Yahoo’s Scott Thompson is stepping down. The swinging door reminds me of the Union leadership during the Civil War. There were so many changes in generalship that the average enlisted man could barely keep count. Each was shown the door by a less than impressed Abe Lincoln — hoping he would eventually find someone who could beat General Lee.
Until Lincoln found U.S. Grant, each promising general fought the war according to standard practices of the day. And each ran from the battlefield, tail between his legs after that old grey fox, R.E. Lee, bested them again. The stakes for Lincoln were high. He had to find a way to beat Lee and the Army of Northern Virginia or the game might be up.
Yahoo is in the same life and death struggle. It doesn’t need a new CEO. It needs a new approach to the battle and it needs to find a way to beat an enemy (Google) that so far has won every battle.
What Yahoo needs is to rebrand, desperately. I am not talking about a name change. I am talking about a new strategy that delivers a meaningful relationship with its search engine.
Rebranding is not just a marketing ploy. It is a cultural shift in thinking that challenges all of the assumptions of the past and moves with alacrity and vigor towards a new vision for who they are and what they need to accomplish. These secrets will not be found by the “smartest guys in the room” but they will need to be embraced by the very same.
Grant understood Lee’s weakness and doggedly pursued his celebrated rival until the tide of war had turned. Yahoo will win or lose depending on how out of the box it is willing to go, who it puts in charge, and its willingness to rebrand. Anything less and it will fade away to become another “Lotus” — a company instrumental in the formative days but obsolete in the new ways of computing.