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Level Up! How Exponential Organizations Are Winning Big with Gamification

"Gamification is the craft of deriving all the fun and engaging elements found in games and applying them to real-world or productive activities." - Yu-kai Chou, author of Actionable Gamification - Beyond Points, Badges and Leaderboards.

Veronika Kurucz Emanuela Logozzo

Gamification is the second fast-evolving ExO attribute and it is on the rise as a powerful driver in today's technology-driven market.

But what exactly is gamification? Simply put, it's the art of applying gaming elements in non-gaming settings—think websites, online communities, or even everyday business processes. By weaving in challenges, rewards, and competition, such as points, badges, and leaderboards, gamification boosts engagement, motivation, and loyalty. Gamification can be the binding glue between a company’s Massive Transformative Purpose and its Community (another fundamental ExO attribute).

It's time to debunk the myth that gaming is just for the youth. While it's true that the average young person racks up over 10,000 gaming hours by the age of 21 according to a study of users of the US in 2021, gaming is a universal phenomenon. In fact, the report revealed that a staggering 2.8 billion people worldwide are gamers. (1)

The gamification trend has been turbocharged by Web3 technologies. With the advent of blockchain, smart contracts, and NFTs, the scope of gamification has expanded. These technologies have ushered in a new era where users can truly own their digital assets, earn through gameplay, and engage in decentralized communities. This not only adds layers of transparency and security but also democratizes the gaming experience, allowing players to have a real stake in the digital worlds they help shape. Through this, gamification has evolved from simple point collection to creating rich, economically interconnected virtual ecosystems.

The Octalysis Framework and Epic Meaning

“Gamification is the craft of deriving all the fun and engaging elements found in games and applying them to real-world or productive activities.” - Yu-kai Chou, author of Actionable Gamification - Beyond Points, Badges and Leaderboards

In "Actionable Gamification: Beyond Points, Badges, and Leaderboards," Yu-kai Chou discusses the difference between human-focused game design and product- or function-driven design as two distinct approaches to creating engaging experiences.

In his Octalysis Framework, a human-focused engagement and gamification design framework, Chou explores eight core drives that motivate human behavior represented by an octagon shape, including Epic Meaning and Calling, Development and Accomplishment, Empowerment of Creativity and Feedback, Ownership and Possession, Social Influence and Relatedness, Scarcity and Impatience, Unpredictability and Curiosity, and Loss and Avoidance.

Epic Meaning is the MTP of Gamification

Chou describes Epic Meaning as it is the core drive of a human-centric game design:

“This core drive is activated when your system inspires people and gets them excited about being part of a bigger purpose or plan.” (2)

The human-focused game design prioritizes the human experience and emotional engagement. By tapping into these intrinsic motivations, such as the desire for purpose, and making an impact, human-focused game design creates more meaningful and engaging experiences. In this way, gamification can be a powerful tool for reinforcing epic meaning within ExOs by connecting gamification elements with the organization’s larger purpose and mission.

Two running applications can illustrate the difference between function-driven and human-focused design. The first is Adidas’ application, Runtastic: users can track their progress, register goals, engage with the community, and earn their badges. Runtastic Compared to this Zombies Run! is also a running and fitness app, but Zombies Run! transforms the running activity into a mission where the user must escape the zombies and collect supplies to achieve the game goal. (3)

Other successful corporate cases


Duolingo harnesses the power of gamification to make language learning engaging and serves as a prime example of the Octalysis Framework by Yu-kai Chou. Duolingo focuses on human motivation, offering rewards, progression, and social interaction to encourage regular use. Users receive constant encouragement through notifications and celebrate achievements with vibrant animations and rewards, including real product incentives. Duolingo's interactive platform caters to diverse user types by fulfilling their needs for accomplishment, exploration, social interaction, and competition. This gamified learning environment not only makes education fun but also effectively integrates various motivational elements to keep users engaged and committed to their language learning journey.

L’Occitante en Provance

Embracing a Tamagotchi-inspired approach, L’Occitante en Provance created a video game that invited participants to nurture seeds with sunlight, water, and care. The concept was based on engaging through a gaming experience that educates and inspires, connecting gamers directly to the cycle of growth and sustainability that L’Occitane holds dear. As players watched their plants flourishing, they got rewarded not just with virtual achievements, but with tangible gifts, including real seeds and products related to their fully-grown plants.

Trailhead of Salesforce

Salesforce revolutionized learning by launching Trailhead, a gamified learning platform that makes education interactive and engaging. By incorporating game mechanics, Trailhead motivates users to learn Salesforce technologies and best practices through earning badges and points. This approach caters to diverse learning styles, making complex subjects more accessible and enjoyable. Trailhead's community-driven aspect fosters collaboration and networking, enhancing the learning experience and professional growth.

Gamification’s way in exponential organizations

From these examples, we can see how game mechanics for engagement leverage principles from motivational psychology, behavioral economics, and neurobiology. Of course, this is on top of a well-designed technology platform with impeccable UX/UI to create an immersive and seamless experience.

By tapping into intrinsic human desires for competition, achievement, and recognition, gamification can effectively drive behavior change and inspire employees and stakeholders to reach new levels of excellence.

Furthermore, gamification can foster a culture of continuous improvement and innovation within organizations. By providing real-time feedback and rewards for desired behaviors, businesses can encourage employees to actively seek out opportunities for growth and development. Whether it's mastering new skills, solving complex problems, or collaborating with colleagues, gamification can incentivize employees to push their boundaries and strive for excellence.

However, successful implementation of gamification in corporate business requires careful planning and execution. It's essential for businesses to clearly define their objectives, target audience, and desired outcomes before designing gamified experiences. Additionally, organizations must ensure that game mechanics are aligned with company values and culture to avoid potential backlash or disengagement from employees.

In conclusion, gamification holds tremendous potential to revolutionize corporate business engagement and drive meaningful results. By harnessing the power of game mechanics and dynamics, businesses can create a more dynamic, interactive, and rewarding work environment that inspires employees to excel and achieve their full potential. As we continue to embrace digital transformation and innovation, gamification will undoubtedly play a central role in shaping the future of corporate business.

Source and citations:

(1) cited in Ismail, Salim, Peter H. Diamandis, and Michael S. Malone. 2023. Exponential Organizations 2.0: The New Playbook for 10x Growth and Impact. Foreword by Ray Kurzweil. Kindle edition. p.192.



GamificationEngagementExponential OrganizationsUser Experience (UX)Behavioral EconomicsDigital TransformationWeb 3Yu-Kai ChouOctalysis

Veronika Kurucz

An HR pro dedicated to unleashing human potential. My MTP: "Become the leader you wished for."

Emanuela Logozzo

Emanuela is a Business Analyst, her MTP is "Manage Innovation for a Future of Abundance". Her goal is to spread the use of the Exponential Organization Model in Italian private and public companies.