Google might be on to something. But then again, Jesus had it long before Google did.
Earlier this year in a New York Times article, a top Google executive said the company’s hiring had moved from typical resume highlights toward something more abstract. “Intellectual humility,” they called it. Without humility, you are unable to learn,” Google’s head of people operations, Laszlo Bock said.
This reminded me of Chris Agyris, a Harvard business professor who wrote about teaching smart people to learn. I imagine he has plenty of experience teaching at Harvard. So take note of Agyris’ comments about a powerful dilemma faced by all leaders:
“Success in the marketplace increasingly depends on learning, yet most people don’t know how to learn. What’s more, those members of the organization that many assume to be the best at learning are, in fact, not very good at it. I am talking about the well-educated, high-powered, high-commitment professionals who occupy key leadership positions in the modern corporation.”
Agyris points to a certain hubris that highly successful people develop. Stated simply, they aren’t humble enough to learn from those that can teach them.
Jesus, by all rights a pretty smart guy, hit on this theme in the Bible like a one-hit wonder playing the same song twenty years later. Jesus had many greatest hits to choose from, so to speak, but routinely returned to the unpopular call to humility. He said the first shall be last in his Kingdom, and he said those who are humble like a child will become great. Why a child? Perhaps, because they love to learn?
Nowadays Google may have more clout in some circles than Jesus, but the point remains. Humility keeps us soft, pliable – like a new wineskin, Jesus said – ready to expand, grow and learn. It remains, as it always has been, a central key to successful and meaningful life.