Retec's weekly video teleconference is ending. Employees at the bioremediation company's Concord, Mass., headquarters and 12 offices have reviewed financials and operations. Now it's Geek-O-Rama time!
A researcher in the Pittsburgh office takes the mike to discuss new technology for removing oily hazardous waste from coal tar. As he wades knee-deep into biochemical esoterica, do the other employees' eyes glaze over? No! Everyone is listening to every word of jargon because in just a moment someone will yell, "Let's hear it for the geek!" and the group's response -- lukewarm applause or enthusiastic catcalls -- will register on the imaginary Geek-O-Meter. Was this geek geekier than last week's? How does this geek's presentation compare with the talk on in situ bioremediation?
But what's really important is that everybody stays awake for information that, while germane, might be deadly dull. Retec employs two categories of workers, each of which speaks a very different language: in-house "geeks," who study hazardous waste and remediation techniques, and "bubbas," who work in the field. The Geek-O-Rama forum helps the two groups talk to each other. Geeks discuss new methods that they want bubbas to implement. Or a bubba may detail a technique developed in the trenches. Then there's the Reg-O-Geek-O-Rama, for those perverse souls who read the Federal Register in bed. They explain the latest government whims shaking Retec's industry.
The presentation lasts only about five minutes, which forces geeks to get to the point. CEO Robert Dunlap believes the tongue-in-cheek contest keeps everyone listening. "Last year, for instance, someone geeked a different way to bail a well -- a mundane task -- and we're all doing it now."* * *