simulation did not offer it.

We couldn’t comfortably play together and the system usually crashed when trying to be on the server at the same time. It’s like trying to have a meeting on Skype and half of the team can’t hear you. It’s frustrating and destroys intrinsic motivation.

This Octalysis Octagon summarizes the player experience from motivation or Core Drive perspective. In short, the experience was overly extrinsically-motivated and lacked well-designed intrinsic motivators (The analysis can vary by player).

Octalysis Graph Business Strategy Game

There was a huge amount of motivation in the onboarding phase of the experience because of the unpredictability of the outcome. The game is designed around that core drive but executed rather poor. The outcomes become rather predictable and repetitive and cease to engage. In real businesses, your strategy needs to be agile enough to act in any kind of situation. For a fact, our team had expectations based on Simulations like Civilization or Sim City and we expected to see something like a plant burning down or experience employee turmoil. Unfortunately, it all stayed quite plain and there were not that many exciting challenges that we could take.

The exciting bits

To me, the most exciting part of the game was my team’s decision to build a whole strategy around the game, which was actually not incorporated within the game itself but motivated by the lecturer and the course content. In short, my team applied our own intrinsic need for creativity (Core Drive 3: Empowerment of Creativity & Feedback) into the overall experience, because it didn’t feel like we had enough autonomous choices.

While tapping into our creativity and giving the players within the team feedback (from their teammates), this decision also gave the game some Epic Meaning (Core Drive 1: Epic Meaning & Calling), which was highly needed. Maybe an additional idea could have been that you can choose your quest in the beginning of the game: World power, Corporate Social Responsibility or Elitism, something which helps to define the objective of the game and assists you in creating a company culture.

We built our visual branding, chose our mission and vision and created a company culture.


Below you can see how defining our objectives in the game created Creativity and Epic Meaning. We even did some extra work creating a video for the company.

The culture (a blend of epic meaning and calling, ownership and social influence) helped my team to make in-game decisions and was the most crucial part of the experience. Again, this design should have been integrated into the game experience itself and not outside of it.

The simulation should have motivated us to look at it not just from a game perspective but giving us the feeling of running a real business. This also means the feedback mechanics based on your decisions need to make sense, which they don’t always do. For example, the game has no customer focus. If you decide to run a marketing campaign with printed posters and your audience is 13-16 years of age, it wouldn’t make any difference than doing a community driven social media campaign, as long as you spend the right amount of money in the correct part of the world and endorse the right celebrities. If the game really wants to empower strategic thinking, that should be part of the design.

On the other hand, winning the game doesn’t mean you have created a responsible, working business strategy. It just means you discovered how best to win this game.

Defining our Key Business Metrics early on helped us to understand what success means for our company and what our vision is. That’s why our team strategically decided not to go for the win, but to hold on to our culture and motivation to run our business and play the game our way. An interesting anecdote which can also be applied to real life. Maybe that’s what the simulation is good at, it’s limitations create a need to think further than the game itself.

Below you can see the presentation of our project, highly motivated by CD1 and CD5 to create a sense of fighting for the same cause together and making the viewer be part of the experience we’ve had.

4 lessons learned:

The future of the game definitely lies in the strength of Core Drive 5: Social Influence & Relatedness and the ability to bring people together to help them build a vision and Core Drive 1: Epic Meaning & Calling by exercising Core Drive 3: Empowerment of Creativity & Feedback.

1. Allow people to fail: 

The urgency the simulation creates based on Core Drive 8: Loss & Avoidance makes the player feel anxious about any interaction, especially if the experience is marked in the end. Giving the user the feeling that he can’t make mistakes destroys the whole learning experience and the main purpose of playing a game. Removing some of the CD8 elements and leaning more towards the Core Drive 7: Unpredictability & Curiosity aspects will make it more engaging to play while still creating urgency.

2. Leaderboards are not the easy way out: 

Core Drive 2: Development and Accomplishment is applied in a lazy way. The ‘Let’s put some leaderboards there and that will make it more fun’ approach destroys intrinsic motivation. The end of year report is very handy and reflects much more accurate who’s in a leading position and who are competing against each other. Our team was highly motivated by the CSR Reward of the year, but there should be more feedback attached to it – what did this reward change, why did we get it and most importantly, why is this of value for us?

