Training the Stallion Mind to Unleash Creativity, Part 2 of 2

Are you ready to try unleashing the Stallion within?

Many researchers, theorists, and practitioners throughout history have studied, imagined, and attempted to be more creative. Here’s Yu-kai’s take. As always, consider that creativity resides within Core Drive 3: Empowerment of Creativity & Feedback in the Octalysis Gamification framework. 

This post continues the discussion from Training the Stallion Mind to Unleash Creativity, Part 1 of 2.

Today’s post is about letting go, and letting the stallion run, and roam, free.

Unleash the Stallion: Take 3-5 Minutes to Let Go

For some of us, taking 3, much less 5 (gasp!) minutes to sit still with our eyes closed is a lot to ask.

This is your chance to let the Stallion run free.

If you’ve never tried this–or, if you’re like me, you only try it once or twice per year–you might be surprised by what happens next.

It is very likely an entire host of images and thoughts and feelings will present themselves to (or within) your conscious experience.

Maybe some of these will be useful in your creative endeavors. Or maybe not! It just might be worth your while, even if all I can tempt you with is some unpredictability and curiosity.

Isn’t this just Meditation?

There are many forms of meditation, some of which Yu-kai practiced as a child.

Letting the Stallion run free is not precisely a meditation technique. If anything, it is meditation super-lite.

You don’t need to prepare for it. You just have to sit down, close your eyes, and see what happens.

Want More Creativity?

This technique alone won’t change your life. But maybe it will become one of your Tiny Habits, which could compound over time as part of a daily routine (or help you finish writing that book!).

For more reading on this subject, I recommend Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi’s Creativity: Flow and the Psychology of Discovery and Invention.

How Yu-kai Used Tiny Habits to Write ‘Actionable Gamification’

Tiny Habits are powerful. But you may not know how they impacted Yu-kai’s work.

Ever wondered how Yu-kai wrote his first book, ‘Actionable Gamification: Beyond Points, Badges, & Leaderboards’?

In the development of his Lifestyle Inertia Design framework, Yu-kai came across B.J. Fogg’s Tiny Habits.

Tiny Habits is part of B.J. Fogg’s larger model: Behavior = Motivation + Ability + Trigger (Prompt) [B=MAT(P)]

What are Tiny Habits?

When Yu-kai studied B.J. Fogg, the father of persuasive technology, he was intrigued by Tiny Habits.

Tiny Habits are a small task attached before or after another habit in your routine.

B.J. Fogg described his own application: Whenever I go to the bathroom, I do two pushups.

Only two?

Yes, just two. Maybe you’ll end up doing five or six, or ten. But if the goal was ten or twenty, and felt hard, you might not even start.

Lowering the pushup count increases the Ability in the B=MAT(P) equation.

With plentiful triggers (you go to the bathroom several times per day), the habit of pushups can be formed.

How Tiny Habits Helped Yu-kai Make Progress

Yu-kai had been asked to write a book about the Octalysis Gamification framework. And he wanted to write it.

He even promised attendees of an upcoming workshop that he would provide them a signed copy at the event.

The problem? Yu-kai’s approach was overly Black Hat. He didn’t want to disappoint attendees, and yet he didn’t have enough balance in the Core Drives to get him to the finish line.

Unpredictability to Lead You to Creativity

Yu-kai found a solution.

After completing email or client tasks, he usually took a break with some light gaming.

He made one change, though.

Before gaming, he would read the last paragraph he’d written in his book. Can you guess what happened?

That’s right: Simply reading one paragraph piqued his internal curiosity and began a positive feedback loop of creativity that often saw him writing for several hours!

The result?

He completed the book and did so happily and productively.

How Twitch Motivates Streamers with Achievement Symbols | Game Technique #2

Yu-kai Chou and his team have developed over one hundred Game Techniques, some through observation and some through creation during client projects. 

If you haven’t read Yu-kai’s book yet, get it now to learn the framework behind the Game Techniques (so you know how to apply them). 

