The Strategy Dashboard for Gamification Design



From the Chairman of The Octalysis Group, and leading Gamification Guru Yu-kai Chou, comes a great post on how we work with clients to design their Gamification projects. His book “Actionable Gamification: Beyond Points, Badges, and Leaderboards” (with more amazing insights into best practice Gamification), will be published soon…


The Strategy Dashboard: Your Gamification Campaign Command Center

In my Octalysis Gamification process, no matter what industry you are working in, there are the 5 things, which you need to define before you start gamifying something.

Up to this point I have explained a framework that allows you to analyze how engaging an experience is through the 8 Core Drives.

That by itself is very powerful and can engender plenty of creative ideas that focus on important motivation and engagement variables for any product or service.

However some people still ask me, “But Yu-Kai, how do I actually start to design a Gamified campaign with the 8 Core Drives? I can now create an experience that’s interesting and engaging but I’m not sure how to get that to drive business success from the better experiences.”

That’s mostly because they are missing a critical piece in the design project, which I like to call the Strategy Dashboard.

The Strategy Dashboard is something I get every single client of mine to define at the beginning of every engagement.

It’s a constantly evolving document that clarifies exactly what the business metrics are, what the game objective is, who the players are, what the win-states are, what the feedback mechanics are, and also what incentives can reward users.

Your Strategy Dashboard is not meant to be like a business plan, where you spend months creating and then put on a shelf to collect dust.

It’s something that takes the bare minimum amount of information to execute an actionable campaign for Gamification.

Often times it takes less than one or two hours to define the Strategy Dashboard, but it could also take months to finalize as you evolve your product or service.

Within the Strategy Dashboard, there are five things to define:

  1. Business Metrics, leading to Game Objective
  2. Users, leading to Players
  3. Desired actions, leading to Win-States
  4. User metrics, leading to Feedback Mechanics
  5. Incentives, leading to Rewards

Let me explain each of them.

Metrics 2901. Business metrics

Business Metrics are the numbers and results that the business wants to improve on. These are high-level items that company may show their executives or investors in order to show success of the campaign.

Some Business Metrics include revenue, daily active users over monthly active users, time on site, retained users, registrations etc. Again, this is the stuff that indicates success for your business. If these numbers are growing, your business is in good shape.

When defining Business Metrics, they need to be laid out in the order of importance as well as being quantifiable.

If you can’t Measure it, you can’t Manage it

Sometimes I have clients who come to me and ask, “Hey, Yu-Kai! We want to do gamification. Which platform should we use?”

And my answer is always, “Well, it depends on what problem you want to solve! The problem you have is clearly not that you don’t have Gamification. If that’s your problem, then it doesn’t matter what platform you use – you will have gamification and you will have solved your problem!”

Business metrics cannot be fluffy statements such as, “We want to make people feel great!” It has to be measurable and quantifiable. You need to be able to track success, benchmark against other campaigns, and even AB Test it.

Boiling the Ocean gets you no Tea

Business Metrics also needs to be laid out in the order of importance to your business.

Most businesses want all their metrics to grow exponentially, they want revenue, they want new users signing up, they want time on site – everything.

However, at this stage it is crucially important to have discipline and really figure out what is your top Business Metric, your second important Business Metric, etc. Because when it comes to designing for motivation, often times at each interface, you can only optimize for one Business Metric and you have to refer back to this document and see which one is the most important to focus on.

An example of this is a log-in Interface on the front page of your website. Is your top Business Metric to increase new user signups, or to maximize daily returns? If you have decided the former is a higher business metric, you may design the interface to show a text boxes that allow user registration with a “Sign-up” and “Sign-up through Facebook” next to it, along with a small link that says, “Already a user? Login here.”

If your top Business Metric is to maximize daily returns, then the interface may be the opposite, with a small link that says, “Not a user yet? Sign-up here!” This may not be the best solution to maximize daily returns either way, but you get a feel of the principle of how an interface can often just optimize for one Desired Action.

