Soundtrack for this post: “You’re the Best” by Joe Esposito
This year’s NCAA championship tournament is officially underway, but at OpenView we’ve been reveling in the wonderfully strange and obsessive affliction of March Madness for a week now. Last Friday we launched our first annual Cultural-Fit-ology tournament, pitting 16 of today’s top tech companies against each other to determine who has the best company culture in tech. The winners of the Final Four matchups were just determined this morning, and the championship match is currently live (vote now!) to crown a winner on Monday.
So far the tournament has been a big success with over 1,000 votes pouring in to decide who has advanced and who got sent home packing. Both the voting and the competition have really heated up as the tournament has progressed, and today’s final has the makings of a barn burner. But why did we decide to do this? What are we hoping to accomplish with it and how did we put it together? Even more importantly, what could we have done to make it even better?
Those are questions I’m hoping this blog post can help answer.
First Question: Why?
I generally think the best answer to this question is “why not?” but in this case a slightly more detailed response revolves around two primary points:
- Brackets rule
- Company culture is incredibly, frustratingly, wonderfully nebulous
There’s no denying it. Everyone loves a good tournament, but in addition to that there’s also something inherently satisfying about brackets, themselves. Maybe it’s the symmetric order it allow us to impose on an otherwise complex and confusing world. The simplistic beauty of breaking things down to either or. Or maybe it’s just that we love putting two things together and deciding which wins.
The point is the concept of brackets is something we can all get behind, and lately their popularity has exploded past the confines of college basketball and sports in general. Two shining (dork-tastic) examples: Grantland’s “Smacketology” — a tournament determining The Wire‘s greatest character — and “This Is Madness” — The Star Wars Character Tournament (currently underway, so vote now, even if it is obvious Boba Fett is going to win).
That’s the other beauty of brackets — you can set one up around just about anything. Even complex concepts, which brings us to point #2:
Company culture is incredibly, frustratingly, wonderfully nebulous
Nearly everyone agrees company culture is powerful and important, but try asking someone to explain what it is in 160 characters or less (Not a bad idea, right? Give it a shot #CultureIs). It’s easier to talk about what it does or doesn’t consist of. But as far as defining exactly what good company culture is, it’s a little like defining love or porn or a great idea you can’t believe hadn’t been thought of before: you know it when you see it.
Hosting a tournament to determine which company has the best company culture in tech may not help us pin down a concrete definition directly, but it does give us an opportunity to get a conversation going around what particular factors we value higher or find more central to a strong company culture than others.
Second Question: How Did We Build the Tournament?
There was certainly a method to our March Madness, though the methodology behind choosing the field of 16 and establishing seeding was admittedly fairly loose (see more below). We relied heavily on resources like Glassdoor’s Best Places to Work list, but also took into account the level of focus and attention placed on each contender’s company culture and policies, both by the media and the companies, themselves.
In the case of the two finalists, HubSpot’s dedication to formulating, packaging, and publicizing its unique company culture (see the recent of the release of the HubSpot Culture Code) helped to make it a clear #1 seed, while SEOmoz’s dedication to transparency and the rest of its guiding principles (see the TAGFEE Code) has been well-documented by its CEO Rand Fishkin, and put it ahead of other perhaps more well-known and further established companies that didn’t make the cut.
Every bracket needs to be divided up into “regions,” and in this case, drawing the lines based on geography made sense. In the end, this didn’t result in the cleanest or evenly balanced divisions — any of the Silicon Valley companies could arguably been a #1 seed in their own regions, and, yes, I know, “Rest of the West” is a bit of a stretch — but it provided a structure that at least made sense and delivered some great Round 1 matchups (Google vs. Apple; Amazon vs. SEOmoz in the “Battle for Seattle”).
Once the bracket was in place all that was left was to create profiles for each company and it was off to the races.
Third Question: What Could We Have Done Differently?
We had a lot of fun with this tournament and judging by the response, many of our readers enjoyed it, too. We absolutely want to do it again next year, and we have nearly a full 365 to come up with ways to make it bigger and better. There are three areas I think we can make some exciting improvements in and I would love any and all input and recommendations.
How could we improve the selection process? Widen the field? Open it up to nominations?
This year we held voting for all eight first round matchups on one day, the four Round 2 matchups another day, and both the Final Four and the Championship matches on their own days. Does that schedule make sense? Would it have been better to break the first and second round matches up?
Layout, Features, and the Bracket
Is there anything you would have enjoyed seeing included or in addition to the company profiles? Would it be good to include additional guest commentary and predictions? Would you have preferred an interactive bracket and/or the option to make your own predictions?
Thank you for any recommendations you can offer, and if you’ve already voted in this year’s championship, thank you very much for participating, as well!
Note: We will be announcing the winner of this year’s tournament on Monday.