The buzzy new term at Microsoft is 'growth mindset' — here's what it means

Matt Rosoff

Microsoft used to be infamous for its toxic corporate culture, where individuals use politics to advance and groups are always fighting one another. It's best captured in this now-classic cartoon from Manu Cornet showing the Microsoft org chart:

Satya Nadella has tried to change that, and earlier today he codified some of those changes in a long internal email to all employees.

The buzzword being used to sum up the change? "Growth mindset."

Microsoft's HR director Kathleen Hogan talked to Geekwire this afternoon and emphasized the term, explaining that Microsoft employees are no longer supposed to prove they're the smartest people in the room, but are instead supposed to "learn and bring out the best in people."

She continued by saying this comes directly from Nadella. "This isn’t some platitude or something we’re going to have on the wall. This is something he wants to role-model and how he wants people to experience Microsoft," she said.

In the memo today, Nadella explained in more detail:

It starts with a belief that everyone can grow and develop; that potential is nurtured, not predetermined; and that anyone can change their mindset. Leadership is about bringing out the best in people, where everyone is bringing their A game and finding deep meaning in their work. We need to be always learning and insatiably curious. We need to be willing to lean in to uncertainty, take risks and move quickly when we make mistakes, recognizing failure happens along the way to mastery. And we need to be open to the ideas of others, where the success of others does not diminish our own. 

This is quite a shift from the company whose founding CEO, Bill Gates, was known for disagreeing with some ideas by saying "that's the stupidest f---ing thing I've ever heard."

What's next — holacracy?

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