Obviously the other business metrics will be increased too through this same well-designed interface, but we want to identify what is the Main Desired Action for the user all the time so users always have a clear sense of where the Win-State is at. If you try to get users to do everything on one screen, users will face decision paralysis and go back to their comfort zone: their emails, Youtube, and Facebook.

After implementing your gamified campaign, if your Business Metrics have not improved, then you have failed the Game Objective.

2. Userspersonas type

Users is the second element to define within the Strategy Dashboard.

Defining users could be quick, broad strokes of user types, such as male and female, engineers and marketers, or even subject-enthusiasts and subject-nonchalances.

Or they could be more detailed and in-depth, breaking down studies like Richard Bartle’s Four Player Types (Achievers, Explorers, Socializers, Killers) Andrjez Marczewski’s Six Players Types (Disruptors, Socializers, Achievers, Free Spirits, Players, Philanthropists), or Myers-Briggs BMTI personality types.

Mario Herger’s Enterprise Gamification methodology focuses on identifying target user personas, which is a practice often applied in marketing.

Whatever model you use, make sure that when you define your users, it should be based on differences in how they are motivated. You don’t want groups that seem different, but are motivated in a similar fashion.

For instance, employees are likely motivated more based on their positions in the company, rather than by gender. As a result, it may be more productive to divide the users into “Managers” and “Workers” rather than “Males” and “Females”.

Creating Octalysis Charts for your User Personas

Once you have identified your users, you can start to apply custom Octalysis Charts for all these players using the Octalysis Tool.

By thinking about which of the 8 Core Drives motivate these user types more, you may be able to implement game elements that appeal to those Core Drive more.

Keep in mind that it is still possible to appeal to the Core Drives that are not utilized often, since all the Core Drives motivate people to different extent. However it is often easier to motivate people with drives that they’re already occupied with. Unless they are longing for something else in their lives.

This is where context really matters.

For instance, an accountant wants to feel smart and organized and usually does not like the sense of Unpredictability and Curiosity (Core Drive #7) as much as an artist does.

Personal Assistants are motivated similarly but perhaps a bit more influenced by Social Influence and Relatedness (Core Drive #5) – both towards the person they are assisting as well as people they are interacting with on a daily basis.

Of course sometimes you can motivate these people with Epic Meaning & Calling (Core Drive #1) by introducing something that allows them to break out of the monotonous lives they live, but sometimes it requires more work to bring that out compared to just tapping into how they’re already motivated.

Identifying the Anti-Core Drives

On top of the Octalysis Graph for each user, it may also be advantageous to create an Anti-Core Drive Chart for all the user types.

The Anti-Core Drive’s are basically why users do not want to commit the actions you want them to do towards your goals. Since every single action you take is based on one or more of these 8 Core Drives, it also means that when you don’t do something you’re likely not doing it because of one of the 8 Core Drives too.

Often times people do not commit the Desired Actions because of Status Quo Sloth (Game Technique #85) – they simply don’t want to change their actions. When Status Quo Sloth is designed in your own campaign, it is an Endgame technique that prevents people from leaving your system. When it is part of an Anti-Core Drive, it prevents people from joining your system.

When you identify that a person’s Anti-Core Drive is Loss & Avoidance, your system can attempt to turn it around by conveying that they would be losing more if they did not take action immediately (Note: this is clearly Black Hat Gamification and should not be used without understanding the implications).

Similarly, if someone’s Anti-Core Drive is Epic Meaning & Calling (Core Drive 1), it may not be useful to use other Core Drives to motivate them.

If you are trying to encourage a person to drink at a company gathering, and he says, “No, I can’t drink alcohol because I just became a Christian.” It often doesn’t matter if you appeal to the other Core Drives by saying, “Come on! All your friends are drinking!” (Social Influence & Relatedness) or “You’ve earned it through high performance!” (Development & Accomplishment) because the reason why he refuses is for something bigger than his own personal gains, social status, or enjoyment.

Rather, it may be more fruitful to address the Anti-Core Drive: Epic Meaning & Calling by saying, “Well, wasn’t Jesus’ first miracle turning water into wine? And didn’t he give his disciples wine in the last supper and said it symbolized his blood? As far as I know, Christians can drink…just not get drunk.”

