Gamification Expert &

Behavioral Designer

Anti Core Drives: What Pulls Us Away From a Desired Actions

You Want To, But You Won’t

Anti Core Drives are the motivational pulls away from a Desired Action. Oftentimes, an Anti Core Drive opposes a Core Drive enough to entice a user to make an Undesired Action.

For several years, my brother Mark has contemplated leaving work as a risk manager and crude analyst for an energy commodities trading firm to follow his passion of creating and producing music. When asked why he won’t, he cites losing progress toward a prestigious and lucrative role as an energy commodities trader, among other things. His Desired Action (to live a life making music) is fueled by Core Drive 3: Empowerment of Creativity & Feedback, but that Core Drive is first dampened and then repeatedly defeated by its Anti Core Drive. In this case, the Anti Core Drive is Core Drive 2: Development & Accomplishment.

If the player is my brother Mark and his game is life, he has consistently performed the Undesired Action, staying the course toward trading and being unhappy (so far, at least!).

To further explore how Anti Core Drives are all around us on the flip side of the Core Drives, let’s look at a few simple examples of each of the Core Drives working as Anti Core Drives and conclude with an example that incorporates multiple Anti Core Drives dynamically working at the same time.

Examples of Anti Core Drives

As I break down several basic examples of how Anti Core Drives pull us away from Desired Actions, remember that any action is desirable or undesirable from the eye of the beholder!


Core Drive 1: Epic Meaning & Calling

Your friend calls you up inviting you to a picnic on Sunday afternoon with friends. You decline because you’d prefer to go to a church volunteer event.

Desired Action: Going to the picnic (from your friend’s point of view)

Core Drive your friend uses to attract you to join the picnic:
CD5: You feel some pressure because you enjoy spending time with friends (Core Drive 5: Social Influence & Relatedness)

Anti Core Drive motivating you to decline:
CD1: You feel stronger about service to those in need

Core Drive 2: Development & Accomplishment

My friend texted me on a Friday night explaining that he unexpectedly got tickets to a concert that evening. I had to say no because I’d planned a three-hour memory training session in preparation for the USA Memory Championship.

Desired Action: Going to the unexpected concert (from my friend’s point of view)

Core Drive my friend used to entice me to go to the concert:
CD7: Free tickets to a show that I wasn’t expecting (Core Drive 7: Unpredictability & Curiosity)

Anti Core Drive motivating me to decline:
CD2: The motivation to improve my memory skills to place well in the event

Core Drive 3: Empowerment of Creativity & Feedback

I declined an offer to join Inkitt, a fiction/publishing startup in Berlin.

Desired Action: Joining the company (from the startup’s point of view)

Core Drive Inkitt used to attract me:
CD1: We will disrupt the fiction publishing marketplace and you will be a part of that.

Anti Core Drive motivating me to decline:
CD3: Joining the startup would decrease the time I could spend on my current novel.

Core Drive 4: Ownership & Possession

Jun Loayza had the option to start another business or join Bunny Inc.

Desired Action: Start another lifestyle business (from Jun’s perspective)

Core Drive compelling Jun to consider starting another lifestyle business:
CD3: Establishing the freedom to create a work-life balance he desired.

Anti Core Drive motivating Jun to move away from starting another business himself:
CD4: Bunny Inc. “guaranteed” Jun strong monetary compensation. (Interestingly, Bunny Inc. also acknowledged Jun’s CD3 and rewarded him with increasing ability to affect change within the team’s various product verticals.)

Core Drive 5: Social Influence & Relatedness

Parents want to do more work at the end of a workday, but reluctantly pick up their children from school more or less “on time”.

Desired Action: Do more work (even if it means being late to pick up kids).

Core Drive motivating parents to work more hours:
CD2/4: Accomplishment and monetary compensation.

Anti Core Drive motivating parents to arrive on time:
CD5: Parents will look bad in the eyes of other parents if they are late (and will miss out on the chance to network with other parents).

Core Drive 6: Scarcity & Impatience

You desperately want to leave your company. You might even have one or more job offers on the table, but an imminent year-end bonus hangs in the balance.

Desired Action: Stay with the company (from your current employer’s perspective)

Core Drive motivating you to leave:
CD2: Career development at the next company.

