I recently reacquainted myself with Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella’s book Hit Refresh: The Quest to Rediscover Microsoft’s Soul and Imagine a Better Future for Everyone. It is required reading for my senior team. Nadella sums up the book perfectly when he writes: “This is a book about transformation.” It is about the transformation that Microsoft is undergoing with Nadella at the helm, but it is also about how Nadella himself has been transformed in the process, and his philosophy that one of the most important human qualities is empathy. Empathy, Nadella insists, is at the heart of how companies, society, and individuals must transform.
The book is written in three main sections: his early life and journey to Microsoft, the story of Microsoft’s transformation-in-progress, and his views on technology and the future. One thing I appreciate is that Nadella wanted to write the book now, while everything is happening, so that the reader can share in the story alongside him, rather than looking back in retrospect. He wants it to be a picture of the mess, not the final product. This is the reality of having a significant leadership role in a company — it is always a work in progress with many obstacles to overcome and things to improve. Nadella shows this magnificently. It’s also written in a way that is really simple to digest and tames the complexity of subjects like the cloud and artificial intelligence for the average person.
Microsoft has been around for a while now, and Nadella points out that it would be naive to think that any company is too good or too strong to ever need to ask themselves hard questions and be willing to “hit refresh.” To Nadella, Microsoft had reached a point where it felt stagnant and desperately needed that refresh, and this book is about how he is leading the company through that. However, Nadella also emphasizes that it is never just one leader or one group of people that can refresh a company, an organization, or society — it takes all parts and every person.
As someone who sees Microsoft up close and in a personal way as a vendor for some of their important projects, I can honestly say we have seen this transformation taking place. It is real, granular, and easy to embrace as a partner. Working with them and witnessing Nadella’s leadership firsthand has made me a better builder and leader.