Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Google is Looking for Potential Employees Who Demonstrate "Intellectual Humility"

This a very interesting post on why Google does not often hire college graduates from the so-called "top schools."  Here is a taste:

Google looks for the ability to step back and embrace other people’s ideas when they’re better. “It’s ‘intellectual humility.’ Without humility, you are unable to learn,” Bock says. “Successful bright people rarely experience failure, and so they don’t learn how to learn from that failure.”

This reminds me of something I once read in a book called Why Study History: Reflecting on the Importance of the Past:

As historian John Cairns notes, empathy "is the passport to gaining a genuine entry into the past as a foreign land, and something distinct from our time.  Empathy requires the historian to step into the shoes of historical actors in order to see the world as they did, to understand them on their own terms and not ours.  Historian John Lewis Gaddis writes, "Getting inside other people's minds requires that your own mind be open to their impressions--their hopes and fears, their beliefs and dreams, their sense of right and wrong, their perception of the world and where they sit within it...

The practice of empathy will inevitably lead to humility.  It does so in one of three ways.  First, an engagement with the past in all its breadth and fullness, the entry into such a "foreign country," should decenter us.  It makes us realize our own smallness in the vast course of human history....Second, the practice of history cultivates humility because of the limited nature of the discipline.  Since historians are often so far removed from the past they study, there is no way of ever knowing for sure that their interpretations are correct.  Because of the "pastness of the past," the historian must come to grips with his or her own finiteness, realizing that he or she can never fully understand it in all its fullness and complexity....Third, history teaches humility in the sense that the past can sometimes shame us.  In the process of seeing ourselves as part of a larger human story, we also see that the people who have gone before us were capable of tremendous atrocities.  The story of human history is filled with accounts of slavery, violence, scientific racism, injustice, genocide, and other dark episodes that might make us embarrassed to be part of the human race.  If our fellow human beings can engage in such sad, wrong, or disgraceful acts, then what is stopping us from doing the same?  History reminds us of the inherent weakness in the human condition and the very real possibility that our fellow human beings are capable of horrendous things.  This should humble us, for "there but for the grace of God, go I."

Let's hope someone at Google reads this and starts hiring some well-trained history majors.