For a man who seemed to know everything and can do no wrong, hiring John Scully surely sucked for Steve Jobs. But then again, no one except Jobs himself thought he would conquer the world by coming back to Apple, so there are two sides to the story.
Jobs’ job anecdotes only go to show an old wisdom still stands tall: nobody knows anything.
Lest everybody forgets, let’s all walk down memory lane and remember the victims of Yahoo’s unwise hiring streak. That would explain why after all angle of the recent hiring of Marissa Mayer by Yahoo have been explored, the New York Times would run an article title When Picking a C.E.O. Is More Random Than Wise.
Obviously, Yahoo’s board hopes this hiring will correct pass wrongs, and that Mayer would not only be able to appease angry stockholders and skeptical analysts, but she would also be a shot in the arm the company sorely needed. Of course, when it comes to Yahoo, you would think their picking of Mayer, however logical on the surface, would fail in the end, somehow.
Mayer is becoming Yahoo’s fifth CEO in as many years. First, there was Terry Semel, who turned Yahoo into a conventional company from an Internet pioneer, then dropped the ball on search, Google, Facebook, Flickr, Yahoo Answers…. That led to the co-founder Jerry Yang to the rescue, who promptly rejected Microsoft’s 45 billion dollar offer, only to watch the company stay stagnant, causing its stock price to fall off a cliff. Carol Bartz wasn’t much better, and her two years stint at the helm is known more for her swearing than for the marks she made on the company. Somehow, Scott Thompson’s reign became even more disastrous, as he is alleged to have fake degrees on his resume, forcing him to quit only after months on the job.
So if the past is any indicator at all, the Yahoo may just be a bridge too far, even for the first female engineer at Google. However, to expect Mayer to become a cure-for-all is probably why Yahoo failed to find a suitable CEO in the first place. Power originates from the top, that is true, but one man or woman is just an island, and the greatest thing about this concept we call corporation is that the sum will be bigger than its parts. So there is only so much that one person can do, and whether or not things will work out in the end is extremely complex, with a lot of randomness in between. This is why all analyses and predictions are bound to be “too simple, sometimes naïve”, and so are hopes for silver bullets.
Of course, Yahoo is not the only company plagued by this line of thinking. China’s Internet scene is also rapidly becoming a merry-go-a-round. On surface, the most prevalent reason for this phenomenon seems to be that the people are hired to fulfill a specific function, and once things didn’t go according to plan, both sides feel it would be best to separate. But behind this façade, the real problem is that people bring simple and linear solutions to complex situations. As such, things are destined to not work out, even for the best and the brightest.