Humans will always add value where machines cannot

Kirti Patil
Saturday, 30 December 2017

Naysayers may have already painted a future world run by machines and humans facing existential crises, but one of the companies that fuelled affordable automation across the globe is ready to press F5 and give humans, the dignity, they deserve in the changing world.

Naysayers may have already painted a future world run by machines and humans facing existential crises, but one of the companies that fuelled affordable automation across the globe is ready to press F5 and give humans, the dignity, they deserve in the changing world.

More than 80 per cent of computers in the world may have been running on the creations of Microsoft, but there is a fashion to discredit what Bill Gates’ created over the years. And, more than three years after Gates stepped down as chairman of Microsoft the thought process may not have drastically changed. But the current CEO Satya Nadella ensured that his vision and leadership style steered company to never-before-seen growth.

The net worth of Redmond-headquartered company increased manifold under India-born Nadella, who helped the tech major negate the downfall Microsoft faced when Steve Ballmer took over from Gates. Three years since taking over Microsoft and achieving financial success, Nadella has come out with his version towards life and times at Microsoft and how despite being an ‘outsider’ in an American company, he achieved something more than what seemed possible.

For a person who grew up in Hyderabad in a family where the father revered Karl Marx and mother, a Sanskrit scholar, wanting her son to worship god and goddesses, Nadella stoked up his thoughts on his passion — cricket. And the teamwork that cricket taught him always helped him when he became Microsoft’s captain, as he likes to be called. 

“It’s not that we had lost our soul,” Nadella writes in his debut book Hit Refresh with conspicuous subtitle Quest to Rediscover Microsoft’s Soul and Imagine a Better Future for Everyone, “but we needed renewal, a renaissance. Employees were tired. They were frustrated. They were fed up with losing and falling behind. They came to Microsoft with big dreams, but it felt like all they really did was deal with upper management, execute taxing processes and bicker in meetings.”

His approach to lead Microsoft in the ever-changing world of computing, where artificial intelligence overpowers human interface, has given positive results that not many expected, because he insists that future of work depends on how well humans and machines can collaborate.

Robots cannot replace humans totally and success would depend on how well leader figures out what the strengths of the machine are and what the strengths of the human are, and combining them to make an ultra-productive worker team. This is something Microsoft is working on and Nadella is leading the charge. 

Nadella has not shied away from writing about his Grace Hopper debacle. In Hit Refresh he addresses head-on the biggest public stumble of his career, when he told an audience at the celebration of women in computing that they should not ask for raise, but instead trust that hard work and the long-term efficiency of the system would reward them.

He writes, “In some ways, I’m glad I messed up in such a public forum because it helped me confront an unconscious bias that I didn’t know I had, and it helped me find a new sense of empathy for the great women in my life and at my company.”

Though Hit Refresh mostly talks about Microsoft, this 265-pager is not a Microsoft’s marketing gimmick for sure. It also gives a glimpse of the future of technology, from Nadella’s perspective, focusing on the powerful trio of artificial intelligence, mixed reality and quantum computing, and related ethical and policy issues.

For tech industry insiders, one of the most compelling chapters is “Friends or Frenemies?” — in which Nadella describes the company’s complicated relationships with some of its biggest rivals and partners, including Google, Apple and Samsung. 

He provides a glimpse into his relationship with Gates, recalling a walk across campus with the Microsoft co-founder after Nadella became CEO, as they brainstormed on a new product. “At one point Bill looked at me, smiled, and said it was good to be talking about software engineering,” he says.

Name: Hit Refresh, The Quest to Rediscover Microsoft’s Soul and Imagine a Better Future for Everyone
Author: Satya Nadella
Publisher: Harper Collins India
Price: Rs. 599
Pages: 272

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