Sunday, March 9, 2014

Steve Ballmers shares wisdom at the Oxford Union Debates

Former Microsoft CEO, Steve Ballmer, shared his wisdom with the audience at the Oxford Union Debates.
You can find highlights on Bloomberg TV. In the session, Ballmer expressed post-Microsoft interest in Healthcare and the business of Healthcare. He also touched on the function of government as an agent of change as opposed to technology as the agent of change. In his trademark way, Ballmer expressed ideas and dispensed advice to his audience. At times, he exemplifies his own understanding of the tech world while getting some history wrong in the process. He called Apple "a two-trick pony", just as he called Microsoft the same, but missed the mark by calling the Macintosh as Apple's first big idea, forgetting that the Apple II was what initially brought Apple it's first round of success.
He even almost managed to upset his hosts when he called Oxford a "one-trick pony" with a trick running for over a hunderd years. In his defense, he did managed to save that one by pointing out that his alma-mater, Harvard was in the same boat.
But the majority of the talk focused on business, technology development and entrepreneurship.
Ballmer had these nuggets to share with the audience

  • Be Passionate. He told his audience to find something to be passionate about. Ballmer acknowledged that their first jobs will not be their ideal job nor even the job that they envisioned. But he urged them to not despair and seek out that job that interests and drive them.
  • Be an Optimist. Ballmer points out that smart people will always find faults. But being an optimist allows them to move past that and be productive
  • Be Accountable to Yourself. Ballmer implored his audience to be accountable to themselves. He emphasized that while there are a lot of smart people, they don't necessarily perform to their potential best. By being accountable to themselves they will be able to execute to their best
  • Know the goal. And keep their eye on it and let it inform their actions.
  • "Get to the weight room". Ballmer shared this possibly mangled American expression with the English audience. He claimed that it meant to be always be building in that companies had to keep on building and growing because their successful efforts only keeps them going on for the near future. This was probably an expansion of his earlier explanation of why companies need to find their 'next trick'. In fact, his summarized Microsoft as a two-trick pony.

Finally, he had this to say to budding entrepreneurs

  1.  Take a reality check - Most entrepreneurs make the mistake of putting too much stock in their initial idea. He asked them to make sure it's a great idea and not because it's the only one they have. Ballmer urged them to stand by their ideas but also make sure it's worth standing for.
  2. Find an idea that someone want to pays for- This one, everyone should take with a grain of salt. Ballmer expressed his exasperation at entrepreneurs that build something cool that no ones pays for. He admits that there are companies that have multi-billion dollar market capitalization with no revenue.. and that although he doesn't understand how that happens, he is happy to part of it.
It's not available online yet but try to catch it on Bloomberg TV.


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