Primary Core Drive of Achievement Symbols: CD2: Development & Accomplishment
Primary Core Drive of Achievement Symbols: CD2: Development & Accomplishment

Definition & Primary Core Drive:

Definition of Achievement Symbol:

A visual icon that symbolizes an achievement from the user, such as a Badge, Trophy etc.

-Yu-kai Chou

Primary Core Drive:

Core Drive 2: Development & Accomplishment

How Twitch Usees Achievement Symbols to Motivate Streamers

For starters, we’re going to go through over 100 game techniques. This is just Game Technique #2!, called Achievement Symbols. And I’m taking a look at Twitch today, which by the way is a platform I think you should all look into and understand. It’s good to know because they are doing a lot of things from a design perspective that have really captured the imagination of a lot of streamers right and those streamers have captured the attention of a lot of advertising dollars. There’s really a big ecosystem right around this.

I remember my aunt asking me about twitch several years ago when one of her students wasn’t showing up for class, so it’s definitely something that is capturing attention from a number of different ways–that student by the way was streaming games on Twitch and on his way to becoming a pro gamer, or at least trying to.

How Twitch is Deploying the Achievement Symbol

Let’s look at this Achievement Symbol (icons for use) from the perspective of Twitch as a streamer.

Lately, I’ve been streaming a game that I like play which is actually a board game called Diplomacy. If you haven’t played before I strongly recommend you get in touch with me and I’ll help you get started.

An achievement symbol is simply a way to show that I’ve developed or accomplished something: developing a skill or accomplishing some kind of goal. And, yeah, it’s part of this larger reality of humans as goal-oriented beings. We like to see progress towards a goal. If we’re lost in the woods not sure how to get to the destination, not so much.

Recapturing my Attention (and Investment of Creative Labor)

Achievement Symbols that Twitch is using here help move me through the Onboarding process. I’ve already experienced some friction in establishing my stream and getting my equipment right, and over 9 hours of streaming, but I’m not monetizable yet. Eventually, I’ll attract advertising dollars to the platform and draw an audience. That’s the value tradeoff between the platform and me, the creator.

Right away you can see they have several achievement symbols to indicate what I can do here. Community, affiliate, partner, and so forth. After viewing my Achievement Symbol from previous efforts, the reward acts as a trigger to view other possible goals.

New Day, New Stream

Twitch recaptures my attention to bring me back into that activity loop. So, that is an extrinsic, but white hat; it feels good. Core Drive 2: Development & Accomplishment is just one of the 8 Core Drives. And Achievement Symbols (GT#2) is just one of over a hundred Game Techniques.

How uses Karma (Game Technique #1 – Status Points)

This article on Status Points was originally published in February 2018, but was edited and updated in November 2019.

For the last three years I’ve worked with Yu-kai Chou, a leader in the gamification consulting space and developer of the Octalysis gamification framework. As I continue to learn from him, I’m testing my knowledge through a series of posts aiming to highlight everything from the basics to more advanced topics. 

If you’ve been curious about how games impact design in non-game experiences, and how companies like Uber and Apple and Amazon use them, this series of articles is for you.

(Keep this working definition in mind: Gamification is the integration of game elements into non-game experiences.)

Why Game Techniques?

Yu-kai wrote Actionable Gamification: Beyond Points, Badges, & Leaderboards several years ago at a high point in gamification’s hype curve. His argument was simple: there is something in gamification–what he calls Human-Focused Design–that is important and useful in designing experiences for humans. Gamification is not a fad, and it isn’t going away.

Yu-kai wanted to differentiate the knowledge he had acquired from lifelong games research and consulting work with hundreds of companies from other organizations who were jumping on the gamification trend without the same expertise.

No harm in that, except for Yu-kai there was more to the idea of gamification–adding game elements to non-game experiences–than slapping on points, badges, and leaderboards.

Thus, the subtitle of the book: ‘Beyond Points, Badges, & Leaderboards‘.

A few Game Techniques listed in their Dominant Core Drive
A few Game Techniques listed in their Dominant Core Drive

Throughout the text, Yu-kai sprinkles Game Techniques he has collected through his own gameplay and through the development of engaging experiences with clients.

