Less than a year after becoming Yahoo! CEO, Marissa Mayer continues to show her headline making leadership chops in the male-dominated world of technology. Her latest move, ordering remote workers to report to the office or look for opportunities elsewhere, has become quite the global conversation piece as people try to guilt and shame her for making the right decision for Yahoo!’s future.
There’s no doubt that it’s been a crazy busy month for Mayer and Yahoo!. The site's hacking incident is finally winding down for Yahoo! customers in other countries. Mayer successfully launched a new landing page and changed the way Yahoos report to work. Given all the company has faced, many are asking, “Why crack the whip now?”, implying that it’s just a productivity challenge she’s faced with while ignoring the fact that Yahoo! fell asleep at the innovation wheel.
The reality is that the company has been a slowly sinking ship years before Mayer hit the Yahoo! scene. Mayer inherited a visionless, hack-prone, disjointed product set along with a bureaucracy laden company where innovation and quality had become a thing of the past. The very weaknesses she was able to exploit to build Google into the mega-powerhouse it is, are the same weaknesses she continues to address now that she’s at the helm of her former rival.
Mayer’s decision to bring people back to the Yahoo! offices was well thought out and, to be frank, the last chance many will be given to step up as an innovative, collaborative team member. Further, the policy is in complete alignment with policies of her chief rivals, Google and Facebook, where collaboration is key and telecommuting is discouraged.
Mayer knows her competition, the employee benefits offered, along with the environment of each company. As the 20th employee at Google, and first female engineer, she was a pivotal member of the team that raised the bar, and stole Yahoo! customers (and employees) for Google. Additionally, she was the key player who raised the internet benchmark during her tenure at Google when she launched Google Maps, Gmail, and iGoogle, along with other Google products.
As a former Googler, she knows the limited innovative value of working remotely and also knows that there are other incentives like free food, laundry, on campus doctors, hair stylists, and the freedom to imagine the next big thing and bring it to life, are more conducive to growing a collaborative and innovative company.
Further, she’s a technologist who knows her work-on-campus strategy has been scientifically proven to promote collaboration and innovation – at Google no less.
During an interview with Gwen Ifill at PBS, John Sullivan, professor of business management at San Francisco State University, hit the nail on the head when he stated, “So, remember, Yahoo! competes against Apple and Google and Facebook. And, in order to be what we would call a serial innovator, like an Apple, coming out with a new product that wows people, you need all hands on board. And so we know [that] from the data – she came from Google. She’s a computer scientist. She’s very data-driven.”