Aug. 9, 2020

Hit Refresh: How to build better companies and technology for humans

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About the Book

The New York Times bestseller Hit Refresh is about individual change, about the transformation happening inside of Microsoft and the technology that will soon impact all of our lives—the arrival of the most exciting and disruptive wave of technology humankind has experienced: artificial intelligence, mixed reality, and quantum computing. It’s about how people, organizations, and societies can and must transform and “hit refresh” in their persistent quest for new energy, new ideas, and continued relevance and renewal. 

Microsoft’s CEO tells the inside story of the company’s continuing transformation, tracing his own personal journey from a childhood in India to leading some of the most significant technological changes in the digital era. 


About the Author

Satya Nadella is a husband, father and the chief executive officer of Microsoft – the third in the company’s 40-year history.

On his 21st birthday, Nadella emigrated from Hyderabad, India to the United States to pursue a master’s degree in computer science. After stops in America’s Rust Belt and Silicon Valley, he joined Microsoft in 1992 where he would lead a variety of products and innovations across the company’s consumer and enterprise businesses. Nadella is widely known as an inspiring, mission-oriented leader who pushes the bounds of technology while crafting creative and sometimes surprising deals with customers and partners globally.

Nadella’s life is a journey of learning deep empathy for other people, which he brings into all he does personally and professionally. As much a humanist as an engineer and executive, Nadella defines his mission and that of the company he leads as empowering every person and every organization on the planet to achieve more. In addition to his role at Microsoft, Nadella serves on the Board of Directors for Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center and Starbucks. Satya and his wife, Anu, personally support Seattle Children’s Hospital as well as other organizations in the Seattle area that serve the unique needs of people with disabilities.


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BIG IDEA 1 (4:20) – Hit refresh.

We need to change how we do things. It is not a case of better products or working longer hours but the need for culture change, and the underlying way of working that needs to be refreshed.

The culture change that Satya championed was about regaining the soul of Microsoft; the reason that people wanted to work there in the first place. This also meant shaking up his senior leadership team as he knew that any culture change has to be driven by the top, shown and demonstrated by the most senior positions. Getting things right at the top meant challenging the current ways of working so things could change.

He said that often we assume that people have more power over us than we do. But this isn’t true, and by empowering the individual and taking control of situations ourselves we get better outcomes.

BIG IDEA 2 (7:51) – Build for humans.

Ultimately this is about empathy – something that is central to how Satya works and leads. Ironically, it was empathy that almost stopped him getting his job at Microsoft. During his interview, Satya was asked what he would do if he saw a baby crying on the street. He said he would call 911. The interviewer told him that he should pick up a baby because it needs comforting.

It was from this question that he realised that he needed to build some more empathy and human connection into how he works. This was brought to life even more when his son Zain, was born with serious health issues – including cerebral palsy, meaning he needed to use a wheelchair. Satya quickly saw for himself that users have very different needs, the way they interact with technology and the needs they have that are unique to them.

He injected the need for empathy into the team as part of the culture change. He actively meets with Microsoft users around the world to see the real stories and how the technology is impacting the people and shares this throughout the organisation.

BIG IDEA 3 (10:57) – Build for the future.

You have to think longer term. In his travels around the world, Satya sees that there’s huge opportunities for technology, education and economic benefits. There’s also huge inequality due to lack of investment in technology and education in certain countries.

Some of these are driven by short-term thinking of governments or companies. He talks about the need for systemic change through investment longer than election terms or budget cycles.

Businesses also have an important position to create bigger change by innovating, investing in different ways for something that benefits the wider society. He states that it’s no good just sharing your surplus within your own ‘patch’, these surpluses need to filter into the global community.

Satya has design principles for Microsoft that sets them up for the next industrial revolution; one that is going to be driven by software.

Also listen to the episode: Shoe Dog: Values, working for fun and building one of the biggest brands in the world

Music By: Contraluz Song by Tomas Novoa

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