Once you have addressed the Anti-Core Drive, then you can add other Core Drives like Social Influence & Relatedness: “See, our other colleague over there has been a faithful Christian who fasts and tithes regularly for twenty years, but he drinks a bit of wine at company events too. Why don’t you just take this wine glass, and we won’t ask you to drink more beyond that?” (Note: if you are interested in diving into the Moral and Ethics of Gamification, especially if it pertains to being a “mild form of manipulation,” it will be covered in Chapter 15 on White Hat vs Black Hat Gamification).

Another example is seen in the Disney Movie “Saving Mr. Banks” (Spoiler Alert). In the movie, Walt Disney, played by Tom Hanks, was only able to convince Mrs. Trevor, played by Emma Thompson, to assign the rights of her popular novel Mary Poppins when he found out the real issue of her resistance, which was her history with her father and the inability to forgive herself (Core Drive #4: Ownership & Possession).

Walt Disney then persuades her, after twenty years of rejections, by addressing that in his movie, Mr. Banks, who symbolizes Mrs. Trevors father, will be redeemed in a happy ending. Note that another motivator for her to finally setup the meeting after twenty years was also Core Drive #8: Loss & Avoidance, as she is finally running out of money, and would like to keep her house.

By understanding why the user does not take the desired actions, one can truthfully address that topic and attempt to engage in a constructive engagement, instead of focusing on topics that the user doesn’t even care about in the first place.

Once the Users are defined, you now have the Players for the gamified system.

buy now two

3. Desired action

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

Desired Actions are all the little steps you want users to take, such as: go onto the website, fill out the form, register, come back every day, click on the ad, sign up for the newsletter, etc.

These are different than your Business Metrics because “Clicking the Okay Button” is hardly a success metric that you would report to your investors. But to this users, it is a commitment they can choose to or choose not to do.

Whereas the Business Metrics are laid out in the order of importance, you want to lay out all the Desired Actions in chronological order based on the player’s journey. This is important because oftentimes what happens directly before a Desired Action will significantly affect the decision towards it.

No Step Too Small

One thing to remember for Desired Actions, is that generally no action is too small to be included.

Sometimes my client would ask me, “Yu-kai, would this step be too small to be included as a Desired Action? it’s just clicking a button!”

However, if you dismiss that button-click as too small and you do not design for motivation towards it, that could very well be the place where there is no motivation at all to move forward, and as a result the user drops out and goes to check her email or watch YouTube.

In Octalysis Gamification, each Desired Action leads to a Win-State.

This means that every time that user committed the Desired Action they have gotten into a Win-State, where they they may receive some type of reward – physically, emotionally, or intellectually.

The Golden Triforce

Whenever you are designing any gamified campaign, the Win-State in the user’s mind should always be accomplished by committing the Desired Action, which leads to increase of the Business Metrics. These three elements should always be aligned.

Now, this is all very intuitive, but you would be surprised how many companies do not have these things streamlined together.

When a client asks me, “Hey Yu-Kai, why don’t we add this really cool feature! Users will love it!” I often respond, “How does this motivate users to commit the Desired Actions? And if not, how does this help your Business Metrics?”

Interestingly, more often than not, the client would say, “Hm…, I guess not. It’s just a really fun idea.”

Consequently, I regularly get approached by companies telling me, “Yu-kai, we’re from company X. We really believe in the power of gamification, and have tried a few different campaigns. Our users love it and everyone engages with our campaign on our social media platforms, but we seem to have a hard time getting them to do the next step, which is actually signing up on our website. Do you know what we are doing wrong?”

More often than not, they do not have the Golden Triforce aligned.

And this, again, is actually the core difference between Games and Gamification.

Games are simply fun and engaging, but gamification has to improve Business Metrics, and it has to drive behavior towards a certain productive activity.

And if not, this gamification campaign is useless and fluffy.

The First Major Win-State

One of the key practices regarding Win-States is to identify the First Major Win-State.

The First Major Win-State is when a User first says, “Wow! This service/experience is awesome!”

Interestingly, many businesses scratch their heads and think of whether they even have Major Win-States. If your experience does not offer any Major Win-States where users says, “Wow!”, your experience is not emotionally compelling.