3. Give the player a sense of progress: 

The Game could flourish by giving more flexibility and reward efforts regarding Marketing and Customer Experience, how does the Customer feel, why do they feel that way and how can you improve. Giving the player some indicators about how to use the platform with a glowing choice and some useful hints during the Onboarding phase and when the user is lost would make the experience less daunting and less CD8 driven. Stop making the player feel anxious, make them feel clever and that they’re learning something during the experience.

4. Create unpredictability:

Further, if the game incorporated random events indicative of a real environment, we can implement mechanics that draw on CD7 – like weather changes, catastrophes and other mechanics that will change a player’s or team’s strategy and will make teams remain agile. These CD7 events could include positive outcomes like new legislations and inventions (like 3D printing) relevant to modern businesses.

Want to improve your own product?

At The Octalysis Group, we have thousands of hours of practice using Octalysis to better understand experiences, from training simulations to marketing campaigns. Many of clients have benefitted tremendously from the power of Octalysis.

Want us to do the same for your product?

Contact Sabrina Bruehwiler now.

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Find out how Octalysis design supercharges your sales team…

Find out how Octalysis design supercharges your sales team…

Many of our clients are enthusiastic when they see Octalysis for the first time.  One of my clients recently said that the Framework totally transformed the way he saw his business, yes even life itself. I can vouch for these statements myself. Octalysis has completely changed how I see professional and personal life too. It’s awesome.

However, and this is a question our clients ask us a lot, does it work? Does Octalysis lead to more engagement? Does it result in motivated teams? Does it lead to higher sales? Higher growth and productivity?

Obviously the answer is yes.  Normally we are under strict Client Non-Disclosure Agreements so we can almost never share the great results we achieve. We were allowed to do so last year for one of our hotel chain projects, which resulted in sales growth of  712% and a Social Coefficient of 512%. I am thrilled that I am now allowed to share some amazing results from one of our HR/Employee Gamification projects as well. Enjoy!

Check out the results below. If you cannot wait any longer, just scroll all the way down (warning: you may miss out on some Octalysis Design gems by doing so).


The Challenge

We (and our Polish Octalysis Licensee Funtiago) were approached by a Navo Orbico a major FMCG distributor in Europe with about 5,500 employees. They faced major challenges with their sales teams that had to go out and sell Procter and Gamble products to their clients. The main issues:

  • Low employee motivation
  • Low and stagnating sales numbers
  • No feedback on their activities
  • No group feeling
  • No new sales ideas

Sounds daunting huh? Yeah, we thought so too. This is a company that had been selling stuff to clients for decades. If they couldn’t maintain sales and motivate their teams, this was truly a massive issue…

Nevertheless, we accepted the challenge to improve the professional life of the sales teams and to increase sales in the process. We knew that the people themselves were not to blame for this daunting situation. It was all about the way their sales processes were designed. Time for Octalysis Human Focused Design!


Our approach

We ensure high quality delivery by sticking to our tried and tested 5 Step Octalysis Implementation Process (Strategy Dashboard; Feature Brainstorm; PE Feature List; Battle Plan; and Concept Wireframes). This process is highly interactive with the client as we need to ensure that our assumptions about their business metrics, practices and target users are well aligned with the solutions we come up with and design for.

We also wanted to ensure that our designs were flawlessly integrated with the CRM application the sales team was using. It makes no sense to design an experience if it stays as a separate application. It needs to constantly be in sync with the wider CRM process.

We then decided to change the world that sales people had to live in on a daily basis. Away with the boring to do lists and endless repetition of sales steps without any overarching narrative or feedback. From now on sales people in the distributor are seafaring traders for a city state called Nabicopolis. You do not just go to clients but you sail there and trade with them for profit. For yourself, as well as for the city state.

Here are screenshots of the city state (the text is all in Polish, but the images are self explanatory).

The city grows whenever it is healthy and wealthy. When it is poor and weak, it is prone to pirate attacks and it will degrade. As you can see from the images above, both you and the city have a health (red line) and a wealth (green line) meter. You gain health by doing the right sales KPIs. Wealth by selling products.

There is a variety of social interaction design in the project. There are group quests; a tavern to socialize and for management to send out overall guidance and news updates:




Gentle Leaderboard

There is a leaderboard as well, although we made sure to not make it too intimidating. Often leaderboards are only motivational for the the top 5 people on it. For the rest the scarcity feel (Core Drive 6: Scarcity and Impatience) is too high and they stop caring. However, by only showing a few people above and below you, you can mitigate some of that negativity and make it more engaging by bringing scarcity back to lower levels.


