Biography, Motivational

Hit Refresh by Satya Nadella

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Hit Refresh: The Quest to Rediscover Microsoft’s Soul and Imagine a Better Future for Everyone

Hit Refresh is about individual change, about the transformation happening inside of Microsoft and the technology that will soon impact all of our lives—the arrival of the most exciting and disruptive wave of technology humankind has experienced: artificial intelligence, mixed reality, and quantum computing. It’s about how people, organizations and societies can and must transform and “hit refresh” in their persistent quest for new energy, new ideas and continued relevance and renewal.

Microsoft’s CEO tells the inside story of the company’s continuing transformation, tracing his own personal journey from a childhood in India to leading some of the most significant technological changes in the digital era.

“Satya has charted a course for making the most of the opportunities created by technology while also facing up to the hard questions.”– Bill Gates from the Foreword to Hit Refresh

Satya Nadella explores a fascinating childhood before immigrating to the U.S. and how he learned to lead along the way. He then shares his meditations as a sitting CEO—one who is mostly unknown following the brainy Bill Gates and energetic Steve Ballmer.

He tells the inside story of how a company rediscovered its soul—transforming everything from culture to their fiercely competitive landscape and industry partnerships. As much a humanist as engineer and executive, Nadella concludes with his vision for the coming wave of technology and by exploring the potential impact to society and delivering call to action for world leaders.

“Ideas excite me,” Nadella explains. “Empathy grounds and centers me.” Hit Refresh is a set of reflections, meditations, and recommendations presented as algorithms from a principled, deliberative leader searching for improvement—for himself, for a storied company, and for society.


Key Take-aways from reading Satya Nadella’s Book “Hit Refresh” by Xavier Geerinck

Page: 119 — About leaders

“To be a leader in this company, your job is to find the rose petals in a field of shit”

If I had to summarize myself how I see a leader, I couldn’t have done it any better. It is short, to the point and a hidden call-to-action for existing leaders.

We can look at a leader as an operator of a machine. Machines are built up using a lot of different cogs of all sizes that coherently work together as one giant machine. So by definition it is important to select cogs that you know you can trust and rely on before operating your machine. Since without these cogs, it all falls apart and you would not be able to operate anything.

Pages 119 and 120 — Leadership principles

  1. Bring clarity to those you work with. By taking internal and external noise and synthesizing a message from it to deliver to your team.
  2. Leaders generate energy, not only on their own teams but across the company
  3. They find a way to deliver success to make things happen. This means driving innovations that people love and are inspired to work on; finding balance between long-term success and short-term wins; and being boundary-less and globally minded in seeking solutions.

The key point in this list described above for me, is point 2: “Generating Energy”. Did you every talk to someone that had such a specific way of talking that you were instantly convinced? Or someone who talks in such a way that you are amazed by everything that person says? Well this is a kind of energy a leader needs. The energy that is contagious and makes other people move and follow the leader in every step they take.

An excellent example here is Satya. When he got promoted as a CEO, he talked in such a way that the whole culture started to shift. His energy was transmitted to the people close around him, who in their turn passed the energy down towards the people close to them. If we can continue this chain till the furthest shackle. It results in everybody being on the same line, moving as one entity and reaching for the furthest stars.

If someone ever asked me what I think are the best hiring qualities a recruiter should look for. Then my top answer would definitely be to look for the people who have energy. Because I know that those people will be the ones that can help your organization move and focus on the more innovative things.

Page 125 — Our Partners

“For everyone working with partners, I encourage you to ask yourself “what could be?” and explore new, creative ways to do interesting things that add value back to our platforms for customers”

This sentence speaks for itself. Without our partners we would not be able to get to the point where we are now. They are your first line of defense in receiving critical feedback, that can help you finetune your application for a better customer experience. Without them, we would need to receive this feedback from our customers, which is a good thing but also a dangerous thing. Customers criticize more easily which can have an impact on brand name and customer acquisition.

