Thinking about Yahoo and Microsoft

So, the Net is abuzz with news that after years of flirting, Microsoft is serious about buying Yahoo. Most of the pundits are busy talking about strategic fit or Google or overlaps or asset valuation.

The real point, I think, is people.

The best things to ever come out of Yahoo, as far as I’m concerned, have been the work of individuals. Not of some hyperbolic purple and yellow machine, but from people, strong-willed individuals willing to buck the bureaucracy. And all the worst stuff the company has done has come out of committees. If Microsoft buys Yahoo, a huge (huge) number of talented people will be even richer than before and will almost certainly walk away.

What we haven’t figured out how to predict yet is which people will perform breakthroughs, which people are the ones that will change everything. What we do know for sure is that some organizations are more hospitable to that sort of behavior than others. Microsoft has gotten good at developing pockets of this sort of innovation. The challenge of an acquisition is going to be: Can the combined company make it a lot more likely that mavericks actually bring great stuff to market?