How does Yu-kai create them? That would require me to read his mind. However, what I’ve observed is that he starts with the client problem and then applies the Octalysis Gamification framework–including the 8 Core Drives–to build engagement and interaction design. These designs, when tied together, create a game loop for the user. Ideally, a game loop that brings the user back again and again.

Now, there are over 100 of these so-called Game Techniques which Yu-kai is freely sharing and making videos about in Octalysis Prime (his community teaching the Octalysis design framework).

This post will serve to introduce you to one of the most basic techniques.

Status is important and practical

The desire to improve one’s status is a huge motivator. Recognition of status stems from our neurobiological settings.

And status is practical. When I have a problem learning to code, I go to Stack Overflow, a website with high status in the question/answer space for pro and amateur programmers. When I want high-quality food, I go to a high-status restaurant. When I want to suggest to strangers I have status, I might wear certain kinds of clothing.

One of the highest margin status items today might be Apple airpods.

Contrary to this post’s declaration on November 18, 2019–which suggests Apple has solved a deep customer problem–I see airpods as an example of a product linked to Apple’s larger ecosystem, which oozes status. Because Apple customers have an affinity to the brand and gain a sense of status by owning and wearing them, they are happy to pay for a high-margin product that has cheaper alternatives. (Admittedly I am cherrypicking this example: I don’t own airpods, but I am using a Macbook Pro from 2013, which may have been overpriced too.)

How status allows Apple to improve its margins

From the perspective of the Octalysis framework, Status is linked with two Core Drives, which I will get to shortly. But first, let’s define our terms.

Game Technique #1: Status Points (they still matter)

Now that we’ve commented on a few ways status works in our society, let’s drill down into Status Points.

Status Points are a numeric tracker that shows the growth of a player in the user journey, often symbolizing higher status in the ecosystem.

For now, we won’t go into visual design nor interaction design related to Status Points. Of course, how something looks and feels will also impact the user experience, often to a large extent.

Which Core Drives are Ignited?

Status Points make us feel accomplished and they also provide a signal to others. Therefore, Status Points are influenced by Core Drive 2: Development & Accomplishment and Core Drive 5: Social Influence & Relatedness.

Continue reading How uses Karma (Game Technique #1 – Status Points)

BJ Fogg’s Behavioral Model, B=MAT(P) Extended, Part 2 of 2

BJ Fogg’s triggers are integral to his behavioral model, which we are analyzing from the perspective of the Octalysis gamification framework. This continues the discussion from our last blog post.

Note: BJ Fogg’s triggers recently became ‘Prompts’.

Hope and Fear

Hope is Core Drive 7: Unpredictability tied with Core Drive 2: Development & Accomplishment.

Fear is still Core Drive 8: Loss & Avoidance.

BJ Fogg’s Triggers (or Prompts)

BJ Fogg talks about there are actually three types of triggers.

There’s a spark. There’s a facilitator, and there’s a Signal. So, the spark is when a person has the ability to take the action, but no motivation. So BJ Fogg says the spark is basically a trigger that adds motivation to the desired behavior. So, if you get an email that says, “Hey! Your friend on Facebook just sent you a message!” That’s a spot where you have ability to click on it and go to Facebook, a few clicks away, few brain cycles.

Facilitator for high motivation, low ability in BJ Fogg's Triggers
Facilitator for high motivation, low ability

Make the Spark a Black Hat Trigger

In most cases, the Spark should be a Black Hat Trigger.

This happens with our Octalysis Design Challenges, where we also include the upcoming deadline. If we chose to serve up a White Hat Trigger like, “Good luck as you continue working on your Design Challenge,” the trigger may not actually drive the desired action of the Octalysis Prime member continuing to work on their Challenge designs and submission.

BJ Fogg's Triggers
Three types of Prompts

The Facilitator Makes Hard Things Easier

Now the facilitator is the scenario where the user has a lot of motivation, but they just don’t have the ability to do it. The action feels confusing or hard. How to solve this?