Dynamic Profile Pages

People tend to spend a lot of time (at least in the early stages of the experience) to upgrade and update their profile:

Not only can you update a photo, you can also choose the ship that you use to sail to clients with. The more activities you do in the application, the bigger and faster your ship will be and the faster you get feedback on your sales results from Headquarters.

Interestingly, when you sail with your ship, the navigation is fully integrated with Google Maps so you actually see yourself sailing to your clients along maps that look somewhat like this (this is a mockup, the real thing looks better):

Players have full autonomy of what actions and strategy they want to follow (so lots of Core Drive 3: Empowerment of Creativity and Feedback), which is very motivational long term and often lacking in sales organizations. Now selling has become fun and creative.


Next to social aspects and creativity and autonomy, we also made sure that there is plenty to discover and that there are regular surprises in the experience (Core Drive 7: Unpredictability and Curiosity). Social, creativity, and unpredictability are all intrinsically motivational. Here is where all the fun is and where long term motivation is born!

So you will get secret codes


…that open mystery boxes:

In additional there is the Captain’s Wheel of Fortune where you can spend your trade energy to try get cool prizes and loot drop. This is a very popular design feature and engages people on a daily basis.

Oh, and did I tell you that participation in the experience was fully voluntary? And that 100% of all the 130 sales people joined in? Let’s look at some more results shall we?


The Results

OK, so what were the results of Octalysis Design for this client? Did it approach what they expected? Yes it did. In fact they told us that the results were extraordinary. Here is a small sample list:


  • SALES: UP 21.8%
  • KPIs: UP 59%
  • Social Interaction: UP 300%


These are good numbers indeed, especially for an organization that has been in the market for so long. What managers would not sign up for a 21.8% sales uptick? Or people actually doing their KPIs with a smile on their faces?

Octalysis works, IF it is implemented well. We feel that the design can be even more improved, but are happy with the results so far.


Curious how to get great numbers too?

We can do this for your company or organization too. It does not matter if you are working in a big corporation or a small start up. Contact me for a FREE initial consultation and find out what The Octalysis Group can do for you!


Speak soon.




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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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Octalysis taking lead in the Academic world!

Octalysis taking lead in the Academic world!

Gamification; Westerdals; Octalysis; spillifisering

The gamification market is estimated to grow from USD 1.65 Billion in 2015 to USD 11.10 Billion by 2020. This increasing demand is bringing more and more actors to the global market. Since Yu-Kai published the Octalysis Framework in 2008, it has been organically translated into more than 20 languages, and the book was recently translated into Chinese and Korean(!).

But Octalysis is also making large forays into academia. For example, this year, Actionable Gamification was chosen as the curriculum framework for the first intensive Gamification course at Westerdals, the Oslo School of Arts, Communication and Technology.

More and more people are taking interest in Gamification, but the term is still not well-known in the Norwegian market. When we created the course last fall, we didn’t have many resources to market it to the Bachelor and Master students.

When the listings came late December we were happy to see that many people had applied and joined our course.

It was quite interesting to see the diverse background of our students, a reflection of the wide range of bachelor degrees and courses that Westerdal offers. The degrees range from game design to digital marketing and from programming to sound design.

Octalysis; gamification; Norway; spillifisering;

Norwegian Octalysis

What did we do?

The curriculum was mainly based on Yu-Kai’s book Actionable Gamification (get it here if you haven’t already). The course started by covering the history of games and play, and we did a fun game to see what (simplified) player types were most dominant in the class. With students from creative fields, it was no surprise that most students were dominant Explorers type categories, while the 2nd largest group were characterised as Achievers. A great balance of creativity and effort then!  From here we discussed behavioural economics and psychology with theories from Daniel Kahneman, Csikszentmihalyi and Daniel Pink.  

Each session led to a discussion or exercise where we’d discuss Norwegian products and cases and come up with improvements through the 8 Core Drives of Octalysis. We spoke about White Hat and Black Hat design as well as Intrinsic and Extrinsic motivation. The Norwegian examples ranged from a grocery application launched this year by Rema 1000 (‘Æ’), Parked Piano (a cultural initiative placing pianos in public locations for anyone to play) to McDonald’s’ ‘Find a bacon clubhouse’  website.

In just a month’s time, the students had three different group presentations and one group exam in the end. Actionable Gamification is a thorough book and one you come back to over and over, but the students were all able to grasp the framework and implementation very well in such short time!

