In the race to the cutting edge, many competitive CEOs make it a personal priority to evaluate and adopt new tech tools and services--not just for their own personal or professional benefit, but also to better understand how customers use them.

The problem is, consumers typically aren't racing to the cutting edge. Enter Yahoo CEO Marissa Mayer, who's built a career in the tech space by adopting the habits of average users versus early adopters. Arguably, few execs put as much thought into the actual user experience as she does.

In the 21,000-word biography of Mayer published in August by Business Insider, writer Nicholas Carlson explains how, while overseeing products at Google, she forced herself to empathize with users.

"She would re-create the technological circumstances of her users in her own life," Carlson writes. "Mayer went without broadband for years in her home, refusing to install it until it was also installed in the majority of American homes. She carried an iPhone at Google, which makes Android phones, because so did most mobile Web users."

Mayer also relied on data about people's actual behavior. "She would track, survey, and measure every user interaction with Google products, and then use that data to design and redesign."