5 Key Strategies for Innovation from Yahoo! CEO Marissa Mayer

Despite a late arrival and an interruption of protestors, Marissa Mayer and Marc Benioff’s “fireside” chat keynote at Dreamforce 2013 was what the crowd was looking for, an insight into the innovative changes Mayer has led at Yahoo. Among the major topics were Yahoo’s focus on simplicity across design, leadership, and prioritization.

“You don’t get to design the products, but you can design the organization.” – Mayer

You can’t design for global if you haven’t gone and visited the places around the world

If you are designing for the global market, you better hop on a plane and experience your target market first hand. If you haven’t seen how someone uses their phone or laptop in Japan, Italy, or India, then you don’t understand it. Getting the real pulse and vibe of digital in a country is impossible without a first hand experience.

Design products for the simplicity of 98% of users’ needs

Your products may be able to perform 1,001 different tasks, but what solves the main pain point for your customers should be front and center. Think about the Xerox machine. It may collate, staple, scan, fax, and even email things for you, but what do you want it to do? Copy things. And that is what the giant green button is for. Design your products around the giant green button.

What is really usable is not always useful

While designing for simplicity and beauty should be a top priority (just take a look at the weather app), don’t get carried away with it. At the core, your products need to be useful and provide value to your customers in a simple way.

A good executive plays defense, not offense

“The team is on offense, they’re going to move the ball. Your job is to say, ‘Hey, we’re going to run in this direction,’ and clear a path, get the obstacles, the process, the bureaucracy, the nay-sayers out of the way and help people run as fast as they can.” As a good CEO, it is your job to clear obstacles out of the way to empower your team to work on the issues that they see are most important.

Prioritization is the secret to success

Make your priorities clear from the very start and stick to them. If you make a to do list every day in prioritized order and you never get to the bottom of that list, you should feel successful. It seems counterintuitive, but if you finished the entire list each day, then you just spent a significant portion of your day on unimportant tasks.

With two more days of sessions and keynotes, including Facebook’s COO Sheryl Sandberg, keep an eye out for more news and strategies from Dreamforce 2013 on innovation, growth, talent, and leadership from eCornell.