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Google’s Secret Project has Leadership Implications

Mark Cook is the program coordinator for the Institute for Global Engagement, a partnership between Denison Forum and Dallas Baptist University. He is currently a Ph.D. candidate at Dallas Baptist University, and completed his Masters of Divinity at Beeson Divinity School and Truett Seminary. His ministry background is college ministry, and he has served both on a church staff as well as within campus ministries.

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Credit: Virginia Mayo via AP

Google is trying to revolutionize yet another industry. They want to change how we interact with our technology, and their answer is in a new little chip that’s smaller than a quarter. The chip, codenamed under the moniker “Project Soli,” allows you to interact with your technology without using anything but your hands. It’s called Touchless Gesture Interaction, and while that sounds really complicated, it’s actually fairly simple.

Think of pressing a button to turn on your television, turning a dial to tune a radio, or sliding a slider to increase volume. Now imagine doing these things without the device itself, just using your hand. As Google describes, “Even though these controls are virtual, the interactions feel physical and responsive.” The key is in the little microchip. The chip picks up your gestures and translates it to the device in which it is embedded. In essence, it seeks to cut out the middleman. Instead of physically turning up the volume on your television with a remote control, you could simply slide your thumb along your index finger. If you’re still a bit confused, watch Google’s video about Project Soli.

What Google is trying to do is simplify the way we interact with technology. They recognize that, as the world gets more complex, we need more natural ways to interact with our devices. Project Soli and the microchip that it has produced corresponds to the emerging science of decision-making, which is one of the most important components of leadership.

David Brooks’ book The Social Animal argues that we all have an Emotional Positioning System that works like a GPS in guiding our decision-making. Instead of reason and emotion being two oppositional forces, with reason suppressing emotion in order to arrive at the best decision, Brooks offer a different conclusion: “Reason and emotion are not separate and opposed. Reason is nestled upon emotion and dependent upon it. Emotion assigns value to things, and reason can only make choices on the basis of those valuations. The human mind can be pragmatic because deep down it is romantic.”

So when we’re making decisions, we cannot simply try to suppress our emotional feelings in hopes of finding the correct rational choice; we must instead weigh them both together. Malcolm Gladwell has also written extensively about this subject in one of his captivating books, Blink. In Blink, Gladwell states: “The key to good decision making is not knowledge. It is understanding. We are swimming in the former. We are desperately lacking in the latter.”

Just as the chip from Project Soli tries to simplify the process of interacting with a technological device, Gladwell is offering wisdom that simplifies the decision-making process. Instead of trusting blindly in the equation that more information will automatically equal a better decision, Gladwell’s argument is that we should seek understanding.

We all know this practically. It’s easy to gather so much information about a decision that you drown in all the information. More choice does not equal true freedom. Consult a lengthy menu at a restaurant, and you’ll go from wanting the steak to the fish to the pasta and then to the chicken, wreaking havoc on your decision-making amidst the overwhelming number of choices. Many times the best decision is the first one that comes to your mind, that unspoken feeling in your gut.

Learning to make wise decisions is paramount to being a good leader. Gladwell’s advice is sound. We should seek understanding instead of more knowledge when we’re reviewing the choices before us. If understanding is what we’re truly after, then it forces us to ask two questions of ourselves.

First, who do you have helping you gain better understanding? Proverbs 15:22 reminds us that “without counsel plans fail, but with many advisors they succeed.” Who is surrounding you that can help you make sense of your most difficult decisions? Knowledge is valuable to a leader, but wisdom is invaluable.

Second, are you taking the time to gain understanding, yourself? The verse right before the one mentioned above says this: “Folly is a joy to him who lacks sense, but a man of understanding walks straight ahead.” (Proverbs 15:21) Take time out of your day to pray and seek the Lord’s will in every key decision you make, because when we act without seeking him, we are truly without understanding. The first step to growing in decision-making is to surrender and submit your will to God. The rest will follow.