Anti Core Drive making you stay a little longer with your current employer:
CD6: The bonus is scarce (only once a year). (Core Drive 6: Impatience & Scarcity)

Core Drive 7: Unpredictability & Curiosity

You want to spend time with your family on Friday night, but there just might be one more fire to put out at the office, so you check your inbox just one more time (and repeat).

Desired Action: Spend time with your family.

Core Drive motivating you to leave:
CD2: Career development at the next company.

Anti Core Drive compelling you to check your inbox “just one more time”:
CD7: Something might come up that needs your input.

Core Drive 8: Loss & Avoidance

Facebook is a time suck. You actually got bored using Facebook and logged into, you guess it, Facebook! It’s time to quit. You’ve decided that without a doubt you will delete your account. But what about your 1,820 friends?

Desired Action: Delete your Facebook account.

Core Drive motivating you to delete the account:
CD2: You could be more productive without it.

Anti Core Drive preventing you from carrying out your plan:
CD8: But I’ll lose track of all my friends!

Should I Work for a Startup or a Corporation?

Work impacts the quality of our lives and how we think about work matters. For the majority of people, the reason why we strive to make money is to improve the quality of our lives. But we spend so much time in our lives working that our work becomes a major part of the overall quality of our lives. If someone offered you a deal that guaranteed you a lot of money but also a lot of misery, not everyone would snap at the deal. This is where the Core Drives and Anti Core Drives come into play.

To further illustrate how Anti Core Drives function in the workplace, let’s consider the choice between working for an early stage startup and a large corporate firm. We will see that the startup is offering the Anti Core Drives of the corporation and vice versa.

Often, talented candidates have pursued and received offers from both startups and corporations. As we know, startups and corporations offer different work environments.

Also, it’s often the case that multiple Core Drives are in effect with various Anti Core Drives. This example intends to briefly demonstrate this dynamism.

Let’s start by looking at this situation from the startup’s point of view. The STARTUP (motivation designer) wants the talented candidate to join their company (The Desired Action).

Core Drives a startup uses to attract top talent.

  • CD1: your work will create a huge positive impact in the world
  • CD3: you will have creative freedom and autonomy to lead your own projects
  • CD5: you will work with other highly motivated professionals
  • CD7: you have to wear many hats while at a startup and each day is unique (there is no monotony)

A startup utilizes CD1,3,5, and 7 (interestingly, they’re heavily Right Brain Core Drives) to motivate a talented professional to join the team. Just how there are Core Drives motivating the professional towards the Desired Action — leaving the corporate world to join a startup — there are Anti Core Drives (from the perspective of the startup) leading the professional towards the Undesired Action — staying with the company.

Anti Core Drives from the startup perspective:

  • CD2: an established corporation is more prestigious and the name has more clout
  • CD4: salary is higher and income is stable (less risk)
  • CD6: a bonus or promotion may be imminent; the professional wants to fully vest the stock options that they’ve been promised
  • CD8: startups are risky

Getting In Sync with Your Top Talent

Understanding the Anti Core Drives that pull the user away from Desired Actions is useful in many situations. In fact, Core Drives and Anti Core Drives are in effect at all times.

In the last dynamic example above, we explored possible motivations of the top talent in the workplace. As a manager, digging into these Core Drives with your team can help you get in sync with them even more than you might be already.

Whatever you do, take a moment to recognize the tug of war. Be aware of it as you move forward and notice how it helps you motivate people.

Now, if you’re up to a small challenge, choose just ONE of the following to apply what you’ve learned in this post:

General/Easy: What parts of your work do you dislike but complete anyway? Is there an Anti Core Drive at odds with the Desired Action of your employer to complete that task?

Specific/Medium: Let’s say that as a parent you want your children (User) to learn math (Desired Action). What are the Cored Drives and Anti Core Drives associated with that?

Specific/Hard: Let’s say you are a candidate and want a company to give you an offer. What Core Drives can you push more on, and how can you address the Anti Core Drives?

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5 responses to “Anti Core Drives: What Pulls Us Away From a Desired Actions”

  1. Hi there. Looks like part of Core Drive 7 has been cut and paste from Core Drive 6 as the following lines appear in both,

    Core Drive motivating you to leave:
    CD2: Career development at the next company.

    • Hey Belmore09, glad that you found it useful! Having recently learned more about the Octalysis framework, I’ve been able to use it as a lens for many areas of my life 🙂 … Good luck in your decision!

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