We went to Nadella's launch of Hit Refresh so you didn't have to

File under management bullsh$t, for now*

Satya Nadella

As soon as Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella's book Hit Refresh was introduced as a "masterpiece" of how to scale up the "growth mindset" by his on-stage interviewer, it quickly became apparent this wasn't going to be a Paxman-esque grilling.

The book launch was at Lord's Cricket Ground in London, UK, a venue chosen because of Nadella's long-standing love of the game growing up in India.

In fact, he was playing with his cricket balls when the call came in 2014 announcing that he would be the next chief exec of Microsoft, following in the foot steps of the famously exuberant Steve Ballmer (he of "I Love This Company" fame).

Nadella, who comes from a scholarly background – his dad was a Marxist economist and his mum was professor of Sanskrit – has given his book a somewhat grandiose subtitle (for a company best known for its Blue Screen of Death) of: The Quest to Rediscover Microsoft's Soul and Imagine a Better Future for Everyone.

And its main thrust appears to be Nadella's attempt to introduce a culture change at Microsoft via the "growth mindset" technique, which apparently involves encouraging staff to shift from being "know-it-alls" to become "learn-it-alls" so they may achieve "continuous improvement".

Or to put it another way: stop being dicks.

Nadella said he began by introducing a book on non-violent communication to improve dialogue. "The culture at Microsoft was, we used to go to a class about precision questions. The idea was to destroy anyone's [argument] in the first five minutes by asking highly precise questions... but it was being used as an instrument of offence," he said.

Empathy is clearly his watchword here, something he was keen to apply to his management at Microsoft. Although, amusingly, he admitted to failing a question designed to determine his own level of empathy at his Microsoft interview.

The question was what would you do if you found a baby had just fallen on street? "I thought about it for a couple of minutes and and said call 911," he recalled. But it turns out the interviewer was looking for the more human response of picking it up and hugging it. Anyway, he obviously still got the job and the rest is history.

After becoming chief exec, Nadella said he asked himself the "existential question" of why Microsoft exists. "When I joined Microsoft in 1992 we used to talk about having a PC in every home and desk as our ambition. It was clear what the company was for and what it was trying to get done," he said. But by the late '90s it had achieved that goal, so its purpose became unclear.

Working with competitors and creating ecosystems of suppliers appears to be the short answer. "It's not about our technology but what others can do [with it]. Whether that's girls and boys at school using Minecraft, or a developer using Visual Studio... that to me is key."

He said the three areas he wanted to focus on in the future were: AI (remember Microsoft chatbot Tay?); quantum computing (a technology which is still very much in its infancy, and whose practical application generates huge scepticism) and mixed reality (which seems to mainly involve augmented reality in the form of its HoloLens product).

Nadella's most self-aware moment when he questioned how his insights might be received. "One of my biggest worries of this book and talking about it is: 'Will it be viewed cynically as corporate propaganda?'"

Cynical, us? ®

* Expect a book review from us in due course.

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