Terror Of the Mediocrites

Cringely again, this time on Yahoo! firing its CEO. I don’t particularly care about Yahoo!, mostly because…

These are companies built purely on intellect — companies where there are a few individuals who are capable of doing things that are unique in their enterprise. Imagine a General Motors where there was only one worker who could make really fine exhaust systems. That wouldn’t work in Detroit but it does work in Silicon Valley because the output of that one person can be amplified a thousand or a million times.

That’s a funny dynamic, actually. Scaling, by itself, is a procedural kind of exercise. Rebuilding and growing the product so that it can withstand scaling is a completely different challenge. Inventing products at-scale is a lowest-common-denominator kind of slow motion disaster. There’s something anti-creative about thinking big right out of the gates.

Every single candidate that could conceivably drive Yahoo! back to its glory is running a startup of his/her own right now. If Yahoo! wants its next leader to have any kind of vision, it should acquire small companies with great teams and treat them well.

Alas, like it or not, the status quo in Yahoo! is mediocrity, in which many have a big stake. So here’s the choice you’d offer some hotshot startup CEO:

  1. Come into this mediocre environment, fire all the mediocrites (they know you will do this and hate you and fear you and will curse your name to the grave) and abandon your pet product because it doesn’t yet have the scale to improve results in the short term.
  2. Fight us and perhaps beat us at our own game with your superior skills, 50%+ ownership and rock star team.


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