During our month we were also lucky to get visits by other lecturers, such as Game researcher Amit Ginni Patpatia, behavioural researcher  Asle Fagerstrøm and the Managing Director of TOG, Joris Beerda.

The final exam asked the students to describe an area of society where gamification should be introduced and to discuss how today’s solution can be improved through gamification. The students came up with their own cases ranging from improving the public transport system in Norway, to making elderly care a lot better and creating good habits for recycling plastic bottles!

We were very happy with the high level of engagement from our students, which also became evident with the close to 100% attendance rate. Big thanks to Assistant Professor Jannicke Johansen and Westerdals ACT for taking action and collaborating to set up the course. Westerdals has actually incorporated these intensive courses as part of their competitive strategy to interdisciplinary education for all students attending.  Thanks to all the students for taking part in lectures and making the first course a memorable one!

As more and more Norwegians are introduced to Gamification we at The Octalysis Group are excited to be in the forefront of the Norwegian scene, and that the course will be repeated next year!

Want help making your product, experience or workplace engaging?

Contact me:

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Busuu language learning through the Octalysis Lens

Busuu language learning through the Octalysis Lens

Iza Kozlowska

“Don’t just learn languages, fall in love with them!”

This is Busuu’s rallying cry. The social network for language learning now has almost 60 million users worldwide and its rise fits in the fast growing-trend of E-learning and M-learning (mobile learning). Seems that we love to improve our communication skills for work, for travel or for our friends abroad. I used the Busuu app for one week, to find out how it brings motivation through the 8 Core Drives.

Let’s find out whether I manage to fall in love with Busuu, shall we?

Busuu’s 4 Experiences Phases

In The Octalysis Group we like to divide a user experience 4 distinct Experience Phases: Discovery, Onboarding, Scaffolding, and Endgame. The objectives, motivation, and feelings a user has while using a product on day one is very different from their experience on day one hundred. I will analyze the Busuu experience through these Experience Phases.

Discovery Phase – Why would the user use my service to begin with?

The Discovery Phase of a player’s journey starts when the player first gets to know and learns about your product or service. In this phase the user will decide if s/he wants to even try out the app. I learned about the app via a friend who told me that I could use Busuu to improve my language skills. The first contact with the app for me is through my mobile as Busuu can be downloaded from the App Store.

In the app description I can see that 60 million international native speakers are using the app, that is a strong Social Proof (Core Drive 5: Social Influence and Relatedness)!

There is also a very catchy introduction: “Don’t just learn languages, fall in love with them!”. O.K.! I am starting to feel excited! And look, reviews by users are mostly positive, adding even more Social Proof. “Hey, other people similar to me love this app. Maybe I should love it too!”



After installing the app I get a welcoming page with a “Get started” button. Thanks to the uncluttered design, it is immediately clear what the Desired Action is. Let’s get started!

Before asking the user to sign up, we should try to generate a push for people to even want to do this. One way to introduce the app is through graphics slides showing the value proposition of your product, perhaps 3-4 images with 1-2 sentences each or a 1-minute video. Keep in mind these videos should not be on “how” to use the product, but “why” they should use the product. Another option is to let users already make some progress without signing up, and when they reach a Win-State – boom! – “Please sign up”.

OK, now I can choose the language I want to learn. There’s quite an abundance of languages to choose from. After choosing a language (I went with Polish), I am being asked to sign up.



The sign-in is not badly done, but you want this to be very intuitive. By limiting the number of log in options to only Facebook and E-mail, the app could provide cognitive ease for the user, resulting in more sign-ups.

Recommendation – Discovery Phase

  • In the beginning of the user’s journey, use more Social Proof to communicate and relate to the user, encouraging them to venture forth.
  • Let the user try out the product before sign-in
  • Consider giving a small reward after sign-in. It could even be as simple as a message saying, “Welcome onboard! You are the 7,000th user from Poland. And the 30 millionth person who wants to learn English!”

The Discovery Phase ends when your client starts to use your product. Once the user tries out your product or service, the Onboarding Phase has started.

Onboarding Phase – How do users learn the basic tools to play the game?

During the onboarding phase, the users become familiar with the rules of the game, the options, the mechanics, and the win-states. In the Busuu app I am starting with a screen with multiple options. I’m not sure what I should do next. That can lead to reducing Core Drive 2: Developmet and Accomplishment and as a result, increase Core Drive 8: Loss and Avoidance of Loss. Users like to feel smart and once they feel frustrated and incapable, Core Drive 8 turns it into an Anti Core Drive, making it more likely for them to drop out.

