Gokul Krishnamurthy
Jun 18, 2014

Cannes 2014: Seek ‘simple’ solutions sans constraints, says Google’s Nikesh Arora

The speaker outlined ‘lessons from engineers’ that he has learnt, during a decade at the internet giant

Cannes 2014: Seek ‘simple’ solutions sans constraints, says Google’s Nikesh Arora

DVD players. SLR cameras. Where are they? And in the next 10 years, what are the five things that will vanish? These were among opening remarks made by Google’s chief business officer Nikesh Arora, as he took to the grand stage on day three of the Cannes Lions International Festival of Creativity 2014.

“If the last decade was one of technology made for us, the next decade is going to be about technology to connect everything else. Mobile is going to be a big thing, and things are going to be talking to each other,” said the Google official, setting the tone for the 45-minute talk on ‘The (Digital) Future’.

Arora, an electrical engineer by qualification who has spent close to 10 years at Google, themed his talk on his learnings from engineers (at Google).

‘Simple’ solutions sans constraints

As Google co-founder Larry Page and Arora were about to board a flight from California to Spain on a busy afternoon, Page pondered over how much space would be made on the roads, if only cars could be closer to each other than they were. Human caution ensured that there was enough space between them. While bringing the cars closer would be one approach, Page wondered what if they could make cars levitate, so that they could move in different directions simultaneously (at different levels), recalled Arora.

“One thing he taught me, is he tries to solve problems of ‘First Principles’. We all get taught constraints and sometimes we try to solve problems by understanding all the constraints around us. We must solve problems from a ground-up basis, without applying any constraints,” reasoned the internet giant’s chief business officer.

A second learning Arora cited was around ‘Making it simple for people’. He pointed out that search had come a long way in the last 10 years, but underlined Google’s belief that ‘Search is only 5 per cent of where it should be’.

“Today, the user expects the result he’s looking for on the first page. When they search for restaurant, they also want the address, the directions (among other things). As expectations change, the people in the shop need to work that much harder,” he explained.

He urged the audience to envisage a scenario, when one could have a conversation with one’s phone, on these lines: ‘Remember the hotel I searched for yesterday? Can you make a booking for me for tomorrow?’

‘Serving the world’

With roughly two thirds of the world population connected to each other, Arora underlined that the aspiration should be to serve the world. “How do you make sure everyone in the world is going to be able to use the technology?” he reasoned.

With the example of the film above for Google Earth, he said, “It’s things like this that keep us motivated to come into the office.”

The above case film illustrates how Google has been engaged in wiring up 5.5 million kids in Malaysia, explained Arora, with 10,000 Chrome Books installed in schools.

“It’s about, how can you make sure you leave an impact on everyone in the world,” surmised Arora.

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