PRESENTING: Satya Nadella employed a 'growth mindset' to overhaul Microsoft's cutthroat culture and turn it into a trillion-dollar company — here's how he did it


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A cartoonist once drew an illustration depicting Microsoft’s organizational chart as warring factions. 

Take a look and you’ll see three separate gangs: one blue, one green, one yellow. The gangs are assembled in pyramid-shaped hierarchies, with one leader at the top, two or three deputies at the next level, and so on.

A hand sticks out from each pyramid, pointing a gun directly at one of the others. It’s clear. This is war.

And then Satya Nadella became CEO.

Nadella described the era of warring gangs in his 2017 memoir-manifesto, “Hit Refresh:” “Innovation was being replaced by bureaucracy. Teamwork was being replaced by internal politics. We were falling behind.”

That particular cartoon – drawn in 2011 by a Google employee named Manu Cornet, no less – made changing Microsoft’s culture Nadella’s No. 1 goal as CEO.

“As a 24-year veteran of Microsoft, a consummate insider, the caricature really bothered me. But what upset me more was that our own people just accepted it,” Nadella wrote. “When I was named Microsoft’s third CEO in February 2014, I told employees that renewing our company’s culture would be my highest priority.”

Since becoming CEO, Nadella has been credited with a grand reinvention of Microsoft, exemplified by its market value exceeding $1 trillion, one of just a handful in history to hit that mark. When Nadella first took over, its market value was around $300 billion. The company has shifted from a has-been to a cloud powerhouse.

One of the keys to this transformation is a psychological concept that’s become a mantra at Nadella’s Microsoft: growth mindset.

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