Gamify the Experience: Yu-kai Chou

Gamify the Experience: Yu-kai Chou


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About Yu-kai Chou

Yu-kai Chou is an Author and International Keynote Speaker on Gamification and Behavioral Design. He is the Original Creator of the Octalysis Framework, and the author of Actionable Gamification: Beyond Points, Badges, and Leaderboards. He is currently President of The Octalysis Group and the Founder of Octalysis Prime. Yu-kai has been a regular speaker/lecturer on gamification and motivation worldwide, including at organizations like Google, Tesla, Stanford University, LEGO, Sberbank, TEDx, Boston Consulting Group, Gamified India, Huawei, the Innovation Center in Denmark, Kingdom of Bahrain government, and many more. His work has affected over 1 Billion users’ experiences across the world.

Yu-kai was one of the earliest pioneers in Gamification, starting his work in the industry in 2003. In 2015, Yu-kai was rated #1 among the “Gamification Gurus Power 100” by RISE, and was also awarded the “Gamification Guru of the Year” Award in 2014, 2015 and 2017 by the World Gamification Congress and the Gamification Europe Conference. He has helped a variety of companies, from seed stage startups to Fortune 500 companies such as LEGO, Sberbank, Volkswagen/Porsche, Accenture, eBay, Huawei, Fidelity, AIG Japan, Verizon, Ericsson, Cisco and more. His work has been featured in Forbes, The Wall Street Journal, Business Insider, The World Journal, PBS, NBC, and many more.

Learn more about Yu-Kai at:
Buy Yu-Kai’s Book- “Actionable Gamification

Follow Yu-kai Chou on LinkedIn
Follow Yu-kai Chou on Twitter@yukaichou

Follow Worthix on LinkedIn
Follow Worthix on Twitter: @worthix

Follow Mary Drumond on LinkedIn
Follow Mary Drumond on Twitter@drumondmary


What is Gamification?

Yu-kai Chou defines gamification as “combining all of the fun and exciting elements of games into things that are important and productive but possibly mundane and boring.” Some examples of these productive, yet boring things are doing taxes, studying for a class, and going to work. Chou mentioned that we do these things so that we can focus on the other side – the things we actually enjoy doing.

A lot of Chou’s work is saying that there does not have to be a barrier between the two and that if you make anything important enjoyable, then your life will be better and you won’t always find yourself longing for something on the “other side.” Human-Focused Design vs. Function-Focused DesignChou also mentioned that gamification is really about human-focused design instead of function-focused design, so instead of assuming people take desired behavior and optimize it for efficiency and usability, we optimize on motivation and excitement.

He added that the sole purpose of games is to engage the mind, and the moment a game is not “fun” to you anymore, you stop playing it and do something else.Yu-Kai Chou’s Octalysis Framework Chou’s Octalysis Framework is called Octalysis because it is an analysis based on an octagon shape. The octagon has 8 core drives of motivation. Chou emphasized that everything single thing we do is driven by one of these 8 core drives. If none of the 8 core drives are present, then there is no motivation and therefore no behavior happens.Chou added that the 8 core drives have different natures – long term vs. short term and intrinsic vs. extrinsic.

He talked about the difference between white hat core drives and black hat core drives. White hat core drives make people feel powerful and in control, but there is no sense of urgency so people tend to procrastinate. He said that because of this, these are usually good for things like loyalty programs and employee motivation. Black hat core drives make people feel urgent, obsessed, or addicted, which sometimes in the long run upsets them because they feel as if they are not in control of their own behavior. Therefore, Chou stated that these are usually better for a one time transaction or things like donations, short bursts of activity, etc.

The 8 core drives can also be either be left brain or right brain focused. According to Chou, the left brain represents the logical brain, while the right brain represents the emotional brain. The left brain core drives deal with extrinsic motivation – the things we do for a reward, purpose or goal even if we don’t enjoy the activity itself. Usually once we obtain the reward, we stop doing the activity.The right brain core drives deal with intrinsic motivation – the things we do just because we enjoy doing it so much. He added that his work is not just evaluating what motivation there is but understanding the nature of that motivation. He went on to discuss the idea of system 1 and system 2 behaviors and how they relate to marketing and concluded by explaining whether marketers should focus on appealing to the conscious or subconscious brain.

Applying Gamification in Customer Experience

According to Chou, there are two use cases of gamification when it comes to customer service. The first is gamification used to motivate your customer service staff to provide better service and show more empathy opposed to just sticking to a script. Companies can use extrinsic motivation and turn it into a game by doing something like “who can get the best survey results?” or “who can get the most calls per day?”. However, Chou added that this isn’t always the best idea because it can lead to employees not providing the best customer service.

Another way gamification is used in customer service is to gamify customers’ behaviors. For example, you may want them to reach out via the customer service chat line or call in to the customer service center more, and you can make this a game.Leveraging the Power of Social Media and Social InfluenceChou explained that the biggest misconception in terms of a social strategy is that social influence is about blasting messages and customers sharing things with their friends.

According to Chou, this goes back to function-focused design vs. human-focused design. You can have all the features, but if it is not human-focused, it does not matter. Chou then added that the best strategy is to make people feel like they are appreciated more. He said that it’s about if when people use your product or service, they feel more special, important, connected, and socially appreciated. They don’t remember the details. They just remember your product/service making them happy, and if they feel that, they naturally want to share their experience.

Customer Experience Surveys

Within the customer experience industry, there is a huge pain point, which is surveys because everyone hates surveys and hates spending time answering questions. Yu-kai Chou discussed how we can apply gamification to surveys to make it more interesting and make people feel more involved.


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Mary Drumond

Mary Drumond

Mary Drumond is Chief Marketing Officer at Worthix, the world's first cognitive dialogue technology, and host of the Voices of Customer Experience Podcast. Originally a passion project, the podcast runs weekly and features some of the most influential CX thought-leaders, practitioners and academia on challenges, development and the evolution of CX.



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