Six Pixels of Separation - The Blog
March 2, 2013 8:28 AM

Where Innovation Happens

Where do you think innovation happens?

Are you doing your best work when you are alone with your ideas? Are you doing your best work when you're collaborating at the office with your peers? Do you do your best work early in the morning before the chickens get squawking? Do you do your best work late at night while wearing headphones that are blasting your favorite tunes? Do you do your best work while sitting at your desk or are you more comfortable in the cafe at the corner? Does your best stuff come from tinkering in the shed or asking your colleagues at the office for an opinion.

Spend some time in deep meditation about this.

This past week, the tech world (and those paying attention to the business of Silicon Valley) were shocked that Yahoo CEO, Marissa Mayer, has put an end to telecommuting and working from home if you're an employee of Yahoo (you can read more about it here: The Yahoo memo and Marissa Mayer's big innovation gamble). From The Washington Post article: "It might just be one of the biggest 'bet-the-company' moves to create a culture of innovation that we've ever seen in Silicon Valley. Marissa Mayer is essentially saying to her employees, 'If you're not 100 percent vested in making Yahoo one of the greatest companies in Silicon Valley once again, then you're not the right fit for us anymore.' The telecommuting ban functions much like a tempting buyout offer from a company trying to slim down via attrition. It's a test of how dedicated employees are to her vision for the New Yahoo..."

Ask yourself again, where does innovation happen?

Yahoo is an interesting company. With as much business as the generate as a media entity, few (if any) people see Yahoo as a progressive or innovative organization. Rather than this being a slight against employees who have young children or those who are not regularly required to attend pre-determined meetings, Mayer needs to do this. It's less about an "all hands on deck" (although that too is needed) and much more about innovation. Breakthroughs, collisions, ideas and sparks happen when people can bounce things off of one another. There is an energy, feel and pulse when people get together, hang out, push each other and force the work. Sure, there's no problem when individuals need time alone to get the work done, but this does not mean that any individual can remove themselves from the overall corporate culture. Every team needs a home base. Every team needs a place to regularly and consistently get together to hack the system.

It's not for everyone.

I realize that my comments may have some of you rolling your eyes. I realize that many people have some harsh thoughts for what Mayer has done. I would encourage everyone to take a deep breathe, step back, look at Yahoo's position and ask where this innovation is going to come from? There is no doubt that moments at home to toil on some deeper reflections that might bring out a new result are a critical component of where innovation happens. But the real answer to the question: where does innovation happen is this: it happens everywhere. You need all of the inputs and places and people and inspiration listed above. Still, with that, you need a true home base. Working from home can work for some businesses and there are countless examples of organizations that make it work, but humans really do create amazing things when we get together, rally around a specific ideology and reach for the stars.

It's painful but it shouldn't be.

I don't think that Mayer was trying to make people not like her or perceive her to be counter-current-culture. It seems like she cares deeply about making things work at Yahoo and, with that, she wants her team to be together and get the job done. We'll know in a few short years if Yahoo is able to pull it off. True innovation comes from many and multiple inputs. It's not just from home. It's not just from the office. Bringing people together to encourage that ideology is a smart move and another brave step in attempting to make Yahoo today what it once was.

What do you think?

By Mitch Joel