Hit Refresh – The Empathy Quotient

Few days back finished reading the book ‘Hit Refresh’ by Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella. It was really a fascinating book, with many takeaways for everyone. Satya’s viewpoints on organizational culture made me think deeper, sharing some perspectives in similar lines. Before getting into my viewpoint, let me brief a bit about organizational culture that Satya calls out in his book.

The ‘C’ of CEO stands for Culture

According to Satya, the letter ‘C’ in CEO stands for Culture,starts from the top,in case of Microsoft it starts with him. In order to rebuild the soul of Microsoft, Satya emphasizes the simple word  – empathy. When an employee demonstrates empathy in day-to-day transactions – empathy for team members, empathy for the community, empathy for customers, magic happens automatically. Given that Microsoft is a technology company, making empathy as center helps them to build products and solutions that makes sense for the customer.In a empathy centric company ‘I know it all’ attitude takes a back seat, which was the major barrier that Satya has to break to drive cultural transformation in Microsoft. Irrespective of the size of organization, customer value creation happens when customer needs are kept as topmost priority. Popularly known as ‘customer first’ approach, cultural of an organization directly drives commercial goals of the organization.

Satya deep dives into empathy by calling out his personal experiences. Being a father of two special children, it was extremely challenging for him to come in terms with reality. After going through ‘why me?’ question for a while, he was able to come in terms with situation by developing empathy for his children. He also calls out how amalgamation of technologies like Computer vision, Artificial Intelligence and Internet is making life easier for his children with special needs. The thinking of ’empathy’ can be extended to B2B context as well, by enabling Businesses to become faster, smarter and productive.

The context of Emertxe

Let us cut to our current business context. In my organization Emertxe, we embarked on a journey to address the industry-academic gap that exists in countries like India. Our main goal is to make entry level engineers employable with hands-on technology training programs. Given the fact that hardly 15% of engineers are employable in India, this ‘Finishing school’ approach provides huge opportunity to create long term, sustainable, profitable businesses which we are in the process of building. In the current context more than 90% of our target audience come from tier-2 and tier-3 towns of India with aspiration of getting into their first job.

Unlike what most of us could imagine, upskilling is a time-consuming and challenging process. At an outset, training or education business might look simple (due to lesser entry barrier), however challenges are at root level, which is quite challenging to resolve. 

The Empathy Quotient

As a team, our major challenge is to understand typical Indian engineering student mindset. Most of today’s engineering graduates not only lack in terms of technical skills but also require lot of behavioral coaching. For example, lack of technical skills further leads to self-doubt, sense of insecurity, lower self-confidence etc. In order to bring anyone out of these challenges it requires deep empathy and understanding things from their perspective. Before making them learn new things, I would say making them ‘unlearn’ is where maximum barrier lies. 

Let us take example of programming skill, using which entry level engineers build capability to translate given requirement into a working program (of any language). In most of the engineering colleges today, programming (similar to other subjects) is taught in a rote based approach where an engineer ends up by-hearting each and every line of source code including the syntax aspects like commas and semicolons. Definitely, the real world problem solving is very different from this, but how to transition an engineer through this journey? The rejection, struggle, doubt, frustration that each individual goes through is quite humongous.

As a learning service provider it is very easy to say ‘they don’t understand the basics’ and further blame the education system, parents and eventually society at large. I come across numerous subject matter experts who are extremely good in their technical part but lack empathy towards the learner by placing the consumer in their shoes. The process of learning is not only about delivering the content but also to ensure that the learner learns the topic from his perspective. There is a huge gap between these two which can only filled by Empathy.

Connecting with ‘Hit Refresh’

In my opinion, developing this sense of empathy is where customers start perceiving the value that we offer. Some of them will realize it quickly and some will take time. As we deliver customer value on a consistent basis, we are observing a clear buy-in. For organization of any size, this should be foundational. The role of senior leadership is to invest and build a culture of empathy in their teams.

Connecting back with Hit Refresh, this is exactly what Satya Nadella discusses in detail. The culture of empathy driven in large scale in organizations like Microsoft will not only bring in technology innovation but also bring a larger sense of purpose. As I spend more time in the journey of entrepreneurship, I was able to connect each-and-every aspect that Satya has brought out in this book. In fact after a long long time it has prompted me to get back into my hobby of blogging.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.