Empathy Key to Business Innovation Says Microsoft CEO

Extending empathy toward your customer base is "an existential business need," according to Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella.

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Nadella, who took over the reins at Microsoft in 2014, said his company required "a deep sense of empathy with our customers" in order to best innovate for the future.

"Why does Microsoft exist?" asked Nadella, in conversation with GE vice chair Beth Comstock. "It needs to innovate on behalf of our customers. In order to innovate on behalf of our customers, it means we need to be in touch with the unmet, unarticulated needs of our customers."

"We're not just listening to what they are saying today, but listening for that inner need that is not even articulated," he said.

Nadella, who is promoting his new book "Hit Refresh," is widely credited with rebooting Microsoft's market positioning in an increasingly cloud-based world.

He also stressed the importance of education in a rapidly changing workplace.

"Corporations like us have to do our job, but us as a society have to come together" and "use our imagination" to plan for the needed jobs of the future. 

Nadella joined Microsoft in 1992, and held a number of roles before taking over as CEO three years ago.