I just read this article on Slate.com about Melissa Mayer, the new CEO at Yahoo, Marissa Mayer Is in Over Her Head: That’s just how Yahoo’s new CEO likes it by the always insightful Farhad Manjoo. She described how she decided to work at the then very new company, Google, which had very-few-employees. Here’s the key paragraph:
“I had to think really hard about how to choose between job offers,” she said. Mayer approached the choice analytically. Over spring break, she studied the most successful choices in her life to figure out what they had in common. “I looked across very diverse decisions—everything from deciding where to go to school, what to major in, how to spend your summers—and I realized that there were two things that were true about all of them,” she said. “One was, in each case, I’d chosen the scenario where I got to work with the smartest people I could find. … And the other thing was I always did something that I was a little not ready to do. In each of those cases, I felt a little overwhelmed by the option. I’d gotten myself in a little over my head.”
After weighing her options, Mayer chose Google.
So… work with the smartest people you can find. And tackle a challenge that is just a little bit too much. I think the idea is that if it pushes you just the right amount — tough enough to be very, very difficult, but!, still doable — then you learn more, you might succeed spectacularly, and you are then more ready for the next, bigger challenge.
Mr. Manjoo is not sure that this decision, heading Yahoo, will be successful (there may not be that circle of “the smartest people she can find”), but he is convinced that it will be fun to watch: “And even while I have severe doubts that Mayer will be able to turn Yahoo around, I’m excited to see what she can do with the place. Yahoo has long been headed for failure. Now, at least, it will be an interesting failure, not a depressing one.”
This much is clear: a person with the ability to follow a very serious process of decision making, a process that can lead to a brilliant decision, will probably lead the pack. Because, most of us are just not very good at making decisions.
(an aside: I have said, in one way or another on this blog, Farhad Manjoo is the writer that most consistently gives me the insight that I need).