Since Satya became CEO in February 2014, Microsoft has continued to invest massively in R&D. In addition, we invest billions in being a partner to your innovation, helping enable companies that are building groundbreaking businesses with us. The culture of R&D is strong within Microsoft, with communities like Garage and the work going on in Building 87 reinventing our world.
But innovation doesn’t stop at products and technology – it’s also about people. We all naturally want to learn, grow, and improve. It’s a driving force in the human condition.
I’ve heard from so many partners that finding great people is a constant challenge. Even once you’ve found that team, keeping your people engaged, energized, and committed just won’t happen if you’re not fostering that natural curiosity. Without cultivating a culture of innovation through strong leadership, you run the risk of losing your most valuable people, whether to competitors or burnout.
To drive a culture of innovation in the Worldwide Partner Group, we’ve been focusing on four key areas:
- Align the vision with clear principles. This enables people to focus their energy on a common north star, supporting a common purpose, while innovating extensively on the how. If your team is 100% clear where the goalposts are, they can build an innovative game plan.
- Bring your whole self to work. Your teams are busy. Everyone’s busy. But being fully present and fully engaged with the people in front of you shows that you value their time, input, and ideas. My mom once told me you have two ears and one mouth, so use them proportionately – listen, listen, listen.
- Be compassionate toward your team and yourself. A key aspect of a growth mindset centers around failure – embracing it, learning from it, and trying again. Reacting to failures with an inquisitive mind, and putting yourself in your team’s shoes, will engender loyalty, rather than fear of failing.
- Celebrate success. Not just the big achievements, though those, of course, should be recognized. Incremental innovations can just as equally lead to revolutionary breakthroughs, and applauding these everyday achievements makes a big difference. In casual conversations with my team, I’ve found that a simple thank-you, a handwritten note from a peer, or small recognition can mean as much as any major award.
Foundational to these four focus areas is trust. Not just because studies show a link between trust and productivity – though that’s a nice bonus.
For WPG, cultivating a culture of innovation is founded on trust. The team has to trust in themselves, trust in each other, and trust in their leadership – without that, we can’t sustain the level of innovation this industry requires and respects.