Enter the Facilitator. Let me make it easy for you. Maybe it’s it’s a software wizard that helps you install something. Maybe it’s it’s a counselor who guides you through your career choices. So, the facilitator, again, is the use of trigger to remind you, “Hey, you should do it. And also if you didn’t do it because it’s hard, let me make it easy for you. Let me explain it to you. Let me reduce your brain cycles. Let me give you a discount rate that’s that’s really good. Let’s give you a coupon a discount so now it’s easier and cheaper to do this action.”

The Signal Nudges High Motivation – High Ability users to Take an Action

So that’s a facilitator, and then finally you have what we call a signal, which is the user already has high motivation, they have high ability, they just aren’t doing it. And in that case, it’s very easy to just have a simple “Hey, do it.” And there is a high chance the user will take the desired action.

BJ Fogg is definitely a pioneer in our industry. And although I don’t love his change from triggers to prompts, there is a lot we can learn from him and his methods, including Tiny Habits, which I recommend highly. However, I also wanted to offer my opinions to show how you can examine a model and think for yourself.

BJ Fogg Behavior Model: B=MAT(P) Extended, Part 1 of 2

BJ Fogg recently updated his model slightly. This video delves deeper into BJ Fogg’s behavioral model.

Here is a lightly edited transcript of the above video.

Today, we’re going to go deeper into BJ Fogg’s behavioral model.

And so if you recall, the behavior model is:

Behavior = Motivation + Ability + Trigger (Prompt)

I might interchange these terms, but I personally liked trigger better. Sometimes, it’s possible we can stick with the new word, but it just depends on what we’re looking at. So we’re going to go deeper into those concepts and understand the elements of motivation, ability, and triggers. 


I want to start with Ability. It’s very interesting because BJ Fogg throughout his paper calls it the element of Simplicity, with emphasis on ability. So he entertained simplicity ability because most of the time, having high ability means that the design is simple. It’s usually not necessarily the cost that is prohibitive but it’s the complexity or difficulty that reduces ability.

High Ability = Simple Design

He also says that simplicity comes from six different sources, number one, it comes from time.


So if something takes a lot of time, and everyone thinks time is a limited resource, right, they don’t have enough time to do it. Then they feel like they have lowered ability or decreased simplicity.


The second component is money. If somebody is really really expensive. They just can’t afford to do it or they feel like it’s just too expensive for them that obviously get, then they have lower ability to take the desired action because it is expensive or, in a sense, it lowers simplicity,

Physical Effort

The third one is physical effort. Even the thought of a tremendous amount of physical lowers ability.

Sometimes, an action as normal as opening a jar actually requires so much work and we just feel like, “Oh, it’s very very hard” so it makes us not want to open these jars as much.

Brain Cycles

Another common component is actually pretty interesting and less intuitive: BJ Fogg talks about Brain Cycles. If it requires more brain cycles to think about something to like, “Oh, I get it!” or “Hm, what does it mean, I’m kind of confused,” that cognitive dissonance actually causes people to lower their ability. This makes sense that it has decreased simplicity and therefore behavior is less likely to happen.

Social Deviance

If action A represents the social norm and Action B is far away from action A on a map, then Action B represents a deviation from the social norm. Doing so requires more effort. And ability decreases.


The final one the six components of Ability is Non-Routine. If you’re doing something again and again, it becomes a habit, doing something that’s away from your routine. So you have less ability because it’s so far from that.

From the Octalysis Perspective

Let's examine BJ Fogg from the Octalysis perspective
Let’s examine from the Octalysis perspective

Without time and money, the Anti-Core Drive 8: Loss & Avoidance motivates people away from certain tasks. And this must be overcome by other Core Drives.

When it comes to Brain Cycles, the Anti-Core Drive is Core Drive 2: Development & Accomplishment. If touching a product experience makes you confused. Then, doing anything else would make you feel smarter.

Social deviance incorporates Core Drive 5: Social Influence & Relatedness as an Anti-Core Drive.

Training the Stallion Mind to Unleash Creativity, Part 1 of 2

Here is a training video from Octalysis Prime about creativity and developing your Stallion Mind for those of you who want to let the wild horse inside you run free to make yourself even more creative.

