#MentorSpotlight || Meet Yaniv Corem

“Today, more than ever before, we’re gravitating from an ‘I have to’ culture to an ‘I want to’ culture.”

A direction of motivation

Yaniv Corem, who is a motivation engineer at heart, studied at Technion for his BA in Architecture and Urban Planning. He began his career working for design firms, but quickly realized this wasn’t his passion. Yaniv took his love for architecture to his own business involved in 3D modeling, rendering, and programming.

Although the company was growing: hiring employees and increasing the number of clients — Yaniv decided to sell it in order to study design and computation at MIT. The overall idea behind his studies was to think about designing for the future. He met and joined forces with the manager of theALFA group at MIT, Una-May O’Reilly, and earned his dual Master’s in Design and Computation and Computer Science. His thesis dealt with the issue of making design more approachable to non-expert users, those with no design background. He created a tool that used machine learning algorithms to guide users through a design process.

As you may have noticed, this is Yaniv!

After returning to Israel, Yaniv joined the Social Technologies group at IBM Research in Haifa and began studying the social aspect of large organizations and the ways of leveraging it. He applied his expertise in cloud computing and gamification (the use of game-like thinking in a non-gaming context, such as education and business). It is known that an organization’s biggest resource is its people; to cater to the ‘people’ and get them more engaged in the organization’s products, Yaniv used gamification and collected data.

Yaniv is currently the CEO and co-founder of Playful Labs, a strategic design agency that works to bring together three crucial elements to create something new. He explains that since everyone has different backgrounds, something special happens when the three elements come together: design, technology, and people.

Is gamification for you?

Yaniv hates the word gamification. It has gotten inflated and out of control. Everyone uses the word. In 2010, as he began at IBM Research, he realized the need for ‘more’. People need more than just utility and functionality; they want something more. Fun engagement, more personal experiences. They want something that ‘understands’ them. We know a lot about people and what motivates them. Those who capitalize on that will succeed.

This thing we call ‘gamification’ has become a buzzword, leading many to believe it works for every company. Understand that it is not for every situation, product, or service, and ask yourself whether you need it. Yaniv says he’s come across tons of startup founders that say they want to use gamification — but they shouldn’t want it just for the sake of it. They should want it because it can benefit their product. His recommendation is: “reach out to your local gamification expert and ask him if gamification is right for you.”

There are two types of gamification :

  1. User loyalty where users can earn points and earn a spot on the leaderboard.
  2. ‘Gameful’ user experience, which is more about status or reputation. This taps into the emotional aspect of being a loyal and contributing user.

Foursquare is a company that really started the gamification craze. They did it really well and use a leaderboard/points system and well as running social competitions, incorporating a user’s status.

Another example is Waze that uses gamification to reward users when they report an accident or traffic notification. Users can then use their points to customize their avatar, level up, and earn other benefits.

Tips for startups

  1. Focus on people. For every product, whether it has new or existing, and whether is has an existing fan base or not, try to create a community. Build that community into a character, giving it core human drives. Have empathy for your users, be invested in them, and never take them for granted.
  2. Observe and reach out. Yaniv offers an example from his meeting with the founder of a mid-sized, rapidly growing company. On top of having a strategy, data, and a system, they still call influencers and experts for insight. In our data-driven world, Yaniv believes, it’s still important to connect with actual people.
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