Can elephants dance? Satya Nadella, only the 3rd CEO in Microsoft’s history certainly thinks so, as he narrates the story of how he is trying to inject new life into Microsoft’s soul.
Once nearly synonymous with personal computing, Microsoft lost its mojo in the last decade as mobile phones literally gatecrashed into our lives and became the primary channel to access everything from music to internet. Many had written off Microsoft at this stage, but Satya narrates how he is breathing new life into the company, changing attitudes and bringing in new paradigms.
|Microsoft, is changing, and making the world an even better place for us|
The book starts on a personal note as the author traces his origins from childhood in the small towns of India to his entry into Microsoft headquarters in Seattle in the early 1990s and his eventual rise to the top in 2014. The author is modest in often acknowledging the role of luck in his success, pointing out how he always found himself at the right place at the right time. Son of a civil servant, the author narrates his fascination for cricket and early leadership lessons he took from the game. There are stories from the ups & downs in his personal life, like meeting the love of his life, and the trying circumstances surrounding the birth of the first child.
This is a book about transformation, one that is taking place within him and also within the company. What was the situation at Microsoft when Satya took over? What did he inherit? And what is it that he wants to change? Trying to bring about culture change in such a big organization is not easy, it is a painfully slow grind but the author’s efforts have slowly started showing results. There is now a renewed growth mindset. Several key events and decisions, such as the launch of Windows 10, learnings from the Nokia acquisition and corporate dispute with Samsung etc. are described, giving an insight into the author’s personality and working style. The author shows how his seemingly unconventional decisions to partner arch-rivals such as Apple or Google have paid off. Surprisingly, even in this dispassionate world of coding and corporate strategy, Empathy keeps repeating itself.
And thankfully, the book doesn’t end here!
In the latter sections, the author takes a deep dive into technologies of the future, and how Microsoft is “trying to imagine a better future for everyone”. It is this that I liked the most. The author writes about three things Microsoft is betting on – Mixed Reality, Artificial Intelligence and Quantum Computing. What are they? What can they do? And where are we – the human race - heading? These are topics not just for the geeks. The author shows how these technologies will become essential tools in everything we do – from education to medicine, or help us fight cancer or global warming. Going beyond pure computing, technologies of the future will not only help us see, hear and analyze, but also “make us feel”. Does this mean machines will eventually ‘take over’ - as some fear? Or will they only augment human capabilities to make this world an even better place for all of us? It is this ‘Human vs. Machines’ OR ‘Human + Machines’ debate that is currently the rage the world over, and the author assures us there is nothing to fear from the future.
In recent times, the growth of technology has also thrown up difficult issues surrounding privacy, security and free speech. The author discusses delicate issues such as privacy of user data and government surveillance, the dilemma between privacy vs. security, individual freedom and liberty vs. public safety. The author rues that laws always lag technological changes, causing friction between Regulation and the Corporation. The role of companies in modern society is also discussed.
As they say, ultimately the best way to predict the future is to invent it. And that is what Microsoft is doing.
Do give this book a read – it did change my perception of Microsoft, and our future - for the better.