The yellow button “Get fluent faster” caught my eye. After clicking on it I can see the benefits of buying a premium version of the app but I didn’t even try out the app yet! Why would I want to upgrade the app before knowing what I have now? This feature should only appear after reaching a major win-state. At that time, I will have build up enough CD4: Ownership and Possession to value the experience enough to possibly want more of it. Mainly this will happen after the user has used the app for a while though.



I was slightly puzzled by what I have to do in this app. Should I take my first lesson? Update my profile? Never make the user feel confused about what to do next. The Onboarding Phase especially needs to make me feel smart and accomplished and shouldn’t leave me thinking twice what to do next.

In this Phase you can lead the user through all the first Desired Actions. This is best accomplished through an interactive step-by-step tutorial where you get the user to commit to the Desired Actions you designed, and rewarding them with small High-Fives (Octalysis Game Technique #17) once they accomplish it. This technique will help users to get to know the app better and to use it as much as possible. For example, I was a little lost, both on the first screen of the app, and during the first task “Lesson 1”. We know from the experience that if users spend more than 4 seconds on a screen and does not know what to do, you have lost them.

I also went to “My Profile”. I’ve tried to click on the Avatar to change my icon, but nothing happened. I assume that I can change it in the settings option. But it would be much easier for me if I can just click on this icon and set my profile picture. Having the profile picture or avatar is important because it increases Core Drive 4: Ownership & Possession.



As you can see, I have “0 Votes Cast” and “0 Upvotes”. Right now, I don’t even know what they are. It’s never good to show users that they have ZERO of something. Consider showing “Votes Cast” and “Upvotes”, only after the user will get the first “points” or have a message that triggers them to take action: “you can go to X and gain Votes!”. Again it is always better to be clear about the Desired Actions.

Recommendation – Onboarding Phase

  • During the learning phase of the app, it’s important that the user doesn’t feel lost or confused. Consider using the Step-By-Step Overlay Tutorials (Game Technique #6). A Step-By-Step Overlay Tutorial slowly guides the user where to go (using Glowing Choices, Game Technique #28).
  • The system needs to reward a user when a Desired Action is taken. For example, if it’s important to upload a photo, the system should make that really obvious and easy to do reward the user immediately afterwards.
  • Avoid blank pages and empty stats. Every time the user has an empty page or stats the system should inform him what to do to make a change. Otherwise the user feels unmotivated.

The onboarding phase ends when your users are fully equipped and they are ready to take on the journey on their own.

Scaffolding Phase – How to make the journey fun?

During the third phase of the experience, users are familiar with all the rules and options they learned during onboarding to try to achieve as many Win-States as possible. Ideally this is where they come back on a regular basis to commit to Desired Actions.

Let’s start the first lesson! I want to learn Polish. First lesson pages look really good. They are clear, and include small introductions of what I will experience in a minute.

The first task is to hear some new phrases. The full colours, smiling faces, friends all look very pleasing to the eye. Also I can press play to hear the phrase repetitively.



I took a small test after the first lesson, finally got my first win-state! The colour green is giving me a thrill, especially as it is accompanied by a cool win sound. This is Core Drive 2, Game Technique #17 (High Five) an emotional reward that is given after overcoming a small quick challenge. All good!

I answered the second question wrong and a red feedback UI appeared. The message is clear – red colour means wrong. But, I’m not getting any feedback on what the correct answer is, and I can’t correct my mistake… leaving me with an unpleasant feeling. The user should always feel motivated and empowered to be able to get it right soon.



UI Note: Remember that in previous pages Busuu presented a wrong answer to users with the colour red. Now “try again” is also red, which suggests that it’s a bad choice. This is slightly confusing.

Busuu has one more interesting option for the user. Writing is something that e-learning for language skills always has a problem with, but Busuu deals with that problem smoothly!

The idea is that you can write a short response for a question dedicated to the theme of the lesson. The system counts the words, and encourages the user to write more. After sending my text I got this message “Exercise sent to the community for correction, give back by correcting one yourself!”. It’s Core Drive 5: Social Influence and Relatedness and Game technique #63, Social Treasures: incentives that can only be received if other users give to you. It is also Core Drive 7: Unpredictability & Curiosity, because the user doesn’t know yet, what feedback will be received. Also it’s great Core Drive 5, when the user depends on other players. It’s a cool idea to share my work with others, and to be corrected by the community.


