From “The Economist”– GOOGLE was only two years old when Chade-Meng Tan, a software engineer from Singapore, joined in 2000. He earned the nickname “Google’s Jolly Good Fellow” after becoming the unofficial greeter at its Mountain View headquarters in California, and was often photographed smiling alongside famous visitors. The nickname now adorns his business cards.
A committed Buddhist, Mr Tan used his “20% time”—the portion of working hours Google encourages employees to spend on tangential projects—to devise Search Inside Yourself (SIY), a meditation programme, which he has been teaching at the company since 2007. In a new book (packaged in Google-bright colours), Mr Tan promises that this technique will “increase productivity, creativity and happiness”.
Article Reproduced from The Economist – link Here
The concept involves mastering one’s feelings and developing greater compassion, empathy and emotional intelligence. Mr Tan believes a world of SIY users will be a peaceful one, and he sees the book as a step towards achieving this.
Mr Tan laughs a lot for a man of serious purpose. In a conversation with The Economist, he talked about the early days of Google and the challenge of inner calm.
How many people worked at Google when you joined?
About 100, and we were all friends. When you are small and unprofitable your mindset is different, there is a feeling of a closed tribe. You see each other in hallways, it’s easy to have random conversations, it’s productive.
Why all the photographs with famous visitors?
To impress my mum. Al Gore was in the building, I had to get a picture to show mum, right? Then Jimmy Carter visited, it became a tradition. Also I discovered that by doing that I had access to people, people would talk to me. It was quite useful.
“Search Inside Yourself” is geared towards corporate life. What about people who don’t have the life-choices the book implies?
A lot of things in “Search Inside Yourself” are universal. For example, attention training, creating the conditions for inner calm. They have even tried [SIY] in prisons and it has done wonders for prisoners. But I geared it towards the rich, corporate world for the reason of leverage. If I can turn the most powerful part of the world into a land of wisdom and compassion, it’s going to change the rest of the world.
The book explains how empathy and compassion can help your career. Doesn’t that taint the altruistic ideals behind such characteristics?
If you had to pick between being moral and successful, obviously I’d choose to be moral. However if you can choose both, will you choose both? I’d say definitely.
But you are talking about them as a means to success.
There is a selfish element, in salary and so on, but there is also a greater-good component—I’m doing this for my team, for the world or whatever. Compassion is so pure I don’t think there is any way to taint it.
You are not taking any money from the profits. What will they go on?
The first tranche is going to SIYLI [Search Inside Yourself Leadership Institute] a non-profit body, pronounced “silly”. SIYLI is going to bring emotional intelligence to the world. If I have money after that, which is unlikely, I want to create technologies to accelerate progress in [measuring] meditation. Beginners keep asking, “Am I doing the right thing?” An objective, quantifiable way of doing this is going to help a lot.
Isn’t meditation about qualitative not quantitative results?
Yes, but it is also quantifiable. In people with high emotional intelligence the left prefrontal cortex [associated with positive emotions] is very active. Can we measure this without an FMRI scanner which costs millions of dollars? Person to person differences, can we adjust for that?
The book encourages people to pause and consider their emotions. Doesn’t that remove spontaneity and honest reactions from life?
I think it is the reverse. If a pond is disturbed, you throw a stone and see the ripples, but they are not very clear and they are obscured by the other waves. If the pond is very calm, you throw a stone and you see the ripples very clearly. If the mind is calm, your spontaneity and honest thoughts appear. You become more spontaneous.
What is your role at Google now?
I’m semi-retired. The joke is that I only work 40 hours a week. I run a Search Inside Yourself class. I’m playing the role of village elder. A good analogy is Yoda, the old man who mostly says wise things, is ungrammatical, and shows you how to use the force.
- Can meditation impact entrepreneurship and the world? Google’s happiness guru thinks so (sgentrepreneurs.com)
- Compassion over empathy could help prevent emotional burnout (wired.co.uk)
- Searching Inside Myself (learning from Google employees’ not-so-secret secret) (matthewbenson.wordpress.com)
- Meditation for Anxiety Relief (everydayhealth.com)
- Review: Search Inside Yourself (piaw.blogspot.com)