Sunday, March 9, 2014

The Mentor Program Viewed Through Octalysis

As it exists today, I am the founder and Product Owner of our company's Mentor Program. The mission of the Mentor Program is to empower people to share knowledge essential to the company such as technology knowledge.

The program has an internal web app which displays the names of people who have participated by either sharing or receiving knowledge. Without getting into the details about how to earn levels, those who have participated heavily receive a digital and an in-real-life badge reflecting how they participated and when.

A Sample of the Dashboard Screen
A player can see the web app either through a browser or in the software developer lab on a large monitor screen in the corner.

Meaning, Accomplishment and Loss

On the monitor, we showed the same thing that the browser version showed for about two weeks. It couldn't show everything which was a problem. So, we had two key changes made to the monitor version of the web app:
  1. Sort names by most recent activity 
  2. Show only those who have contributed to the current quarter, our Current Mentor Heroes

Sorting the names by the most recent activity, is a newsfeed inspired approach. It helps deal with the issue of having too many names to show on the monitor. It also highlights the accomplishment and meaningful contribution just made by the players for their recent participation.

Showing only active participants as Current Mentor Heroes got interesting results. Doing this introduces into the program a feeling of loss. Can you imagine what happened when the new fiscal quarter came in March and everyone saw a blank page that said nothing more than "Current Mentor Heroes"?

One of the key developers in the program asked me if I wanted to revert it back to showing the normal dashboard. I responded with a "nope" and a smile. Sure, it bothered me to see nothing up there. It bothered everyone and that's the point! We were all used to seeing those colorful accomplishments and names. We were now feeling loss which was instilling a sense of urgency to get something up there.

In less than a week, I had a helpful person email me saying they wanted to help us out. They let me know about some recordable participation. That person understood the program vision and wanted to contribute to our cause in a meaningful way. Other people followed up in that same week and we had over 13 hours worth of knowledge sharing!

Similar to Octalysis Core Drives

The decisions recently made are similar to pieces of the Octalysis Gamification framework. The framework is centered on Human-Focused Design and created by Yu-kai Chou. Having watched all the Octalysis videos available, I see Octalysis Core Drive #8, Loss & Avoidance which instills some urgency. Urgency does overcome a problem we've had in the past. These changes also highlight what could be called Core Drive #2, Development & Accomplishment. FYI, the Octalysis community discusses these drives at If you like, you may join our friendly Facebook group.

What's Next?

Although I have ideas, what is next will come out of a discussion with my Mentor Program team. They are wonderfully insightful people with a variety of skills. Undoubtedly, one of two things will be worked on. We may focus on a progress bar approach or reduce the friction of getting knowledge seekers hooked up with knowledge givers. These ideas came from members of the team who are passionate about empowering others with sharing and receiving knowledge. If you're not surrounded by awesome people and ideas such as I am then I highly recommend you seek some now!