Look beyond what’s expected and start seeing what’s possible

Let’s play Word Association. I say “Microsoft.” What do you say?

Probably something about computers or software, right? Or maybe technology or innovation.

Whatever your answer, I’ll bet good money that “health care” didn’t make the cut.

Try telling that to Sarah Churman. Technology that Microsoft developed helped Sarah hear her first sounds in 2011, when she was 29. Watch this video and try not to get choked up.

Try telling that to Braylon O’Neill. This young man was born on Dec. 22, 2008 with a condition known as congenital bilateral tibia and fibula hemimelia, meaning he was born without tibia and fibula bones in both of his legs. Technology developed by Microsoft helped him walk by the time he was 6.


Those are heartwarming stories, to be sure … and there might be more of them on the horizon. As we speak, Microsoft is trying to figure out how to use artificial intelligence and cognitive computing technologies to fight — and perhaps to even cure — cancer.

How does that happen? How does a stale, old computer company become a health care innovator?

The first step is to see beyond what you do and understand why you do it.

Microsoft’s mission is “to enable people and businesses throughout the world to realize their full potential.”

Under old leadership, doing that meant building computers and software.

When Satya Nadella took over as CEO in 2014, he looked at Microsoft’s mission and saw enormous potential. In short order, Nadella decided Microsoft needed to explore how humans and machines could work together to solve some of the world’s greatest challenges. Health care, as it turns out, might be just the beginning.

So what? Why should we care about what Microsoft is doing?

Here’s why: There’s a little bit of Satya Nadella in all of us. At least there should be.

Each of us has the ability to do groundbreaking things. We just need to look beyond what’s expected and see what’s possible. We all have access to amazing advances in technology. The question is, what are we going to do with them?

And while you’re trying to answer that question, understand this nugget from futurist Daniel Burrus: Whatever can be done will be done, and if you don’t do it, someone else will.

Mark Skoog, chief technology officer at Microsoft’s Technology Center, boiled down this challenge brilliantly during a recent meeting in Chicago. The question he and everyone else at Microsoft are asking themselves these days is this: “How do we make money in new ways in areas that we never would have thought of before?”

How would you answer that question?

Skoog says today’s most successful companies stay ahead of their competition in five key ways:

  • They improve visibility and make accurate predictions.
  • They get the right products to the right places.
  • They offer customers exactly what they want, when they want it.
  • They fix problems proactively with predictive maintenance.
  • They explore new business opportunities.

You can boil all of that down to one word: anticipation. The good new is this: Anticipation is a skill you can learn.

For our sake, and for the sake of our clients, let the learning begin.


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