The Backstory Behind The Microsoft Refresh

Four years ago Satya Nadella took the helm at Microsoft. Under his leadership, the value of the company has tripled, and some think it could be the first company worth a trillion dollars. The story of the culture and strategy refresh are told in Satya’s new book, Hit Refresh, co-authored by Greg Shaw and Jill Tracie Nichols.

In this episode of the Getting Smart Podcast, Tom interviews Greg and Jill, who have both have impressive careers beyond co-authoring. Greg and Jill both worked with the last three CEOs at Microsoft and have a great perspective on the ups and downs of the company. Greg also managed public relations at Microsoft in the ’90s after serving as a speechwriter in the Reagan white house. In the 2000s, Jill Tracie Nichols led communications for Steve Ballmer and — after a quick transition — became Satya Nadella’s Chief of Staff. Tracie is also the founder and CEO of Tracie Group — a company that helps kick-start new companies and helps them build their vision, voice, and brand to successfully make an impact in today’s competitive market.

Listen in as Greg and Jill discuss the importance of the cultural refresh at Microsoft (based on Carol Dweck’s growth mindset), the challenge of meeting the unmet — and often unarticulated — needs of customers, and valuable tips on writing and publishing.

Key Takeaways:

[1:26] Tom welcomes Greg and Jill to the podcast, and Greg gives some background about himself.
[2:59] What made Greg think of himself as a writer in High School and College?
[4:04] How did Greg land his position at the U.S. Department of the Interior in Washington, D.C.?
[5:26] How Greg came to manage public relations for Microsoft.
[6:35] Greg’s move from Microsoft to The Gates Foundation.
[7:43] The first project Greg and Tom worked on together at The Gates Foundation.
[8:58] About Jill’s schooling background.
[10:23] What made Jill think of herself as a communicator and writer?
[12:04] The delicate balance between the challenges and passion for writing.
[12:55] What Greg has discovered about himself as a writer.
[15:57] The challenges of the writing processes and what Jill and Greg enjoyed about working together.
[17:42] Jill’s transition from working with Steve Ballmer to Satya Nadella.
[19:52] The origin story behind Hit Refresh.
[21:26] About the growth mindset culture that Satya shifted Microsoft towards.
[22:40] Jill gives some examples of how Satya attempted to incorporate a growth mindset into the culture, signaling that growth mindset was a priority.
[25:48] The tech optimist Greg sees in Satya.
[27:56] Can technology can boost inclusion and be disruptive? What Greg sees as the future of technology and mankind.
[31:47] How writing Hit Refresh has helped Greg think about civic infrastructure and the engagement we need to help communities be successful in the future.
[35:30] Jill’s thoughts on the evolution of machine intelligence and companies looking to build technology for the future.
[37:40] How did Greg manage the process of writing Hit Refresh with all of his other projects.
[39:34] How has Greg’s writing changed since working collaboratively?
[41:48] Jill and Tom’s views on working collaboratively.
[42:55] Jill’s editing tips for writing.
[44:33] Jill and Greg’s advice and tips and secondary school teachers in helping teenagers become better writers and communicators.
[49:08] Where to find Jill and Greg online.

Mentioned in This Episode:

Hit Refresh: The Quest to Rediscover Microsoft’s Soul and Imagine a Better Future for Everyone
The Gates Foundation
Tracie Group
The Writing Life
Mindset: The New Psychology of Success
Greg Shaw’s Linkedin

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Getting Smart Staff

The Getting Smart Staff believes in learning out loud and always being an advocate for things that we are excited about. As a result, we write a lot. Do you have a story we should cover? Email [email protected]

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