After identifying a Major Win-States in general, you then want to figure out what is the First Major Win-State.

Once that is determined, you want to count exactly how many minutes it takes for users to reach that First Major Win-State. This is essential, because every second before a user hits the First Major Win-State, you are seeing dropout.

Many product managers or Startup Founders are very biased on where the First Major Win-State is at. They have a tendency to think that everything a user goes through is awesome, which more often than not does not reflect the viewpoints of the user.

Creating a profile is not a First Major Win-Estate. Uploading a photo is not either.

If it was 20 years ago, uploading your photo might be a First Major Win-State. “Wow! I can see my photo on a screen!” Not in today’s world, soul-crushingly.

For a music discovery site like Pandora, the First Major Win-State is not where you enter the music that you like, the part where you hear your first song played, since you can hear songs from all types of platforms.

The First Major Win-State is when Pandora has played 4 to 5 songs, and every single song is something you like. Perhaps one of them is even something that you never heard of before but you also enjoy immensely.

That’s when you say, “Wow! Pandora is awesome!”, and that’s when you actually have a reason to come back more often.

Designing our Win-States is one of the most foundational elements to pay attention to when you design a gamification campaign, especially when you reach the realms of Level 4 Octalysis.

images4. User Metrics

User metrics are the fourth element to define in any Octalysis Gamification Campaign.

Unlike Business Metrics, User Metrics are things that users use to keep track of their progress towards the Win-State.

These become what is known as Feedback Mechanics within the gamified system. These are things like the popular points, badges, levels, trophies, progress bars and even avatars.

Of course, people may asks, “Well, I don’t have a gamified campaign yet! How would I know what User Metrics or Feedback Mechanics will we have yet?”

This is why the Strategy Dashboard is a constantly evolving document. Business Metrics often times adjust, User information becomes more in-depth, Desired Actions increase, and User Metrics get introduced.

At the initial stage, a business can identify if there are ANY Feedback Mechanics that can help them understand the results of their actions. These could be a grade, a year-end report, a handshake, a welcome email, a search result, a thank-you page.

If you don’t have any Feedback Mechanics at all in your motivational system, things are quite dire indeed, and I’m glad you are reading this book.

Metrics of Love

One very important thing to keep in mind is that the User Metrics should align as much as possible towards the Desired Actions and the Business Metrics.

They should also be what users actually care about. You don’t want to include “How much total money you were penalized by returning your DVD to the rental store late in the past 5 years” as a long-term engagement User Metric, since Loss & Avoidance should not be used for letting users feel good in the long run.

Rather, it is better to display top movies that the users ordered by genre, reviews of those, and better recommendations for future movies to rent. Can you think of a service that implicitly deployed the former model, and a service that explicitly deployed the latter one?

Also, if your user does not care about how much money they paid your company, don’t include that in as a User Metric. Rather, show them the fruits of their labor within your system, which is actually something they likely care about more.

Examples of Feedback Mechanics within the 8 Core Drives

Different Feedback Mechanics can also contribute to different Core Drives within Octalysis.

For Epic Meaning & Calling, a Feedback Mechanic could be showing them visually all the people that are being helped out. This is why when you donate money to developing countries and help out disadvantaged children there, many send you pictures of the child being helped, and even a handwritten note thanking you.

For Development & Accomplishment, a Feedback Mechanic would be your usual suspects, points, badges, trophies and such. However, make sure they actually track actions that are meaningful, instead of useless things that the user does not care about.

For Empowerment of Creativity & Feedback, a Feedback Mechanic would be, well, the feedback of the creativity. These are generally the output of Meaningful Choices, which will allow the user to make adjustments and see feedback.

For Ownership & Possession, the Feedback Mechanics would be the representation of what is owned, in the form of virtual sheep, stock symbols, dollar signs, stamps or profile pages. This allows the user to see collection sets get completed and feel a sense of satisfaction through ownership.

For Social Influence & Relatedness, the Feedback Mechanics may be showing how many likes endorses, or page views one has, or seeing statistics on what the group she relates to does on average.

