Microsoft and Mana – The Spirit of Collaboration

Judson Althoff, Microsoft’s Executive Vice President, visited New Zealand and learned about Mana, a concept that resonated with Microsoft’s collaborative spirit 

This week Judson experienced the full New Zealand welcome including a traditional Māori Pōwhiri, enacted by the host Māori Iwi (tribe), Ngāti Whātua Ōrākei.

Te Aroha Morehu, Innovation Officer at Ngāti Whātua Ōrākei, opened the welcome with a beautiful interpretation of the word mana, meaning power and prestige, which is a great source of personal and collective pride.

Te Aroha spoke of the work Microsoft and Ngāti Whātua Ōrākei have begun together, making the point that his iwi was in some ways a ‘zero data’ culture, but that now was the time to capture their data, their history, their stories and identity.

It was an emotional ceremony performed on a beautiful sunny Monday morning, leading Te Aroha to joke, ‘Judson: our iwi would also like to take responsibility for the beautiful summer weather you are enjoying today.’

Judson responded by saying he had travelled all over the world, experiencing many welcomes, but none as ‘humbling’ as the Pōwhiri. Ngāti Whātua Ōrākei, then presented Judson with a Pounamu, blessed by the iwi. Pounamu are a profound symbol in Māori culture. Many are believed to have their own mana, and some are given as gifts to seal and bless important agreements.

Te Amohaere presenting Judson Althoff his Ponamu

Proudly wearing his Pounamu throughout the day, Judson then attended a round of meetings with customers and partners to discuss how Kiwi companies were managing their digital transformations.

Judson topped off the day with a company All Hands. As is customary, visiting executives are normally interviewed by the local General Manager. However, New Zealand added a ‘Kiwi twist’ by having Judson interviewed by one of our MACHs (Microsoft Academy of College Hires), Anna Lim.

Anna Lim, Enterprise Channel Manager for Education, interviewed Judson, inspiring both laughs and important discussions about the spirit of collaboration. Anna broke the ice with a quick round of, ‘This or That?’ in which Judson needed to decide if he was an ‘idealist or realist?’ – ‘Leaning towards the realist.’ – and if he preferred New Zealand to Australia – answering, correctly, that New Zealand was superior.

Judson also spoke about the impact of ‘applied empathy’ in our business, saying, ‘We need to listen more than we talk. That is the only way we can hope to hear what it is our customers really need from us.’

Judson emphasised how fundamental collaboration is to our DNA, saying, ‘None of us knows as much as all of us,’ and citing the African proverb, ‘If you want to travel fast, go alone. If you want to travel far, go together.’