Afterthoughts: Hit Refresh by Satya Nadella

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Satya Nadella’s tenure as Microsoft CEO is one marked by transformation. A transformation of culture that has, and will continue to echo, through Microsoft and across its customers and partners for years to come. In this book, he writes a record of journey of transformation so far: the triumphs, challenges, and surprises. While its roots are in culture, Nadella discusses the transformation’s second-order effects like what that means for Microsoft’s partnership strategies, research and development focuses, and policy on security and privacy, among other things. 

My opinion in this review is probably biased having worked at Microsoft in 2019. The kool-aid I drank that year essentially maps as the mature version of what Nadella has written here. It made for humble reading. The later chapters where he discusses equitable economic growth, trust, AI, mixed reality, the cloud, and partnerships are all firmly embedded as the bedrock of the spirit of Microsoft and how it approaches business. The principled approach he has taken has really sunk in, even to small subsidiaries like where I was placed. 

Peter Drucker famously proclaimed: “Culture eats strategy for breakfast”. This is the launchpad that Nadella uses to inform Microsoft’s transformation strategy. Like any other business transformation, they will live or die with the employees. A key element was transforming the mindset of employees: fixed mindset to growth mindset. Popularised by Carol Dweck in her book, Mindset, a fixed mindset is know-it-all while a growth mindset is a learn-it-all.

The former is closed and stagnant and the latter is open and dynamic. This growth mindset allows for the transformation to take place, it would otherwise not be possible with a fixed mindset. It is the one change in Nadella’s strategy that allowed for all the rest. It seems so simple, but to do it in an organisation as complex as Microsoft is no small feat. As far as I am concerned, this chapter was the most illuminating for the disproportionate impact it had on everything else. 


Recommended for anyone in the technology or technology-adjacent industries. Pioneering, purposeful, and principled. Satya Nadella paints a picture of what business transformation on the largest scale looks like. He details the strategy and the learnings from the experience three years into it. More than anything, Nadella provides hope that multinationals can align themselves to contribute to the world’s most pressing issues.

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