Here is a partial excerpt from the video:

Today we’re going to explore a topic, I call the stallion mind. How we train that stallion mind is about unleashing creativity. Now, this all came about when I’m working with my team and I’m thinking about how do you become more creative. I’m seeing people come with ideas but I feel like well, they’re kind of just the same thing that we did last time. It’s not very creative. So I was wondering how to help people become more creative. What is the process actually prove that it is something you’re born with your you can actually improve it?

I believe, we’re always born with certain talents certain things right, just like we talked about in 10,000 Hours of Play you got the Talent Triangle, but then we also have the skill triangle. There are things that we can actively work on more so than others. I’m thinking about if creativity can be one of those things. In another sense, this is about unlocking Core Drive 3: Empowerment of Creativity & Feedback within us.

How Creativity Works

There’s another aspect because we know about creativity. I mentioned it is just how we connect pieces in the past, together with things were we already promised before like you know taking things that we absorb and rearranging the order and putting together in a way that no one has done before. No one has seen that order, potentially, but it actually kind of made sense. and so that blends two different skill sets that I call example recalling. An example recalling is the ability to think about example on the spot. And this has been a very, very very useful skill for me to work with my clients

I’ve always been super impressed with how amazing our subconscious brain is again, it can be. In Thinking Fast and Slow, Daniel Kahneman calls you know the fast brain, System 1, and a slow brain, System 2, with the fast brain being more distinctive, but not precise, things like that.

So usually when I’m telling you the sentences like the sentence come out of my mouth in my head I’m not thinking about that sentence I’m not thinking about every word I was about to say, and then say it out. I already knew what I was going to say my fast brain already processes and I just have to execute on what my mind is thinking, sometimes when people ask me a question, I’ll immediately respond: Well, there’s three components to your questions and, or at least to the answers every components right and in my head I wasn’t thinking about with words like, Oh, well there’s, there’s this, and there’s this, and there’s this.

The Power of the Subconscious Brain

The subconscious brain is very very powerful and a lot of our creativity comes from there. And that’s why I kind of like to in this context call it stallion mind because it’s like a wild horse, running in the wild and running really fast and I think it’s the right type of mentality. And as you guys know I like to create fun names and maybe even cool names that have been attached to an abstract concept because I think things that have fun names make it more enjoyable to think about, play around and interact with.

So we got the stallion mind where things happen really quickly, maybe it’s not precise not mathematical but it things really quickly finds things in the past, and it really allows to be very creative, very quickly, as you know some people when they’re creative right, it’s like boom boom boom idea what to do, under five minutes you’re like oh so many ideas, and then some people are like, even maybe they’re very intelligent right but they’re like, what’s the new think outside the box, instead of the new idea what’s the new idea was nearly they’re really good at analyzing existing ideas, but they just are very good at come with a lot of random ideas.

People feel like that’s might be a personality trait. Some people are born creative their personality is creative and some people are just more logical analytical and my personal belief is, based on all the years I’ve been studying how the brain works behavioral science is that, again, we all have that stallion mind inside of us. But our logical brain suppresses it.

The Logical Brain Wants Control

The logical brain wants to be in control we want to understand what’s going on we want to know what we’re talking about. We want to know the logic we’re trained in school, to really focus on logic and execution not mindlessly exploring all these things

Okay, I’m just gonna stick to my conscious brain, the logical thing that the teachers put in front of me, and dealing with logical thinking I’m going to suppress the stallion mind.

This is my theory based on what I understand, at least I haven’t found any proven science that talks that complete system one system to data from there’s a lot of supporting surrounding stuff there’s enough, I haven’t seen any science that directly says this is the answer. But I think, because the implications of it can be really, really useful and helpful impact all right and if people are actually able to, let’s say, train the stallion and make the stallion better and therefore people are better at creativity and example recalling, I do want to share this in case you know this does end up these these for you because I know it’s been useful for me. And everyone’s different so how do we train the style and how do we let go and let it run.