Note: I had originally written a much harsher critique of Scott Thompson for this post. However, I decided to revise my original article after Thompson revealed, as part of his departure from Yahoo!, that he is fighting thyroid cancer. I wish Thompson well and hope that he makes a full, speedy and complete recovery.
Scott Thompson was ousted as the CEO of Yahoo! recently, and it’s a safe bet that almost nobody outside of his immediate family feels bad for him about the dismissal. The reason? For many people, it’s due to a sense that lying — especially on a resume — is morally wrong and should be punished.
But for many people, satisfaction over Thompson’s firing stems from a perception that Yahoo’s recent lawsuit against Facebook is akin to patent trolling. To many observers — venture capitalists, tech journalists, bloggers and customers — Yahoo’s actions reflect an inability to drive shareholder value through innovation, which has instead spawned a desperate attempt to unlock value via unscrupulous means.
This perception is particularly difficult for a company based in Silicon Valley. The region’s culture prizes innovation above most, if not all, attributes. And Thompson is squarely to blame for ignoring this cultural tenet, and instead huddling with consultants to plot strategy and make plans to drain cash away from a true innovator.
The validity of Yahoo’s patents became irrelevant the moment an entire worldview was violated, and Thompson’s BiographyGate became fresh blood in the water for an already-ravenous sea of sharks.
The lesson, then? Well actually there are two.
First, don’t lie. Your parents should have taught you this one, but if you need a refresher, go read The Boy Who Cried Wolf.
Second, cultural ignorance is a dangerous thing. I’ve written about this before, and it applies to a myriad of situations: corporate life, social media channels, etc. Just think about the number of colleagues that you’ve seen exit from organizations because of poor cultural fit. Can you think of several? I can.
But you can roll these two lessons into one. A family friend once told me, “You get no points in life for being a butt.” Remember this one above all. Scott Thompson will.
Agree? Disagree? Let me know below.