Hit Refresh Book Review

Posted on January 12, 2020

So you have just been made CEO of the largest and most famous software company in the world. How does that make you feel? What are your plans?

In his book Hit Refresh, Satya Nadella gives an account of not only his appointment as CEO but also his childhood, early career, his approach to life, leadership and strategy as well as his future plans for Microsoft.

Culture and Empathy

One of the most important things to Satya is Empathy.

This comes through loud and clear in this book. He talks at length as to why he believes it is important to be empathetic both in life and in business, a trait he believes may be rooted in caring for his disabled son.

He knew if Microsoft was to succeed it needed to change its culture, starting with empathy and starting with his Senior Leadership Team (SLT), which by all accounts suffered greatly from infighting and pointing fingers. Satya set about transforming the mindset of his SLT, getting them to be empathetic and work with one another, not against one another.

In many ways it sounds like Satya made his SLT his disciples and messengers of empathy, spreading a culture of kindness and openness into their respective divisions where there was once closed doors and insularism.

It was only then, that peoples mindsets could begin to change within the business.

Because as they say

"Culture eats strategy for breakfast"

So it is important that when embarking upon any sort of strategy, you have nurtured the right culture to implement it. As no strategy can be implemented without the right culture at the companies heart.


It was interesting to read that Satya is a fellow proponent of the growth Mindset.

He discusses at length the benefit of getting past the zero-sum game that conflicting aspects of business often find themselves in and his disappointment when he sees teams or individuals stuck in the fixed mindset.

The old ways will no longer work. It is time to try something different. And different approaches to historic ones are a theme in the book. You just have to look at Microsofts partnership with Linux, acquisition of GitHub and dedication to open source to see that they are not only open to working in new ways but are striving to do so.


Satya goes on to describe how the greatest companies, have fantastic partnerships.

He gives many examples of their new partnerships, some with their competitors, which are making their company even stronger and giving them even greater reach.

The Business of the Cloud

During his tenure, Satya has already added billions to Microsofts Capital value and has made shareholders very happy and confident in Microsofts long term future. Much of that financial success has been Microsofts extremely dedicated push of its Cloud product offering Azure.

Microsoft, having been late to the party for Phone, was determined not to let AWS run away with the Cloud market. So much so that some accuse Microsoft of being a bit cloud obsessed and taking their eye off their other pursuits. Once a software business, Microsoft is now certainly a cloud business.

Artificial Intelligence, Quantum Computing and Mixed Reality

Satya goes on to discuss Microsofts investment in research and emerging technologies. Some of which will not mature for many years and for which there is still relatively little commercial market to speak of.

What is clear is that Microsoft is determined to be at the ground floor of these emerging markets and not be left behind again.

"The best way to predict the future is to invent it"

My Summary

The latter parts of the book seem shorter, with less substance and rushed, so I enjoyed them less, even though they are the more technical parts. Very different to the time and care taken in early parts of the book when recounting his childhood and explaining his devotion to culture and empathy.

That said, it is great to get a glimpse into one of the most important figures of the time and come away confident in that persons ability to lead such an important role in business and the entire technology industry.

Satya has the heavy responsibility of helping use technology to shape a better and more inclusive world. A responsibility he knows all too well and takes very seriously.

And one, I would say, he does very well indeed.

There are a few take aways from this book that I have taken to heart. The importance of empathy in all aspects of life and business, and how culture is so important to a business, without a healthy and well nurtured one, failure is inevitable. Culture is King.

Next Book

Well ahead of my 12 books in 12 months aim, I have started to read Good to Great by Jim Collins and updated my schedule.

-- Lee