Musk Might Have Miscalculated

Veteran IT service consultant Doug Rabold says that Musk may have a track record of leveling up startups. Twitter is […]

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Veteran IT service consultant Doug Rabold says that Musk may have a track record of leveling up startups. Twitter is not a startup, and Musk needs a different blueprint.

There are several lessons to be learned from Musk’s acquisition of Twitter. Before I comment, however, I’d like to add that these are purely my (mostly) objective observations. Any claims about his plans and intentions would be purely speculation and conjecture.

First, it appears that there’s an assumption that what has worked elsewhere will work at Twitter. At PayPal, Tesla, and SpaceX, Musk took existing but underachieving technologies, assembled crack teams of technical “geniuses”, and rallied them around a vision. Doing cool, disruptive, new things was the currency used to get his staff engaged and to rapidly innovate and transform startups to mature industry leaders. Twitter is not a startup, and there doesn’t seem to be any underlying disruptive or innovative technology that he has waiting in the wings.

Which leads to the second issue – a complete failure in organizational change management. There’s been no mention in the press nor from the 50+% of laid off staff that Musk has shared any sort of vision for the future of Twitter. What’s been communicated to the remaining staff is “extremely hardcore” work and 84 hour workweeks…but doing what exactly? If he has some game-changing innovation up his sleeve, it’s not been shared. And lacking transparency, he’s failed to get the workers behind him.

A third lesson is that outside observers and commentators have begun to defend (or at least excuse) Musk’s behavior as a product of his disclosure that he is neurodivergent and was bullied as a child. This assertion is seductive in that it seems reasonable. Yet it can do irreparable harm to the progress made by those of us who are effective neurodivergent leaders. It leads to the type of misconceptions against which we’ve fought for decades. Being neurodivergent is no excuse for the Musk brand of boorish and abusive managerial behavior.

I’ll conclude my comments with a recent quote by Rob England on LinkedIn. He characterized Musk’s behavior at Twitter as “his genius and his sociopathy.” The genius, of course, is in what Musk has accomplished at PayPal, Tesla, and SpaceX by sharing a vision and building a startup culture dedicated to innovation and disruption. His sociopathy, in contrast, is in the apparent belief that through fear and intimidation alone he can establish that same type of culture at a relatively mature leader in social media. Square pegs never effectively plug round holes.

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