Recommendation – Scaffolding Phase

  • This is the moment when real action should take place. Also this is the moment when the first major win-state should happen. Try to give users something to be proud of! Show them feedback on their progress, accomplishment, and how much left is needed.
  • After the user reaches the major win-state, the system can give him more Desired Actions such as: Go get Premium Membership, Invite your friends. The First Major Win-State is when a User first says, “Wow! This service/experience is awesome!”
  • Busuu could consider making the platform even more social. Let the users see who else from their Facebook or Google+ friends are also on Busuu and ask them to invite their friends on the platform (game technique #54 Recruiter Burden).
  • I would also look for some statistics to increase Core Drive 2. It would be good if the user could see their weekly or monthly progress in the profile section.
  • Consider leaderboards – with friends, but also between countries.

The Scaffolding phase ends when your users believe they have gone through the activity loop for long period of time. They are now a veteran user ready for the end game.

The Endgame – How to keep the veterans motivated?

The Endgame starts when players believe that they have done everything there is to do at least once and they start to feel like there are no longer any unexplored Win-States.

In Busuu, a free trial allows access to almost all of their functions. However, after using the app for a couple of days I am limited to only 3 exercises a day. This is Core Drive 6: Scarcity and Impatience, Torture Break Game Technique: a sudden pause to the Desired Actions for a limited time. If I don’t opt for premium I will only have three free exercises a day! In this screen the graphics look little bit sloppy. They cover the text and it is hard to read what is underneath. So I was left with the choice: wait until tomorrow or get unlimited access.


Recommendation – Endgame Phase

  • What about gathering friends from all around the world and enable live chat? They could give each other feedback in real time! You can find a similar idea in the Tandem app. (
  • Think of rewarding users that are using the app daily.
  • Add more Core Drive 5, Social Influence & Relatedness. How about Mentorship, game technique #61? Veteran users could help a newbie with tasks.
  • Also the Rockstar Effect GT#92 (Core Drive 2), could make the users feel powerful at the Endgame Phase. Make people feel like they have “earned” their way to become a Rockstar.
  • Think about spicing up the application with more Core Drive 6, Core Drive 7 and Core Drive 8. A little bit of the Black Hat Core Drives can make users be more motivated. You can use game techniques: Evolved UI #37, Random Rewards (Mystery Box) #72, Easter Eggs (Sudden Rewards) #30, Evanescent Opportunities #86, FOMO Punch #84, The Sunk Cost Prison #50. But you need to keep in mind that in the long run Black Hat techniques can make users feel like they’ve lost control of their own behaviours. A good balance between Black Hat and White Hat is very important.

My Busuu experience was an exciting journey through all of the Experience Phases! Overall Busuu has a decent motivational push, but it needs to be improved in a couple of areas. It would be great if Busuu could show a good Step-by-Step Overall Tutorial, to prevent the user from feeling lost. What Busuu needs to do more is to make sure that the user feels powerful, accomplished, and smart. I want more win-states in the app! Also the platform could be more social and interactive between users.

All in all, I didn’t fall in love with Busuu, but let me say that this could be the start of a good friendship!

If you would like to know more about how we can help you achieve better engagement in your company or on your site or app, please contact us:


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The Happiness Science behind Octalysis

The Happiness Science behind Octalysis

Octalysis picture happiness science

We often get asked what the science is behind the Octalysis Framework and what exactly makes Octalysis so powerful. Our answer normally relates to human focused design, and how designing for the 8 Core Drives leads to more motivation of users and employees. And this is true: Octalysis Designed Products (apps, websites, policies etc) are much more effective and have impressive ROIs. Octalysis Employee Gamification leads to very significant increases in employee engagement, and retention. As importantly though, we want to create fun and happiness through our Gamification efforts.


Is creating happiness not a luxury problem? Is that important for my investors? Creating engagement, OK. Motivation, sure. But surely some things like paying your bills, checking your bank account or filing your expenses cannot make you happy? And why do they need to be made fun?

That makes sense right? Can some things just be left boring or serious? Yes, some things should be left serious and should not be made fun. Funerals are a case in point. However, the large majority of our activities should be: the way we buy things online; the way we learn; the way we cooperate; the way we discover… The list is endless.

