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Why we started the 30,000 strong People Geek community

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Didier Elzinga, CEO

“Don’t just try to create a better X create a better user of X,”
- Kathy Sierra

My three co-founders and I became People Geeks quite by accident. We didn’t even know that’s what we were at the time. Our lightbulb moment came when we realised most tech transformation projects under-achieve not because of technology, but because of people and culture.

Sure, we knew we needed to focus on creating better software to solve the challenge, but just as importantly we had to concentrate on creating better users of the technology.  We founded Culture Amp as technologists who believed in the power of culture.

But what would we call Culture Amp’s ‘better user’ – the people who believed in culture first as we did?

Once we came up with the term People Geek we knew we’d hit the jackpot. It works on so many levels. It strikes up an image of a user who is interested in both people and technology. It’s a user who is passionate – or geeky – about figuring out people and how to bring out the best in them. A People Geek is a person whose “thing” is people.

Fast forward, and now we have a community of about 30,000 card-carrying People Geeks. Not all of them are our customers (yet!) and that’s fine. It’s part of being a Culture First company: we’re focused on building this community of people with similar values and ideas.

The calibre of people embracing People Geeks, and the quality of interactions, has blown us away.

Creating a global community of People Geeks

We didn’t create People Geeks to sell a product; we created a global network bringing together technology, HR, and the Culture First philosophy. People like us, you might say.

This community is evolving every day. People Geeks don’t just work in HR or recruiting; they are organizational development consultants, IO psychs, managers, entrepreneurs, branding people… anyone who cares about data, but puts culture first.

People Geeks believe culture matters, that people and culture has to be an organization’s primary focus, and that people problems are not the same as data problems. People Geeks don’t need to be techies or data experts, but as part of the community we will help educate everyone on how to use data to make more informed people decisions.

We bring the People Geek community together with Geekups

You’ve probably heard of Meetup, the organization that puts people with similar interests in touch so they can arrange to meet up. In the People Geek community we have Geekups. We run these Geekups every month in London, Melbourne, San Francisco and New York, and rotate through other cities as demand dictates. Sometimes we have a panel presentation or a guest speaker; other times it is just an informal get together at a bar, pub or café.

The response has been beyond enthusiastic and we’ve had to ramp up the schedule to meet demand. Our goal this year is to run over 100 Geekups.

Some of my favorite People Geek stories

One of the best things about People Geeks is the collaboration and willingness to share innovative ways of doing things.

There was one People Geek’s practice of putting a helium balloon on the desk of new hires and interns so that staff could see at a glance there was a new person in the room. By the time the balloon deflated, all staff had introduced themselves. Such a simple idea, so beautifully executed.

Another People Geek explained how they energised their Board by using a null hypothesis when presenting data. Rather than saying ‘Here are the results and here’s what we should do,’ they presented it as, ‘If we do nothing, here’s what the data tells us will happen.’

Knowing the consequences of doing nothing meant the board was motivated to do something. From there our People Geek was able to take them on the journey of how they should use the data.

Stories like these are a daily occurrence, and the most courageous People Geeks also share their mistakes, so fellow Geeks can learn from them.

Our focus is people first, not data first, but we love bringing the two together. We are proud of our People Geek community and can’t wait to see how it grows.

Stay connected with our People Geek community by subscribing to our newsletter, the People Geekly. 

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Didier Elzinga is a People Geek and CEO/Co-Founder of Culture Amp. You can follow Didier on MediumTwitter or LinkedIn.

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