Marissa Mayer, meet Andrew McAfee


Marissa Mayer, I would like to introduce you to Andrew McAfee. He's the principal research scientist at MIT's Center for Digital Business, and I think he could help you with your telecommuting problem. He's the guy who coined the term Enterprise 2.0 and I have a feeling that enterprise social software could help you with your goal of increasing collaboration and innovation among your employees.

I know you raised more than a few eyebrows last week when you announced that you were canceling telecommuting and bringing everyone in-house--because apparently you believe that innovation requires having face to face meetings--but maybe you haven't heard about Dr. McAfee's work, which has been ongoing since 2006.

Putting aside all of the issues of stressed parents needing work flexibility--something you, as a new mom, must understand--let's just look at it from one angle. Your employees are not all in the same building anymore. They're not even in the same city or state--or even the same country.

Chances are, they are spread out across the world. You probably have development teams in Eastern Europe. You may have a mobile project in India or a marketing team in China. To expect all of these disparate groups to be in the same building to drive innovation so that they can white-board some ideas in the same meeting room is naive at best.

As my colleague Wayne Rash aptly put it in an eWeek commentary last week, "Problem is, this isn't 1996. Try as she might, there's no way Ms. Mayer can recreate the young, lean innovative company that was the product of the imagination of two engineers. Yahoo is not a broken toy that you can reassemble. In reality, it's not the same company. But in Mayer's effort to recreate the young, agile Yahoo she has chosen to adopt the least productive path--to ban telework."

You needn't have taken such a radical step, even if, as it has been reported, telecommuting employees have been less than productive. That sounds like a management problem, not a telecommuting one, and simply banning the practice altogether ignores the entire industry that has been set up to help solve this very problem.

While I personally think that banning telework is going to backfire on you, Marissa--may I call you Marissa?--and backfire badly, I also know there are ways for people to collaborate, work together, share ideas and be spread across the world while doing it.

That's why I would like to get you and McAfee together. You're two extremely bright and articulate individuals, and I really believe that he could help you solve your collaboration and innovation dilemma. He could explain to you the many ways companies are using enterprise social tools to encourage the very types of behaviors you are trying to build back into your company.

In fact, maybe you should attend the E2 Conference in Boston in June. It's interesting to note that the tagline for the conference is "Driving innovation through enterprise applications." That's what you want to do, right? And while you're there, you can stop by MIT and visit Andy, and have a face to face meeting.

Or better yet, Marissa, give Andy a call or Skype him and have a video chat. You don't even have to be in the same building to share ideas. He could explain that better than anybody. - Ron