When Satya Nadella took the reins as CEO of Microsoft in early 2014, he made no secret of the fact that he would shake up the company’s culture to meet the challenges of the modern era.
The key concept Nadella has pushed is the “growth mindset,” which emphasises the notion of learning from others, and learning from your own mistakes, so you can move quickly and find the right path forward.
In a new interview with Bloomberg’s Dina Bass, Nadella shares that it was the 2007 book “Mindset: The New Psychology of Success,” by Stanford professor of psychology Carol Dweck, that gave him the “intuition” that led to making the “growth mindset” the philosophical core of the change he’s trying to create at Microsoft.
Nadella tells Bloomberg:
“In there there’s this very simple concept that Carol Dweck talks about, which is if you take two people, one of them is a learn-it-all and the other one is a know-it-all, the learn-it-all will always trump the know-it-all in the long run, even if they start with less innate capability.”
The book itself goes deeper into that idea, presenting the idea that some people have a “fixed” mindset, in that they believe that their talent comes from within and thus don’t need to work hard — while others have that “growth” mindset, and believe that their ability can be improved through hard work.
“It’s not always the people who start out the smartest who end up the smartest,” writes Dweck in “Mindset.”
That’s a view that must resonate with Microsoft, which is trying to change how it thinks about productivity and the PC after missing the smartphone revolution almost entirely. Nadella has been reconsidering some of Microsoft’s assumptions, including how it thinks about rivals like the Linux operating system, as it tackles new challenges.
As Nadella tells Bloomberg: “I need to be able to walk out of here this evening and say, ‘Where was I too closed-minded, or where did I not show the right kind of attitude of growth in my own mind?’ If I can get it right, then we’re well on our way to having the culture we aspire to.”
Microsoft cofounder Bill Gates is also a fan of Dweck’s theories as presented in “Mindset,” hyping it in 2014 as a way for anyone to learn anything. Which is kind of funny, because he was known during his tenure as CEO for disagreeing with some ideas by saying “that’s the stupidest f—ing thing I’ve ever heard.”
Nadella’s recommendation has apparently pushed “Mindset” to bestseller status on Amazon, after nine years on the stands.