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Innovation and Public Accounting: Lessons from Marissa Mayer and Steve Jobs

How do we bring innovation into the world of Public Accounting?

 The Truth About Marissa Mayer: An Unauthorized Biography by Nicholas Carlson popped up in the recommended news section of my Linked In account this weekend. Thinking I would just scan through it, I later found it was a lengthy but intriguing article which I read in two sittings. Two areas really resonated with me. The first was listening to Marissa speak to a Stanford class about the lessons learned at Google around Innovation .

Google’s 9 Theorems on Innovation

So how do we apply these conceptions in public accounting?

Ideas can come from other industries. What models can we change?

I want to know what you know! Engage in conversation. Contribute. There is so much information available today that we can get swept up in information overload. Share what you have found.

Surrounding yourself with smart people has always been a business axiom. I love being challenged to rethink.

Google provides the opportunity of using 20% of your time to work on anything you want. I have always thought that public accounting for me was a great forum to pursue dreams. Find your path. Find support. And then go for it.

Develop new products, methods of delivery, packaging. Throw them out in the marketplace. They don’t need to be perfect. Adjust as you go.

So we are accountants. I know. The numbers have to be right. The law has to be followed. I’m a stickler for getting it right. But there are so many other ways we can be creative and innovative.

The second area of Marissa’s bio that intrigued me was her work philosophy. She said it, “I like to work.” Now this is something I can really relate to. Marissa said she has been called a workaholic. I’ve been called the same. But it’s that I really like the work. I like being challenged and learning and relationships… it goes on and on. So here is an excerpt from the article relating to her transition into Yahoo:

“Some of the people in the room were growing frustrated with the pace, but others began contributing. Among those who contributed, Mayer learned who to trust. Those trusted people began to grow in confidence and they started to contribute even more. Once we learned how to operate on that level of intensity with her, she softened and it became more of an interaction.”

“She was pushing the pace…She was teaching…She was creating…She was using data to empathize with hundreds of millions of people all at once, as she had learned to do at Google.”

“I’ve never seen anybody like [her],” says someone from those meetings. Mayer, he says, was “somebody who could see a whole collection of possibilities and could just talk about her experiences and principles.”

One Yahoo executive said that before Mayer arrived, “what was missing was leadership from the very top, which was able to cut to the chase and get some tough decisions made, get focused in the right places, get the sense of urgency, and also somebody who could really be the chief quality control leader of the company.”

Quality control a must. What goes out is what everyone sees.

Another stickler for quality…Steve Jobs. So as if I hadn’t read enough on technology leaders, I decided to check out the new Steve Jobs movie. Similar philosophies? Yes. Surround yourself with smart people. Make quality products. Steve also had the same attention to minute detail as Marissa. Think, what does the consumer want? Steve wanted to be Different not Better.

So how do we do that in the accounting world? Be Different? Find innovative ways to engage the consumer. Make accounting their world? Make the numbers matter for them? Make them simple and understandable?

What do you think? Ideas come from everywhere.



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