Why Marissa Mayer’s idea is right

by Dallon Christensen

Marissa Mayer has the right idea when it comes to improving Yahoo’s productivity and company culture. She is just doing a bad job of executing and communicating the decision.

Mayer, Yahoo’s CEO, is the subject of a fierce debate about the future of working arrangements. Her decision to ban full-time telecommuting at the struggling technology company is the most polarizing business subject of 2013 to this point, with many supporters on both sides of the issue. The concept of remote work and how it impacts business growth and innovation will continue to spark passionate responses.

Marissa Mayer Google IO 5 350x467

Photo from cnet.com

I believe Marissa Mayer is right in her belief that innovation and productivity increase with collaboration. I have worked as a remote employee, an office employee, and a self-employed individual working from home. Marissa Mayer is right to recognized teamwork and collaboration as critical to Yahoo’s future success. She also made a data-driven decision to rescind the company’s telecommuting policy. Next week, I will highlight how Mayer’s execution of this decision was far from ideal.

What Marissa Mayer did right

  1. Mayer is right that collaboration and teamwork are critical to any company – It is true that people need quiet, focused time to work hard on developing new ideas. However, a company does not thrive when its employees work in isolation. Growing companies need people with a variety of strengths and interests. This teamwork then produces the ideas which advance a company. The ability to “connect the dots” and link great ideas from different viewpoints is what allows a company to capitalize on new ideas.
  2. Mayer is right that innovation and creativity comes from chance meetings – Innovation and creativity are not check-the-box, structured activities. They result from brainstorming, unusual events, and chance opportunities. Steve Jobs understood this when he helped design Pixar Studio’s building with the restrooms in the central part of the building. This forced all employees to migrate to a central location. These meetings sparked many great ideas. Your company needs
  3. Mayer was right to use data to support her decision – Mayer had a instinctive reaction that empty parking lots meant people may not be working. She then worked with her executive team to review remote working records and reportedly found many Yahoo telecommuters not being as productive as they could be. She used data to support her gut reaction, and this resulted in a more defensible decision.

Next week, I’ll highlight what Ms. Mayer did wrong executing her decision. This series should be a reminder to company leaders and owners about why even right ideas can meet strong resistance if not executed properly.

Do you feel Marissa Mayer’s idea about telecommuting was correct? Share your thoughts below!

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