One of the best books I read this year is Hit Refresh by Satya Nadella, the 3rd and latest CEO in Microsoft’s 40-year history. As Bill Gates notes in his Foreword to the book, “When you hit refresh on your browser, some of what’s on the page stays the same.” When Nadella took over the reins of Microsoft in February 2014, he did precisely that: helping the company move away from a purely Windows-centric approach through his “mobile first, cloud first” philosophy.
As the above example illustrates, ‘hitting refresh’ is vital for even the most successful organizations (and individuals) in today’s ever-changing, fiercely competitive environment, which is dominated by digitalization. Tradition is being replaced by innovation.
As Satya Nadella points out in his book, every company reaches a point at which it owes it to itself to ‘hit refresh’ – in other words to reenergize, to renew, reframe and rethink its purpose. Apple did it, sport franchises do it and, says Nadella, even companies like Facebook will, at some point, stop growing and have to do it too. When it is done correctly, it can lead to a real renaissance. Have you ever noticed that your favourite magazine changes its visual style every so often? Or that the supermarket has switched different departments around? They are not making huge alterations to what is familiar. They are ‘hitting refresh’.
The same applies to people too. As one year ends and another begins, this is a chance to reflect on what part of your life needs refreshing. You don’t need to implement full-blown change but you can tweak things to renew and improve them at work and at home. Do you want to learn a new skill? Begin a diet? Improve your productivity? Cut out a bad habit? Now is the time to ‘hit refresh’.
PRACTISING WHAT I PREACH
There are few things more annoying than being given advice by someone who doesn’t take it himself so I want to share with you the first instance in which I intend to ‘hit refresh’ in 2018.
What began on November 23, 2014 as a one-man video blog from a small hotel in the UK and grew into a live-streaming Facebook show distributed on YouTube, Twitter, LinkedIn and Instagram, is now about to ‘hit refresh’ after 153 episodes. Instead of focusing on individual success, we will now be going into companies around the world and asking them to share the many secrets of their organizational success. The weekly show will be streamed twice a month on the 15th and the 30th (and on February 28th!) It will be pre-recorded and will include my journey (if abroad) or drive (if locally) to the showcased organization. Each month will have a different theme – leadership, customer care & service, sales, management, differentiation, finance (numbers), etc.
THREE ‘REFRESHING’ EXAMPLES
- Consuming more knowledge (but not in the traditional way): What was once considered the sole source of knowledge is no longer seen in this light. Books, universities and live lectures have given way to online resources and platforms. One that you may not have tried (but which has changed my life over the past 2 years) is the podcast. I have consumed hundreds of hours listening to podcasts by people like Guy Raz (“How I built this” by NPR) and Tim Ferris. There are thousands of free podcasts available and plenty of them will enrich your life in some way.
- “Ikea moves its furniture to city-centre outlets”: The title of this Financial Times (29 November, 2017) immediately caught my eye. The world’s largest furniture retailer was not only implementing change but seemingly turning its previous philosophy upside-down. The article cited CEO Jesper Brodin, who described IKEA’s new smaller city-centre stores as “test laboratories to figure out the new world of IKEA” as the company adjusts to what the Financial Times calls “an increasingly urban and digital shopping environment” and moves away from its traditionally large out-of-town warehouses. It is clear that even global giants are rethinking their strategy.
- Judging people less by their academic qualifications and more on your instinct: In some countries, including the US and the UK, two of the ‘Big Four’ accounting firms in the world – PwC and Ernst & Young – no longer insist on a university degree as a requirement to work for them. Two years ago, they decided to “open up opportunities for talented individuals, regardless of their background and provide greater access to the profession”. Maggie Stilwell, EY’s managing partner for talent in the UK, said at the time, “Academic qualifications will still be taken into account and indeed remain an important consideration when assessing candidates as a whole, but will no longer act as a barrier to getting a foot in the door.” If major global firms are ‘hitting refresh’ in this way, this is a sure sign that others will and must follow their example.
As one year ends and another begins, take a moment to look back at what has been good and what has been not-so-good for you. There is always room for improvement and the best way to have a better future is to refresh the present. So, go on, do it! ‘Hit refresh’ for a Happy New Year!