So why happiness? Because having more fun and happy moments leads to more creativity and better results. It leads to happier customers for example as well. Happy customers are much more likely to return to your website or app and are much more likely to recommend your product to their friends. All of this on the basis of their happiness with the experience, even when their interest in the product they are buying was not that great at the start of the experience. Did you know that people judge the work of happy people in a more positive light, and therefore are more likely to try out their recommendations?

Employee happiness & Positive Emotions
With around 70% of the current workforce not engaged and around 20% actively disgruntled, most people now agree that something has to change on the work floor. But not that many people look at ways on how to create employee happiness by creating positive emotions.

This is sad, as supervisors evaluate happy individuals more positively, show superior performance and productivity, and handle managerial jobs better. They are also less likely to show counterproductive workplace behavior and job burnout. In several studies, the mean corrected correlation between having positive experiences and job satisfaction was .49 (1 being a 100% correlation, 0 being no correlation). Why is this?


The Power of Positivity
Positive emotions make people approach new situations rather than avoid them and make them analyze situations better. Because happy people experience frequent positive moods, they more actively work towards new goals while experiencing those moods. Second, happy people are more thorough as they have already built up an array of positive skills and resources over time. One short-term example of the effect in practice: physicians who received a small present before they were asked to analyze a medical problem, were much more creative in their solutions and obtained much better results.

Finally, work performance is more strongly related to happiness and well-being on the job than by whether your job “objectively” is more fun or not (Wright and Cropanzano (2000)). In turn, a positive organizational climate was correlated with productivity (r _ .31) and profitability (r _ .36; Foster, Hebl, West, & Dawson, 2004).


Octalysis brings it all together: scientifically

Scientists know that there are 5 things that bring about happiness if you experience them regularly. Octalysis was developed in close relation to these findings:

1. Positive emotion: feelings of pleasure, glee, satisfaction, amazement.
Positive emotions are correlated with Core Drive 3 (Empowerment of Creativity and Feedback) when you feel satisfied that your way of solving challenge was the right one, which leads to Core Drive 2 (Progress and Development). Similarly Core Drive 7 (Curiosity and Unpredictability) leads to dopamine spikes when we get something unexpected like winning a lottery.

2. Engagement: Flow, or being fully immersed in what we’re doing.
In our Octalysis Designs we install a learning curve and a path to achieve mastery during the experience and use our Core Drives as a tool to keep users in “flow” (this is still where Mihály Csíkszentmihályi’s flow theory comes in)
3. Accomplishment: Mastery and success.
Core Drive 2 (Progress and Development) give you proof of progressing by achieving XP, badges, level ups etc and this often leads to Core Drive 4 (Ownership and Possession) when users build up their Trophy Hall, Armouries and other Collection Set holders.

4. Relationships
Regular and supportive social interaction and influence is a hallmark of the Octalysis Framework (Core Drive 5: Social Influence and Relatedness). In our designs we make sure that relationships in and outside of the experience are strengthened and expanded. Great for happiness, great for engagement, great for motivation, great for sales!

5. Meaning
Belonging to and serving something bigger than the self. Most likely the most quoted Core Drive, Octalysis Core Drive 1 (Epic Meaning and Calling). The link between happiness and meaning in scientific literature is quite strong. Short to medium term happiness can exist without meaning but having a meaningful life often leads to happier people (although you can argue that the human rights worker who is thrown in jail in North Korea may experience some very unhappy moments of course).


welcome-to-happinessOctalysis: the path to happiness and success
We discussed Core Drive 1, 2, 3, 4, 5 and how they are related to science in happiness (whilst Core Drive 7 is related through happiness by creating positive emotions).
Core Drives 6 (Scarcity and Impatience) and Core Drive 8 (Loss & Avoidance) are less directly related to happiness. Also Core Drive 7 can lead to unhappy outcomes if applied in extremes, like addictive gambling. These Black Hat Octalysis Drives often do not give you a happy feeling. However, we use them to help start people up, and keep them locked in, in their path to fun-fuelled engagement. So paradoxically, even if we use negative motivators, the users of our designs always end up happier!

And happiness leads to? Yes, better productivity, more sales, more referrals, more creativity, more ideas, more cooperation, and more engagement. We at The Octalysis Group think it leads to a new and better world, where in a decade or so the difference fun and work will have disappeared. Experiencing happiness will be the norm, not the exception!


Let us help you create happiness success with Octalysis:

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