Microsoft’s Satya Nadella is counting on culture shock to drive growth

Microsoft’s Satya Nadella is counting on culture shock to drive growth

By Marco della Cava for USA TODAY

REDMOND, Wash. — Last March, Microsoft unveiled, a Twitter bot that promised to usher in a new era of human-to-artificial-intelligence conversation.

Within hours, hackers turned Tay into a venom-spewing racist, and the project was quickly shuttered with a public apology.

In the old days of Microsoft, heads surely would have rolled.

But Satya Nadella, 49, a one-time company engineer who took the reins of the $500 billion tech giant three years ago this month, instead sent the Tay team a note of encouragement.

“Keep pushing, and know that I am with you,” he wrote in an e-mail, urging staffers to take the criticism in the right spirit while exercising “deep empathy for anyone hurt by Tay. (The) key is to keep learning and improving.”

The group responded with Zo, a new AI chatbot that debuted in December. So far, no issues.

Nadella says Microsoft must display ‘enduring values’

“It’s so critical for leaders not to freak people out, but to give them air cover to solve the real problem,” Nadella says in an interview with USA TODAY. “If people are doing things out of fear, it’s hard or impossible to actually drive any innovation.”

If you don’t focus on creating a culture that allows people to do their best work, then you’ve created nothing.”

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