With the number of tech-watchers following Google’s every move, it’s almost impossible to get a scoop on the Silicon Valley darling. But one blogger has uncovered a stealth project that Google launched last summer. It was first announced at a San Francisco conference back in November — so why has no one else written about it?
Because the conference was not a tech event but a spirituality seminar called “Happiness and Its Causes” — and the launch was not a new product but the School of Personal Growth at Google University, an in-house education program for company employees.
According to Paul Kaihla of the spirituality site Soul’s Code, the new school offers employees four areas of study: mental development; emotional development; holistic health; and the Buddhist concept “beyond the self.” Courses include “The Neuroscience of Empathy” and “Search Inside Yourself” and are taught by the likes of Stanford neuroscientist Philippe Goldin and Zoketsu Norman Fischer, a poet and Zen priest.
Word of the company’s dip into spiritual waters first leaked out when Google engineer Chade-Meng Tan spoke on a panel at the Happiness conference. A practicing Buddhist and company tastemaker, Tan was a founder of the project:
Tan suggested that Google’s School of Personal Growth is a futuristic model for every workplace. “Google wants to help Googlers grow as human beings on all levels,” Tan said in his presentation. “Emotional, mental, physical and ‘beyond the self.’”
Google has made no public acknowledgment of its educational endeavor, and the company did not allow Tan to give interviews about it at the conference. But Soul Code got the inside story from Monika Broecker, a coach and therapist who helped Google develop the program:
The company’s strategy here is to boost the brainstorming powers of Google’s best and brightest, as well as their powers of self-examination. “It’s very effective because studies have proven that if people are relaxed and open, they won’t repeat the same ideas and mistakes,” added Broecker. “They are more creative.”