Didier Elzinga on storytelling, leadership and building Culture Amp

Didier Elzinga (@didierelzinga) is the CEO & Founder of Culture Amp – the world’s leading Culture Analytics platform.

Didier was previously the CEO of Rising Sun Pictures (a leading Hollywood visual effects company) and founder of Rising Sun Research (winner of a Technical Academy Award). What is particularly interesting is what Didier learned about leadership, building a culture first company, and storytelling in his growth from 6th employee to CEO of Rising Sun.

In this interview we discuss what being a “culture first” company really means, and some of the tactics Didier and Culture Amp have tried. Culture Amp has implemented a “Team of Teams” style of management, which Didier describes. He shares why Culture Amp doesn’t pay its sales people via variable compensation, which goes against standard sales doctrine. Didier was also the first person I heard using the phrase Diversity Debt, which he likens to the more commonly understood Technical Debt discussed throughout the technology industry.

I’ve known Didier for 2 year, and in that time been really impressed both with the company he leads, and his own leadership style – which is thoughtful, experimental, and bold.


Show Notes

3:30 How Didier and his wife met
7:30 Work life blend
12:45 Culture first
16:15 Focusing on the people
17:45 Didier’s time working on Hollywood films
21:30 Doing the work you enjoy
25:00 Going in with your eyes wide open
27:30 The start of Culture Amp
32:00 Didier’s unique value
35:30 Storytelling
40:00 Diversity debt
45:45 Removing sales commission
52:45 Team of teams
56:30 Didier’s suggestions to building a cohesive workforce
59:00 Books mentioned:

Team of Teams by General Stanley McChrystal
The Effective Executive by Peter F. Drucker
Leadership and Self-Deception by The Arbinger Institute
The Hero with a Thousand Faces by Joseph Campbell
Poems to Make Grown Men Cry by Anthony Holden

1:00:00 Find Culture Amp

Culture Amp’s Website
Culture Amp’s Blog

If you enjoyed this episode with Didier Elzinga, I think you will enjoy the 2nd Annual Responsive ConferenceMy previous podcast guest, Steve Hopkins, will be telling the story of Culture Amp’s “Team of Teams” implementation at the 2nd Annual Responsive Conference this September 18-19th in New York City. 


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