“Why do I exist?” “Why does our institution exist?” “What is the role of a multinational corporation in our world? “What is the role of a leader in digital technology, especially as the world turns to tech as such a crucial input to drive growth?” These questions haunt me, and they motivated me to write Hit Refresh. Finding answers set me on an intellectual and introspective journey to discover what I uniquely can contribute to society and how to rediscover the soul of Microsoft, to define our role as a global company. They guide me daily in the pursuit to bring empathy together with big ideas in order to make a real difference.
Multinational corporations that create technology have an even higher bar for creating economic opportunity as the next wave of technologies takes hold. The coming industrial revolution, one that builds toward ubiquitous computing and ambient intelligence and is fueled by software, will be more profound in its impact on the economy than those revolutions that came before. It’s why I developed a set of design principles that shape how we—Microsoft and others—create this next wave of technology. I encourage feedback, debate, and ultimately commitment to building out the ethics that will govern our society going forward.
Mixed Reality, Artificial Intelligence and Quantum Computing
The world used to grow at 4 percent per year, but it is now growing at roughly 2 percent. So, we need new technology breakthroughs in order to have the type of growth we had in the twentieth century. Mixed reality, artificial intelligence, and quantum computing are going to be game changers, creating new economic surplus, but also disrupting the workforce, eliminating the routine jobs we take for granted today. Some argue that robots will take all our jobs, but this so-called “lump of labor” argument—the notion that there is a limited amount of work available—has always been disproved. It’s just that different types of labor will be needed. And humans will add value where machines cannot. As we encounter more and more artificial intelligence, real intelligence, real empathy, and real common sense will be scarce.
The new jobs will be predicated on knowing how to work with machines, but also on these uniquely human attributes. In the face of these many coming shifts, there must be a new social contract that helps to achieve economic surplus and opportunity on a more equitable basis. To get there, what will the new labor movement look like? There has been talk of a Universal Basic Income. How will we re-skill and retrain workers—not just high-end knowledge workers, but also low-skill and mid-skill labor? Can the service sector and people-on- people jobs be the source of new employment for many displaced from traditional manufacturing or agricultural sectors?
Responsibility to the World and its Citizens
Finally, as leaders, what is our role? At the end of the day, leaders of any company are evaluated based on their ability to grow the business, to clear the way for innovations that inspire customers. As CEOs, we’re accountable for generating the best returns to shareholders. But I also subscribe to the notion that the bigger a company is, the more responsibility its leader has to think about the world, its citizens, and their long-term opportunities.
You’re not going to have much of a stable business if you don’t think about the growing inequities around the world and do your part to help improve conditions for everyone. We approach this goal by focusing on multiple strategies and constituencies, leveraging our core business for positive social impact, and improving personal productivity, making sure our business is socially responsible by investing in sustainability, accessibility, privacy and security, and through philanthropy. Microsoft Philanthropies is the world’s largest corporate philanthropy with more than $1 billion in contributions across a wide variety of causes including teaching digital skills like coding and computer science, affordable access to the Internet, and humanitarian assistance. And we use our voice—under the banner of A Cloud for Global Good—to advocate for policies that advance the goal of economic opportunity for everyone. In fact, all of my proceeds from this book will go toward these causes.
Be a Curator of Culture
Earlier I wrote that the C in CEO is about being the curator of culture. After all, it really comes down to people. It’s the sum of a million decisions made by thousands of people every day. It’s about helping employees live out their own personal mission in the context of Microsoft’s. Microsoft no longer employs people, people employ Microsoft. What is possible to achieve when we shift the mindset of more than 100,000 people from being employees to employers? Our entire purpose is to make things that help others make things—and make things happen. Our services are irreplaceable tools in countless enterprises and organizations around the world. Anybody at Microsoft can look at our constellation of assets and dream of what can be and bring it to bear on any problem in any geography. We’re providing the resources countless people can use to build something that will outlast themselves, whether that’s a small business, a school, a clinic, or a giant enterprise creating jobs and opportunity for millions.
This culture needs to be a microcosm of the world we hope to create outside the company. One where builders, makers, and creators achieve great things. But, equally important, one where every individual can be their best self, where diversity of skin color, gender, religion, and sexual orientation is understood and celebrated. I know that we are on the right track when I hear a colleague express an insight that could only come from empathy, or when a product breakthrough results from someone who used Microsoft as a platform for his or her personal passion and creativity.
Extract taken from Hit Refresh by Satya Nadella, published by HarperCollins, RRP $32.99.
Posted on November 29, 2017 by Andrea Johnson
This entry was posted in Guest Post, Inspiring, Memoir & Biography and tagged CEO, Digital Technology, Empathy, Ethics, Global, Hit Refresh, Humanity, Leadership, Microsoft, Satya Nadella, Technology. Bookmark the permalink.