For Scarcity & Impatience, a Countdown Timer, a lock, a gatekeeper, or moat may all show users a sense of scarcity, whether it’s in the sense of time, exclusivity, or labor.

For Unpredictability & Curiosity, showing a Dice, a Spinning Wheel, or a question mark are all Feedback Mechanics that display the unpredictable nature and bring out the curiosity of the user.

For Loss & Avoidance, the Feedback Mechanics may be Lost Progress, a sad tune, or a physical penalty.

Again, no matter what the Feedback Mechanics are, they should motivate users and be relevant to the flow of the experience.

reward just ahead5. Incentives

Incentives are the fifth and final element of your strategy dashboard to define at the beginning of a gamified campaign.

Incentives are basically, “within your power, if you could give users everything they wanted, what would it look like?”

In this case, the term “within your power” is very important to think about because every company has limitations. Even the largest Fortune 500 firms may tell me that, “We could easily give users cash, but we cannot put their names on our website.”

Or, they may say, “Well, we could put their names on our front page, but we can never put their names on the About Us page because that’s another department and we don’t want to step on their toes.”

After you have determined the above, you obviously don’t want to give users everything they wanted all at the beginning. You want to strategically place them in the different Win-States that you have designed in your game journey to motivate players to push forward.

These Incentives become Rewards in a game.

As mentioned before, rewards can be physical, emotional, intellectual, or even spiritual.

They don’t have to be merely physical rewards such as gift cards or cash where most companies like to think about.

A Marriage is for SAPS

A catchy and easy model to think about in terms of rewards is Gabe Zichermann SAPS model: Status, Access, Power, Stuff.

The interesting thing about SAPS, is that as you go from Status to Access to Power to Stuff, the reward becomes more and more expensive for the company, but less and less sticky for the user.

It doesn’t cost anything for me to tell you that you are amazing and you’re the #1 User on my site, and you will likely be excited about it for weeks or months and tell all your friends about your new status.

But if I gave you cash, you likely will become excited for a few hours or a day, and then you may spend the money at a mall and then forget about it emotionally. Now your emotional state is wondering about when will be your next injection of cash.

Again, most companies like to figure out how to give their employees stuff to incentivize them, but it’s actually a lot more effective if you could think about how you can give them more status, or access to a sponsor celebrity for instance, or power to moderate other users comments, or unlock more powerful capabilities.

6 Reward Context Derived from Octalysis

While SAPS describes the nature reward, there’s also a variety of Reward Context that can be derived out of the 8 Core Drives of Octalysis.

With Octalysis, I’ve loosely defined six reward context that can be utilized, including

  1. Fix Action Rewards (Earned Lunch)
  2. Random Rewards (Mystery Box)
  3. Sudden Rewards (Easter Egg)
  4. Rolling Rewards (Lottery)
  5. Social Treasure (Gifting)
  6. Reward Pacing (Collection Set)

I will explain more in detail what these Reward Context are and how to utilize them best in later chapters.

At the end of the day these reward context are all derived from Octalysis, because we are all incentivized by these Core Drives. Even if it’s not anything you gain, avoiding a loss or satisfying your curiosity are also very concrete rewards and can be strategically placed in every single one of these Win-States. If not, then there’s no reason to commit the Design Actions moving forward.

Your Own Practice

At this point, it would be relevant to think about a problem you want to solve, and try to create a Strategy Dashboard for it.

Try to figure out the metrics you want to increase, who the participating players are, the Desired Actions and Win-States, how the Feedback Mechanics should be presented, and how the Rewards incentive the users.

I would strongly suggest you write it down somewhere, or even put it in a slide deck that can be shared online for those in the Octalysis Community to comment on and provide feedback for.

Once you have flushed out the Strategy Dashboard, you can begin to apply Level 1 Octalysis or higher to your campaign by utilizing the 8 Core Drives.

So far we have laid out a wide net to study through many terms, concepts, core drives, rewards, and strategy dashboards. Don’t feel intimidated. For the next few chapters, we begin to dive deeper into all the things we already talked about, which will allow you to have an even better grasp of the 8 Core Drives.

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