Saturday, June 21, 2014

Saving the World from Mediocre Coffee?

People like coffee.  I like coffee.  Good coffee is sublime.  Bad coffee is, well, terrible.  What is mediocre coffee like, and what is saving the world from it like?  I decided to find out.

I listened to a podcast a few weeks ago.  No big deal, right?  It was entitled "Saving the World from Mediocre Coffee" from the London Business School.   The immediate conclusion I drew is that there is no shortage of smart, energetic, and driven people that unite around a problem and solve it.  The reverence with which the participants talked about their "Project Marlow", a global project to automate the cafe experience in the UK and abroad could be admirable...but...I did not feel that way.  Something about it stuck with me, something at its core that I found lacking and/or completely disconnected from "the world".

I felt like the whole thing was misdirected.  Do we really need to save the world from mediocre coffee?  I know I enjoy a good cup daily, and, despite efforts to buy fairtrade/organic/direct trade, there's no doubt I'm impacting the planet with my coffee habit.  Though, I still thought, really?

As I pondered, I determined that what bothered me was the use of the phrase, "saving the world", which, this team is NOT doing.  The proper term might be "saving the target consumer from a mediocre cup of coffee" (though, from a catch-phrase perspective it does not ring out well), and it just so happens that there are hundreds of thousands if not millions of these targets - but please, not the world.  After all, this is a business, and businesses thrive on offering valuable solutions customers want to meet those customers' needs, right?  I suppose they could be saving the world from a mediocre cup of coffee, if they were integrating environmental and social metrics into their project, but I do not recall hearing any of that.

Words are important, and when an organization tosses around "saving/changing the world/planet" what does it really mean?  As a society, what might we decide is truly important to save the world from?  Famine? War? Climate Change? Disease?  Is it up to us to call bulls___ when phrases like this are thrown about?

So, who really is saving the world?  Anyone?

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