The power of purpose, culture, storytelling Uncategorized

Presentation by Pip Arthur to IABC NSW at Microsoft Technology Centre on 24 October 2019 – retold by Mark Woodrow 

The CMO and Communication Director of Microsoft Australia, Pip Arthur, is a good storyteller. 

She had the International Association of Business Communicators members and associates captivated on the hard stuff – building culture outside-in and redefining purpose. 

Not long after Pip joined the global technology giant 6 years ago, Microsoft appointed Satya Nadella  as the CEO. With the new leader, the company decided it was a time for a cultural change. Pip reminded us of the famous Peter Drucker quote “Culture eats strategy for breakfast”. 

Satya decided the company had to reposition, by firstly by reflecting – along the lines of “discover who we are, where we are – to discover our sole”.

And what did they do next – a huge amount of listening. Microsoft knew the change had to be driven from the bottom up and not top down, so they embarked on a massive listening campaign.

Pip was very open in telling about also going through “my own personal reflection”

The cultural shift advocated by Satya was embodied in the ‘Growth Mindset’, originally coined by author Carol Dweck. So, according to Pip, a very engineering led business started on a journey to embrace a new way of thinking ‘Living a learning culture’. Where deep curiosity was encouraged.

The levers you should use, when undergoing such a transformation, according to Pip are:

  1. Behaviours 
  2. Symbols
  3. Systems 
  4. Storytelling 

And above all “make it real”. The powerful symbol of the CEO launching Windows 10 in a school and village internet café in Africa – with benefits to students and farmers – was a story Pip was proud to tell.  

On behavioural change, Pip recommends you “encourage and form new behaviours to become habits”. And make system changes to drive home a real shift. In Microsoft’s case, they started to reward people for the impact they have, rewarding staff for how they ‘contributed to the success of others’. 

Pip is a huge advocate for seeing “Your people as brand advocates”. You can use storytelling to push the boundaries, internally first and externally to change perceptions. It is no accident that at Microsoft, an incredible 97% of employees are ‘proud to work for the company’. They are fully behind Microsoft’s bold mission: 

“Empower every person and every organisation on the planet to achieve more”

The annual Hackathon is a way to help employees live their purpose. As just one example, Pip showed a video about how a hackathon idea resulted in a new AI tool for a charity ‘Baby Come Home’ to help trace lost children. The story of one father being reunited with his son after years, because of the facial recognition technology brought a tear to many in the audience. 

What was the final bits of advice Pip had for organisations wanting to undergo a transformation? “Put your employees first. Change is hard. Be humble, stay the course” 

Microsoft’s Chief Storyteller has also just released a digital handbook of their key storytelling learnings. A great resource for all communicators: