The triggers for growth and sustained success

I have frequently on stage and in media spoken about my dyslexia as part of my story and motivation for becoming an entrepreneur. It’s also been a huge part of my contribution for how we chose to structure & design the pedagogy and user experience behind Kahoot!.

Photo: Carol Salva Super user of Kahoot! https://twitter.com/MsSalvac/status/779138478365773824

I was interviewed last year by Brock and Fernette Eide, co-authors of NY Times best seller The Dyslexic Advantage and The Mislabeled Child. During our conversation Fernette told me that ‘Stealth Dysexia’ was the label given to my “super power”.

One of the challenges for people with Stealth Dyslexia is actually multiple choice:

Reading short passages (where they can’t use context to guess the words they can’t sound out — for example, questions and answers on multiple choice tests, or story problems in math).

I did not know this at the time when we conceptulised Kahoot!, but it explains why I was drawn towards the challenge. Having attended High School in the US I knew first hand the issues with lectures and multiple choice.

> Read the full article on Stealth Dyslexia

Understand the fine nuances

When we designed and developed Kahoot!, the effort was to make the classroom lecture and the extremely common practise of a pop quiz (multiple choice test etc) more inclusive, formative and engaging. We added in elements that provide context that allows learners with different learning styles, difficulties and preferences to take part in the instructional activity on equal terms.

It might be that some still underperform on the quiz itself, but can make up for it on the instructional formative pauses in the game, or by creating & hosting appropriately challenging games for classmates to play. We call that learner2leader. Most people don’t see beyond the playing of the quiz, therefore misunderstanding the deeper learning happening through creation.

When people dismiss Kahoot! as a simplistic quiz game (no, we do not claim to have invented the quiz, nor do we champion simple gamification in the classroom), they clearly do not understand the fine nuances of each student’s individual learning style that we try to address. In the end it all comes down to the teacher and their pedagogical abilities, but we aimed to make a platform hosting content and tools that are as simple & powerful as possible — allowing teachers to focus on being present in the room with a human touch that only they can bring.

We don’t want to disrupt institutions by tearing down bricks and mortar, but by empowering the people dedicated to unlocking the deepest potential of each individual learner.

> Read full article on our Inclusive Design Strategy & Approach.

Triggers for the learner

You have to understand that the majority of the triggers, motivators, levelers and variable rewards that actually work are both social and deeply personal to the learner. Adults can’t look at their own lives and experiences when they design products or shape curriculums for learners starting out on the same journey 20–30 years later than them.

We knew when designing Kahoot! we had to win the students to capture the classroom, and gain the trust from teachers. We therefore adopted a completely student centric approach. We decided it was the US K12 classroom we would address first. As an example, we identified a few key triggers for the learner:

  1. The desire to be part of a shared social experience
  2. To get your 15 seconds of fame (even if anonymous)
  3. To be individually seen by your peers & teacher when in the classroom

These insights have help shape many aspects of Kahoot!, and it’s easy to point out the launch of the game as an example. When logging onto a game of Kahoot!, we allow you to be anonymous yet personal - with a nickname of your choice that appears on the big screen in front of the classroom for all to see. This is accompanied by a game tune with enough retro feel for both teachers and students to get hooked. Just as it would on a game show on TV or at a concert with your idol on stage.

Being learner-centric like this also meant that we had to design the product for the gate keeper, aka the teacher, ensuring it was as rewarding, powerful and impactful for them. The key was to give them classroom control, instant student engagement, and an opportunity for shared positive learning activity — all delivered through the promise of a simple game login.

This approach is elegant and immensely powerful. It motivates the learners to take part, whilst reducing the friction of implementing Kahoot! as part of the lecture for the teacher.

We believe so strongly in this approach, even the name Kahoot! is inclusive and user centric - it means to do something naughty or mischievous together: Students and teachers are in Kahoot! for better education.

The music video by Mr. Warren must be the best example of students and teachers being in Kahoot! for better education + added bonus they explain in their own words the benefits of Kahoot!

If you’ve got this far… thank you for reading! I’m only just starting out on Medium. Over the coming months I’ll be exploring the themes in this article, sharing both practical tips and the strategic evaluations we took when growing Kahoot!, and hopefully, a growing numbers of new ventures.

I would hugely appreciate some claps 👏 and shares 🙌 so that others can find it!


We Are Human creates purpose driven organisations striving for social and commercial impact. We are most famous for co-founding and incubating Kahoot!, “the world’s fastest growing learning brand”, launched in August 2013. By May 2017, along with our co-founders and a highly dedicated team, we had scaled Kahoot! to reach 50 million people around the world every month.

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