Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella is one of the most transformative leaders on the planet. Today, it will be five years since Nadella was announced as Microsoft's chief executive. Since taking charge, he has turned Microsoft's fortunes around, making it the most valuable company in the world for the first time since 2002. Nadella understands that success doesn't happen overnight. Rather, you must think long-term, plant seeds for the future, and start reinventing today while building tomorrow. This means rethinking
everything in your business, from culture and operations to strategy and talent.

Here are Nadella's top winning rules to future-proof your business.

1. Lead with Culture.

How are decisions made and what kind of culture do you aspire to have? A winning culture means moving from a know-it-all mindset to a learn-it-all one. One of Nadella's first bold moves was to change the mission from the archaic-sounding "a computer on every desk in every home" to the much more customer-focused aim of "empowering every person and organization on the planet to achieve more." Teams are encouraged to focus on passion projects and think of Microsoft not as a 42-year-old company but as a challenger organization with day one in its DNA. This seemingly counterintuitive approach
acknowledges that the use of defensive language can result in outdated mental models that stop you from reinventing at speed and scale. Nadella knows that now more than ever, you must think and act like 10,000-person startup, because fast eats slow.

2. Act Quickly, Think Slowly.

Nadella is a long-term thinker who embraces new trends and weak signals early to stay ahead of the curve. He values high-speed decision making, where 80 percent confidence is enough to act. In a VUCA world (volatile, uncertain, complex, and ambiguous), he understands that waiting for 100 percent certainty before making a decision is simply too slow a pace. Microsoft's stellar results in 2017 show the power of acting quickly and thinking slowly. Cloud Services, for example, already accounts for 32 percent of total revenue, with usage doubling in the past year.

3. Learn-It-All Beats Know-It-All.

The 2000s were Microsoft's lost decade, where it seemed to lose touch with its customers and fall into an existential crisis. Waves of new innovations from Google and the App Store to iPhone and tablets flattened the growth curve of its once legendary PC software business. In 2014, Nadella became Microsoft's new CEO and declared the new game was to be a "learn-it-all" company rather than a know-it-all one. A learn-it-all company makes the decision that every day will be a new day, with learning, exploring, and experimenting as the norm.

For Nadella, this means asking three powerful questions:

1. How successful are we at creating new products, services, or business models?

2. How effective are we at adapting to new changes or disruptions?

3. Does our culture reward risk, learning, and smart failure?

The Last Word.

In an era of relentless change, you survive and thrive on your ability to change before a crisis forces you to. Use the principles of learn-it-all, win with culture, and act quickly but think slowly to achieve 10X results in your life and business.

Published on: Aug 16, 2019
The opinions expressed here by Inc.com columnists are their own, not those of Inc.com.