Google’s People Problem

Interesting commentary Om Malik on Google’s latest moonshot - Smart contact lenses for people with Diabetes.

I cannot get over what seems to me a tone-deaf approach by Google’s scientists. It also highlights Google’s fundamental challenge: it fails to think about people as people, instead it treats them as an academic or an engineering problem. Instead of trying to understand the needs of actual people, they emerge with an elegant technological solution.

More from Abdel Ibrahim (HT Daring Fireball):

What Om effectively says in this piece is that while Google is thinking ahead, they aren’t thinking of everyday people.

And I agree. They’re creating a product that has the likelihood of being mass produced as a flying car. The truth is, with all the hurdles, let alone knowing how well it actually works, we have no idea if this will ever see the light of day.


But at least they’re trying, right? Absolutely. I’m glad they are. But it would be awesome if the brilliant minds at Google worked on something everyone reading this would actually want to buy. Not something we probably won’t see for years, maybe even decades.

That’s really what I’d like to see from one of the worlds most innovative companies. Show me a product that I can get excited about and then get in line to buy. Not something that promises incredible achievements, with no proof, and no timetable.

Time will tell how Google goes with this stuff. It does provide an important lesson for you as an innovator.

How do you keep people at the center of your work? What is value to customers? This is the question that we need to answer all the time. In the social space, it is a bit different but very similar. Sometimes it is technology. Take the question, How do solve the digital divide” problem?. However, the digital divide is not an end by itself. It needs to mean something to people. It needs to create value. When we are working with some of the most disadvantaged people, it is quite important to not just see the differences from our point of view - it will be nice if they had internet and smartphones but more importantly how can we solve the biggest challenges they face and can the internet and smartphones help. People first.


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