Groundbreaking ideas and research for engaged leaders
Rotman Insights Hub | University of Toronto - Rotman School of Management Groundbreaking ideas and research for engaged leaders
Rotman Insights Hub | University of Toronto - Rotman School of Management

What can businesses learn from Twitter's acquisition?

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Ben Mezrich

The world watched as Elon Musk's purchase of Twitter (now X) unfolded. Some pundits compared it to a train wreck — you simply couldn't look away.

Author Ben Mezrich joined the Rotman Visiting Experts podcast to talk about his new book, Breaking Twitter: Elon Musk and the Most Controversial Corporate Takeover in History. It's a fascinating — and juicy — behind-the-scenes look at how the $44-billion deal unfolded, and the resulting chaos left in its wake. It's a must-listen for anyone looking to better understand how the whims of a single individual can derail even the most powerful of organizations. 

Three key takeaways from this episode include: 

  1. There are very real dangers to company organizational health when the decision-making power is concentrated in a single individual. Their whims and moods can derail company profits and plans. On the day this episode was recorded (Nov. 29, 2023), Musk spoke at a New York Times conference. Following criticism from other speakers that day, he told advertisers to "f*** off," undoing much of the recent work he'd done to woo brands back to the platform. Egos can derail even the best-laid plans...and these were not the best-laid plans. 
  2. The concept of the creative genius is likely overblown. Elon Musk went into the deal with a huge cult following — people who truly believed he'd be the "saviour" of all of Twitter's woes. He had done marvelous things for companies like SpaceX and Tesla, but that also meant that his sometimes abusive approach to management was tolerated, and in some cases, even seen as effective. When he walked through the doors of Twitter, his scorched-earth, "hard-core" approach ruined morale, quickening the downward spiral of the company. 
  3. Company boards and governance can play a hugely important role. Musk surrounded himself with people who support his decisions, and — somewhat ironically considering the impetus for buying Twitter appeared to be to protect free speech — seemingly has litte tolerance for people who challenge his approach. Groupthink, as Rotman faculty have studied, is dangerouse to the growth and prosperity of organizations. 

Give the whole episode a listen above!

New episodes of Rotman Visiting Experts are released monthly on SpotifyApple Podcasts, and Google Podcasts. Desktop listeners can also tune in on Simplecast.

Would you rather read than listen in? Check out the full transcript of the episode here

Missed the first season? Give it a listen here

Ben Mezrich is the New York Times bestselling author of The Accidental BillionairesBringing Down the House, The Antisocial Network and Breaking Twitter