10 Lessons of Zwift Designers on People Motivation

Our 9-year-old son is talented to read in comprehension relatively demanding literature, tell compelling stories, solve puzzles, and lately he won the Mathematical Kangaroo Contest. He enjoys it as opposed to jumping somersaults, which he has been learning for half a year. Therefore, my wife and I were quite surprised, when he ran into our bedroom on Sunday morning saying he was going to turn on a spinning round and Zwift. Firstly, we thought it just seemed to us. But he honestly worked standing up.

These days, Zwift is one of the most popular multiplayer apps for home cycling and running, similarly to the Czech Rouvy. The app in combination with the exercise bicycle is used by professional cyclists and triathletes to swallow kilometres, as well as by common people all over the world for the joy of movement. It is free for children under 16. Zwift ranks among the Esports with massively growing popularity. This year, the Zwift company organizes international Esport olympic games. The Zwift designers can manage the motivation very well. They attract people to indoor cycling, keep them there and help to improve their form.  People have already walked 6 billion kilometres on the platform, while most „stupid“ stationary bicycles ended up looking like overpriced clothes hangers.

Lately, I visited a big production company and discussed with the main office members their problems of innovation movement. Lack of motivation was the key cause of the problem. Each employee has to deliver 4 rationalization proposals in a year, otherwise he/she does not get team bonuses. It has been happening every year for a long time and the pressure is increasing. Some of the leaders pray to their team members and beseech them, some of them write hectically their hurried proposals on behalf of their colleagues, while the others are annoyed and urge to fulfil request per capita to prevent unpleasant excuse. The management operates the archaic motivation Carrot – Fork principle with a donkey midst which has either peace and food or unnecessary problems not having been obedient.

You probably understand that quality of innovation proposals as invented in a hurry is mostly bad without more added value for the company. Ticked off, warded off. Together with other colleagues, we were inspired just by Zwift, to include on behalf of humancraft again a little bit respect to human naturality and try to create conditions for natural human innovation and improvement. And maybe you can try it too.

Lesson on motivation to work according to Zwift:

#1 Zwift operates with variety and surprise

Zwift developers could design current New York. However, they modelled future New York where can be riden across glass bridges, flying cars cross the sky and Musk´s Hyperloop is just starting up next to you. One could calmly ride on a boring island. Instead, he/she can pass an erupting volcano, driving part of the route through an underwater tunnel with frolic whales and then, behind the beach you pass native cottages from which the broadcasting sound emanates. In the horsetail forest, you will be chased by spider lizards, etc.

What about to inspire people with examples of improvement? Take them to fairs, visit other companies as part of a roadshow, establish a more intensive exchange of experience across industries. How about to send managers to organize clubs in secondary or even elementary schools and rediscover love in their own field in contact with children?

#2 Zwift operates with freedom of choice

On the track, we can turn around at any moment and ride back. At each intersection, you can make a decision and turn, just as cadets in the US Marine Corps can ring the bell and leave duty at any time. Staying on the training track thus becomes a free decision in every moment.

How efficient can be rationalization proposals if they were not supported with culture of improvement and encouraging toward seeking better solutions, but perceived as a duty and necessary evil only? And, if there is needed to propose improvement, how about to offer various possibilities of their presentation?  One may create a detailed project plan, while someone else would have a better track record if he/she could bring a cardboard prototype and arrange a demo in front of colleagues.

#3 Zwift enables to divide the track to sub-objectives and operate with progress feeling and competitiveness

There are short-term challenges on the track, e. g. to climb the hill. You are able to compare your riding time with another cyclist with which you measure your strengths. I myself found several times giving it my best, somehow by the way. People can also volunteer for races, completely without barriers.

What about to set concrete time limited challenges of innovation oriented more to solve specific problems? Something like a hackathon workshop. With clearly defined beginning, ending, affectionate rivalry and appreciation. How about to offer possibility to sign in specific innovation voluntarily, starting with explanation “who will you help”?

#4 Zwift operates with a phenomenon of mutual assistance and encouragement

While driving, you are surrounded by real people from different continents. You are in this together. You can support anyone, and you get the same from others on the track.

It is nice not to be alone for innovation. Truth be told, the best ideas arise in random quality groups, if those groups were not perceived as a needed evil, but they were united by an interest in solving a common problem.

#5 Zwift operates with identity and aspirations of the rider

On the platform, everyone models their avatar, which looks similar, only it is usually a little prettier. Thanks to the fact that you are working, you can gradually dress your avatar in branded rags and sit on just the bike you are riding in reality.

Motivation for improvement will certainly work better if we address better site of people, remind them their creativity, effort at solving problems and interest for the job. It's called a self-fulfilling prophecy or Pygmalion effect. And when, for the collected drops of sweat at work, they get designer T-shirts or teddies with the logo of their company, they can them proudly bring as a trophy to their children.

#6 Zwift leads us to compare ourselves with ourselves

At the finish line of the 15-kilometre training ride, your shadow awaits you and invites you to an addition. Starting the second round you are suddenly competing with yourself. My wife declared correctly – “I am to ride the next 15 kilometres more slowly. Okay, but how come you have ridden faster?”

How about scoring a value or saving on each improvement proposal and allowing people to graphically compare how their personal innovation score is evolving? What do you think, would they rather be better or worse?

#7 Zwift operates with need of modification

Zwift offers every time a little bit different route and we can choose the road and destination.

How about to offer people more possibilities of rotation and perception of career route to keep their ability for improvement? Such a view from a different perspective is a cliché, but it really works.

#8 Zwift operates with recognition and appreciation

For showing certain qualities and achieving diverse goals, you receive badges and recognition (that badge is for valour). And I would almost forget, moms with strollers in Central Park clap their hands when you pass by them.

What about to utilize kind symbols to celebrate and achieve concrete achievements or show specific qualities in improvement? Yes, something like innovation KUDOS cards.

#9 Zwift operates with benchmarks and leaderboards

It is great to see where I am in the peloton and how it is gradually changing. Especially, when you have a bit of competition in your genes.

Also at work, it is fine when you learn about your ability to innovate. And especially, how you manage to develop it. How to get feedback from colleagues on how the improvement helped them and whether they also began to use it in their daily work.

#10 Zwift operates thoughtfully with training programmes

Each Zwifter can systematically work on himself/herself and sign up not only to racing but also to training plan.

Not to give people the same, we would not be good partners for development and business impact. You want improve and therefore you need to work on yourself? Come to move forward in this craft with us. Share your information with the others and get feedback from them.

These were just a few examples of how well Zwift designers incorporated modern knowledge about human nature and motivation into the user experience. No wonder they have tried, it is their business. If users have not enjoyed it, they simply will not renew their membership. On the other hand, it is about bicycle pedaling (nobly: indoor cycling). The meaning of our group in humancraft is to assist small as well as big organizations to operate similarly great with motivation people to their work. We enjoy learning and finding solutions with you.

Author of the article:

Petr Moravec – Partner & Innovation Lead; petr.moravec@humancraft.cz