In an exclusive Q&A with CEO.digital, the renowned author and speaker Bruce Daisley shared insights about his past at a social media giant with us. Also in the interview, Bruce reveals why the next big disruption to hit the business world could already be here…
Reflecting on his career at Twitter and YouTube, Bruce Daisley recently outlined how he witnessed the growth of two corporate giants in a chat with the CEO.digital editor. Bruce has been listed in the 500 Most Influential People in Britain and Top 10 Most Important People in Digital, accolades that reflect his authority on technology, workplace wellbeing and the future of work.
Meet Bruce Daisley
Bestselling Author & Former VP EMEA of Twitter
Bruce Daisley is widely regarded as a leader of technology, having formerly acted as the EMEA Vice President for Twitter. Having also worked for credible companies such as Emap, Google and charity Comic Relief, Bruce has built extensive business knowledge and how to cope under pressure. Since leaving his position at Twitter, Bruce has focused his passion into work life balance and how to improve work culture, both topics he is sought to cover as a public speaker.
CEO.digital: Having worked with Twitter for eight years, how did the company grow during your time as UK Managing Director and VP EMEA?
Bruce Daisley: “When I first joined Twitter, there were about 100 people working at the company globally, and it was a tiny little endeavour. In fact, people routinely used to ask, ‘how will this ever make money?’ – it felt more like a college project! So, in the course of that time, it massively changed.
“It was famous really only for Steven Fry and Jonathan Ross and little else in the UK. Obviously, over the course of time, it started wrestling with issues that none of us had ever imagined, including societal impact or impact on politics and the discourse of society.
“So, it fundamentally changed. And I think the critical thing about that was constant reappraisal. What you often find in tech companies – I’m always cautioned to caveat that tech companies aren’t as different as other companies even though they try and pretend to be – but one thing you’ll find in tech companies is that there’s a real celebration of quarters.
“It tends to be like, what can you accomplish in the next 13 weeks? And then you start again. So, I worked for eight years at Twitter, and one way to think about that is 32 quarters rather than eight years, because it was constant state of reinvention and renewal.”
You saw YouTube gain popularity between 2008 and 2013; how has the platform impacted the entertainment industry?
“It’s worth saying when I first started working at YouTube, there was a real feeling that it would never make money. In fact, it became famous for a couple of things. It became famous for being so expensive to run that only Google could even afford to own it, and secondly, the content was known for ‘Charlie Bit My Finger’ and dogs on skateboards. As a consequence, a lot of people said, ‘this will never go anywhere’.
“Now, I was just drawn to the fact that anything you wanted to find, you could find there. And so, whether it was archived footage of old music performances or tutorials by people, there was an increasing amount of content. There wasn’t such a thing as a YouTuber at the time, there wasn’t this whole ecosystem. But I was just convinced: ‘wow, look at this extraordinary explosion of creativity’.
“In fact, Beyoncé released a new song, and the dancing was really celebrated in her video, and she was asked about it in an interview – she doesn’t do a lot of interviews. She was asked about it, and she said, ‘oh, yeah, we just found some dancers on YouTube, and so we just copied that’. And it was just really interesting how the platform had become this connective tissue between elements of culture.”
The idea that communication might exist in opposition to good culture is something that is probably difficult for us to take on board. But I think it’s an illustration that culture doesn’t necessarily live in obvious places.
Bruce Daisley Bestselling Author & Former VP EMEA of Twitter
What are the top contributing factors that define a business’ culture?
“You find that some of the best organisations become very focused on redressing the balance between communication and autonomy. I saw something wonderful, Amazon’s Jeff Bezos believed that communication was the enemy of innovation.
“What do I mean by that? He said that effectively, the more time you ask your team to keep everyone else updated on things and to keep other people in the loop, it crowds out innovation because it takes so much of our time. So, Jeff Bezos in the first iteration of Amazon, his objective was to try and eliminate communication between his team.
“That’s a remarkable thing because I suspect a lot of us, when we’re performing appraisals on our employees or thinking about who’s doing a good job, we often say, ‘how good are they at communication?’.
“The idea that communication might exist in opposition to good culture is something that is probably difficult for us to take on board. But I think it’s an illustration that culture doesn’t necessarily live in obvious places.”
One thing you’ll find in tech companies is that there’s a real celebration of quarters. It tends to be like, what can you accomplish in the next 13 weeks? And then you start again. So, I worked for eight years at Twitter, and one way to think about that is 32 quarters rather than eight years, because it was constant state of reinvention and renewal.
Bruce Daisley Bestselling Author & Former VP EMEA of Twitter
Following the rapid digitisation caused by the Covid-19 pandemic, what do you predict will be the “next big thing” to disrupt businesses?
“I think the big debate that’s going to happen in the next two years is a discussion about hybrid working. No one’s going to want to admit that hybrid working isn’t really effective, because we want to make some concession to the way things are working. But gradually, we are going to be sitting in rooms where some people are going to be on video calls.
“There’s going to be a dawning realisation that this just isn’t working. And at that point, firms are going to be presented with a choice – do they demand that people come back to the office four days a week or do they say, ‘right, let’s try and work out how we can get the job done productively’.
“Antony Slumbers said, ‘no one bought an office to own an office, you buy an office to have a productive workforce’. And I think the closer we start to that, we can say, ‘we want a productive workforce, how do we make sure they’re inspired, rather than how do we make sure they’re travelling two hours a day to come and sit in an office?’.
“That’s not what we need, that’s just what we learned. And so, I think the more we start with the end in mind, the more we’re going to find a really satisfying, forward facing solution for this.”