Business Strategy | Leadership / Management | Organizational Development | Technology & Social Media

Twitter co-founder Biz Stone: Be human, solve problems, help people

Want to know how to spot the world’s true pioneers? They’re the ones with all of the arrows in their backs.

Just ask Biz Stone. From Ellen’s selfie to natural disasters to world-changing political protests, the Twitter co-founder has watched his creation change the world. And yet he’s still nursing the wounds inflicted by early detractors who were bent on seeing him fail.

“I remember at one point early on, someone told me that Twitter was the Seinfeld of the Internet — it was a web site about nothing. And I thought, ‘That’s great — I love Seinfeld!” Stone said, laughing, at the 2014 Sage Summit in Las Vegas. “They had to convince me that it was actually an insult.”

So how do you carry on when the world thinks you’re useless? For Stone, the answer was “joy.”

“We need that emotional investment — that joy — to carry us through the tough times,” Stone said. “People used to tell us that Twitter wasn’t useful. I’d tell them, ‘Really? Neither is ice cream. Why don’t we just ban that, too?’ It’s fun. Maybe that’s enough.”

And then what happened?

“Twitter became important,” Stone said.

Amazingly important, in fact. Twitter has helped change the ways in which we communicate, collaborate, connect, and learn. It has changed the ways in which information is disseminated. And its “fail whale” announcements of system disruptions in the early days taught Stone the importance of transparency.

“We never presented ourselves as bulletproof,” he said. “There’s value in vulnerability. You can build a lot of goodwill with people just by telling the truth.”

What’s amazing about Stone is that he didn’t stop at Twitter. His latest venture is called Jelly, an app that, according to Vanity Fair, “answers users' questions by crowd-sourcing a query out to other users and waiting for responses.”

Stone’s mission seems to center on being human, solving problems, and helping people. His ultimate goal, he said, is to convince others to do the same.

“People are fundamentally good,” Stone said. “If you build tools that help them express that, they'll prove it to you every day.”

Like everything Stone touches, it’s all about your network. Follow the right people and you’ll learn, grow, and do really good things. The people who follow you will do the same.

Here’s what’s amazing: There’s nothing new here. New tools follow old rules. It’s still about people. It’s still about building relationships. It’s still about being human.

Tools like Twitter merely let us do those things exponentially.

What’s so wrong about that?


Bill Sheridan