Page p166 — How quantum computers will become part of our lives

“Quantum computers will not stake the form of a new stand-alone, super-fast PC but will operate as a co-processor, receiving its instructions and cues from a stack of classical processors”

For me this was very interesting and opened up new ways of thinking. I always thought that quantum computers would replace our existing computers. But after reading sense, it makes more sense that quantum computers will focus on what they are good at. Allowing us to iterate further on what we already have, rather than reworking it.

Page p203 — The different run-times through history

“There were 2 different run times already (First PC, then Web) and now we are progressing towards the third one: AI”

This is key. Seeing my age, I only saw the second run time coming since the PC battle was one that was already won (See Linux, Windows and Mac OS). Web however was just starting back then and has meanwhile reached a mature enough stage for us to be looking at a new run time.

Looking back at when the Web run time started, we can see the same patterns arriving now. Just as then, now AI is arriving in more startups, people are jumping on board, the general public is seeing and acknowledging its existence more and more. Helping me believe that AI is indeed the next run time. The question that I have however is the timeline. AI has promises, but in my opinion a lot of work is needed for it to become mainstream.

Other Picks

Pages 38 and 39 — Three business and leadership principles learned from cricket

  • Compete vigorously and with passion in the face of uncertainty and intimidation
  • Put your team first, ahead of your personal statistics and recognition
  • One brilliant character who does not put the team first can destroy the entire team

Page 126 — four initiatives every company must make a priority

  • engage with your customer base by leveraging data to improve the customer experience
  • Empower your own employees by enabling greater and more mobile productivity and collaboration in the new digital world of work
  • Optimize operations, automating and simplifying business process across sales, operations and finance
  • transform our products, services and business models (become a digital company)

Page 150 — Three areas we have to work on to make AI a reality

  • Big Data
  • Massive Computing Power
  • Sophisticated Algorithms

Page 150 — About Artificial General Intelligence

Artificial General Intelligence (AGI) is the point at which a computer matches or even surpasses human intellectual capabilities

Page 150 — The layers of Artificial Intelligence

  • Bottom Layer: Pattern recognition
  • Middle Layer: Perception, sensing more and more complex scenes (estimated that 99% of human perception is through speech and vision)
  • Top Layer: Cognition — Deep understanding of human language

Pages 151, 152 and 153 — The state of AI today and where we are going

  1. Bespoke (=tailored/commissioned to a particular specification): This is how AI is today, only for a few companies
  2. Democratized: Make tools so that everyone can use AI (this is what Microsoft is doing)
  3. Learn to Learn: Get computers to the point where they Learn to Learn

Page 162 — Scientific and engineering breakthroughs needed to get to quantum computing

  • Math breakthrough: The Topological Qubit
  • Superconducting Breakthrough: Fabrication process to yield thousands of topological qubits that are both highly reliable and stable. A promising technique is available here called “Majorana fermions”
  • Computer Science Breakthrough: New computational methods for programming the quantum computer

Page 182 — Formula for Trust

Formula for trust: E + SV + SR = T/t (Empathy + Shared Values + Safety and Reliability = Trust over time)

Note: Of course this is not possible, but rather an estimation if it could be written as a formula

Page 197 — Conversational AI

Conversational AI needs to be able to create and understand dialog to deliver a personal, social and emotional experience

Page 212 — Accelerants for innovations

Ultimately, we need technological breakthroughs to drive growth beyond what we’re seeing, and I believe mixed reality, artificial intelligence and quantum are the type of innovations that will serve as accelerants

Page 215 — Leadership opportunities that no single community/region has seized yet

  • Desert farming in Australia
  • Local banking in Dubai
  • Innovations in IoT
  • Ambient Intelligence
  • Mobile Payment Systems
  • Virtual Reality
  • Silicon Photonics
  • 3D printing
  • Wearables
  • Lightweight, low altitude satellites
  • Drones
  • Native advertising
  • Driverless cars
  • Robotics and industrial automation
  • Adaptive, gamified education
  • Nano-machines
  • Genomics
  • Economical Solar, Wind , and tidal power

Originally published: 26 September 2017

AuthorsSatya NadellaJill Tracie NicholsGreg Shaw

Genres: Biography, Autobiography


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