(I’ve updated my thoughts on this here)
Among the announcements coming from Yahoo! today is the close of Brickhouse, the “new product development” incubator set up two years ago. Reading tweets and notes in the blogosphere, a lot of folks are upset, thinking this is a foolish decision.
I think it makes perfect sense, and I’m surprised they hadn’t done it sooner.
Brickhouse essentially served as Yahoo!’s research and development arm. The thing is, stuff in Brickhouse rarely, if ever, made any impact anywhere else in Yahoo! Over four years ago, I wrote about the folly of r&d groups, and it still holds.
I’ve always been suspicious of the value of Brickhouse. From the outset, it seemed to be where Yahoo!’s most talented designers and developers went in order to avoid working on anything with accountability — and Yahoo! let them, because they didn’t want to lose that talent. The same thing happened to Yahoo!’s Design group back in February — when it became clear they were delivering no value to the business, they were let go.
So, unlike many of my friends and colleagues, I have trouble shedding tears over the demise of Brickhouse. It was apparent for a very long time that most of the efforts within Brickhouse were not delivering value, and it seemed as if the majority of folks within Brickhouse were perfectly fine with that. We have to accept the consequences of our decisions, and if we decide to work in an organization that has no demonstrable connection to value, we have to be prepared to be the first with our backs against the wall when hard times come.
Andy wrote that Yahoo!’s management “would be better served firing themselves,” but that’s true only to the extent that management should have never let the playground that was Brickhouse exist in the first place. Those who were in the Brickhouse should consider them lucky to have been able to play for 2 years while their colleagues turned the cranks that kept revenue coming in.
(this was dashed off in haste, and I’m sure it’s missing much nuance.)