Today’s report that Skype has at last been sold by eBay releases Skype to return to its natural position in the organizational lifecycle – having Fun.
Ebay made the classic mistake of an organization in Treadmill – uprooting a fast-growing young sapling, replanting it in their corporate hothouse and expecting it to graft into the main tree, thus rejuvenating the organization as a whole.
As Microsoft found out with Razorfish and Time Warner eventually conceded with AOL, it doesn’t work that way, folks.
The only way an organization can halt its slide from Treadmill into The Big Rut and get back to Predictable Success is either by rejuvenation from the inside (like Apple did after the departure of John Sculley, or – less frequently – by a reverse takeover, where the larger organization yields its corporate culture entirely or substantially to a younger, more vibrant organization already in Predictable Success (like the acquisition of Pixar is doing for Disney’s animation business).
For a large, lumbering company, writing a big check to swallow up a fast-growing entrepreneurial organization in Fun is simply like downing four margaritas – it might dull the pain for a while, but tomorrow you’ll still have the same problems – but with an accompanying hangover.