The “Learn-It-All” Mindset Beats the “Know-It-All” at Microsoft

September 25, 2018, 1:05 PM UTC

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Good morning from Chicago, where the first-ever Brainstorm Reinvent conference kicked off yesterday at the swanky Four Seasons hotel, a few sunny blocks from a sun-speckled Lake Michigan.

It was an exhilarating day of industrial America meets high technology meets leadership and teamwork maxims from some outstanding practitioners.

Some observations:

* Stanley McChrystal, the retired-four-star general and America’s preeminent warrior-philosopher-corporate leadership consultant, thinks the military should make lateral hires, including at its highest levels. He thinks corporate types would add a ton, just as officers glean valuable knowledge from their academic intermissions from active duty. Here’s a write-up of my interview with him, including his indirect (but clear) thoughts on Donald Trump’s leadership, as well as a video clip of our chat.

* Mindy Grossman, CEO of WW, or the corporation formerly known as Weight Watchers, is a no-nonsense, operationally focused, and clear-thinking executive who has overseen the company’s revival in the years since Oprah Winfrey bought a 10% stake. The key to reinvention, says Grossman, is to consider nothing sacred. If a product doesn’t serve the brand, she says, it’s gone. That’s why the company ditched 70% of its own food products. Read and watch more here.

* Peggy Johnson, the marathoner and former Qualcomm M&A executive, interviewed for a job at Microsoft mostly to “listen” and came away from her interview with CEO Satya Nadella convinced the software company was the place for her. She credits a “learn-it-all” rather than a “know-it-all” mindset for the cultural transformation of the once-proud and newly-revived Microsoft.

We have a full day ahead of us Tuesday, and you can follow the livestream, including my interview with Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel, on


Speaking of transformations, I highly recommend Beth Kowitt’s profile of Walmart International CEO Judith McKenna, charged with overseeing Walmart’s risky $16-billion investment in India’s Flipkart. It’s a tale of an insider of an acquired company rising to the top of her new organization—and being handed an extremely important assignment.

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