Nine key takeaways from Satya Nadella at Dreamforce 15

Satya Nadella

Microsoft chief executive Satya Nadella.

Microsoft’s chief executive spoke at Salesforce’s annual Dreamforce conference in San Francisco yesterday about the importance of culture and what keeps him up at night. 

1. Businesses need a purpose

“We all spend far too much time at work for it not to have a deeper meaning,” says Satya Nadella.

“Collectively a company has a purpose”.

Nadella says in Microsoft’s 40 years its purpose has been “this one constant thread of empowerment”. 

“That is our soul,” he says. “It is empowering every person and organisation on the planet to achieve more.”


2.  Aspiring to a learning, living, culture

“The culture of a place is what I think defines the pursuit of excellence as that produces whatever you need in terms of greatness,” Nadella says.

“When it comes to culture, what I aspire to for us as a company is a learning, living culture … If you take the posture that ‘Every day I’m going to be better than the previous day as individuals and as a company’, that is the culture I want at Microsoft. That is what is going to make us great listeners, learners and doers.”   


3.  Diversity is an existential need

“Diversity is an existential need for Microsoft,” Nadella says.

“If you think about the diversity of our business, we operate in 192 companies, we serve people in all economic strata, gender, race.  We have to represent that … it is a high priority as a leadership team.”  


4.  What is scarce is time

Nadella says productivity is a key driver for Microsoft.

“When we say productivity, what I mean by that ultimately is for each one of us to get more out every moment of our life. For all this abundance, we talk about computing everywhere and data everywhere, what is scarce is time.”

Nadella says Microsoft is trying to explore how software and services can come together to give people back time.

“That’s really what we want to do,” he says. “That’s one of the key focuses for us.”


5. No one device is the be all and end all

“I don’t think about any one device as the be all and end all of computers,” Nadella says.

Proving the point Nadella used an iPhone on stage to demonstrate Windows, calling the iPhone an “iPhone Pro” because it included all Microsoft’s applications on there.

“I think about mobility being centered on the mobility of human experience across all devices instead of the mobility of one device,” he says.

Nadella says the question is what is next after the smart phone?

“There are early signs of it, things you wear on your wrists, in your ear, and on your eyes,” he says.

“Mobility is more to do with your mobility as a person rather than the mobility of a computer.”


6. Conversations drive productivity

“Conversations are becoming the new driver of productivity,” Nadella says.

“We are pivoting Outlook from just being personal conversations to having all of the group conversations on your phone.”   


7.  Data culture will transform businesses

Nadella says data and intuition are both essential for entrepreneurs but data presents new opportunities.

“If you look back at this era and try to understand what’s the big technology shift it’s going to be characterised by what we did with data,” Nadella says.

“That is going to be the big change we will see in the years to come where the data culture is what transforms businesses and the way we work. Pretty much every device has exhaustive data and every application on those devices has exhaustive data.” 


8.  Look for small patterns

“In a world of big data recognising small patterns becomes the most important thing for an organisation and an individual,” Nadella says.  

“In the sea of data you have to be able to see those small patterns to undertake action.”


9.  Culture is everything

When asked what keeps him up at night, Nadella says it’s the same thing that wakes him up in the morning: “it’s our living culture”.

“It’s a cliché perhaps to say culture is everything, but it is. Because I don’t think our success is going to be determined by anything other than our culture facilitating everyone at Microsoft being able to do their best work.”

Nadella says when you think what it is that a chief executive does, “it is about curation of culture”.

“We can talk about vision of course… but my real job is curation of culture,” he says.  


SmartCompany attended Dreamforce as a guest of Salesforce. 


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