Innovative Coffee Cup
1 February 2022
As an avid coffee enthusiast, I follow James Hoffman, the famous YouTuber and winner of the 2007 World Barista Championship (WBC). Hoffman, a 40-year-old English man, is mainly known nowadays for his great passion for coffee and the videos he uploads to his YouTube channel. However, his outstanding contribution to the coffee industry focuses on single-type coffee, i.e., making coffee from one type rather than blending various kinds of coffee. He was the first contestant to make an espresso from a coffee bean during the WBC. Thus, he raised global awareness and a resurgence of interest in unique, one-type coffee.
However, I know Hoffman mainly due to his YouTube Channel, which grew and gained followers and not only coffee enthusiasts in recent years. Besides the more professional content he uploads (such as the different ways to prepare coffee), Hoffman experiments with coffee-related products and shares his opinion of them via his YouTube channel. This channel is sponsored by crowdfunding via Patreon, which funds the purchase of these products reviewed by Hoffman.
This October, Hoffman held the world’s first sizeable virtual coffee tasting event on his YouTube channel. What is a coffee tasting event, or (to be exact) a Coffee Cupping event? It is the standard process used to evaluate coffee around the world. Still, it is simply a fun tasting event meant to compare different types of coffee and their tastes for coffee enthusiasts like myself.
More than 10,000 participants participated in Hoffman’s virtual event worldwide. Hoffman’s coffee company (which he started some years back and specialized in one-type coffee) prepared and sent in advance bags of coffee beans to each participant for a small fee. Each bag was marked with a different letter, allowing participants to experience a “blind tasting,” not knowing the origin of each bag.
Why did I write about Hoffman and describe his Coffee Cupping event in this forum? Because Hoffman is a fine example of someone successfully implementing technological innovation in an industry as old as the Coffee industry. He was able to hold a global event, the first of its kind, because he knew how to implement and connect between the technological tools that enabled this event and thus also promote its benefit and the product he believes.
What is innovation? Innovation is defined as generating value-added via two methods:
New solutions for current needs
Creating solutions for new needs
Technological innovation substitutes current solutions with innovation or invention. This innovation provides value added to a specific audience. At the same time, it can be meant to improve the current one (a new alternative for the same purpose) and not merely the innovation of an idea or need. Some people are naturally gifted with thinking outside the box and being inventive. However, innovation is a skill that can be acquired and taught, and practically anyone can learn to think like an inventor and improve their creative thinking skills.
Hoffman understood the value-added he provides and continues to reinvent himself while not reinventing the wheel.
What technological tools does Hoffman use to promote himself?
Surprisingly, these tools are well known. We, too, can apply these tools for innovative development, especially Knowledge Management:
Uploading content for a specific target audience via a YouTube channel: Hoffman used a popular content tool like a YouTube channel to convey his professional knowledge to others. He discusses coffee, instructs, recommends, and shares his experiences with his followers.
Other media platforms: while most of Hoffman’s content and publishing is uploaded to YouTube, as a tech-savvy individual, he understood the importance of social networks and is actively involved in other media platforms. For example, he has a sub-channel on Reddit through which he answers questions and discusses coffee (of course, I follow him there!).
Providing value-added beyond the product (e.g., a review): Hoffman tries out products related to the coffee industry and publishes his assessment. He discusses their functionality, User Experience, design, price, etc. Hoffman has realized the great value his detailed review provides the edge user. The demand for his opinion has become so high that many donate to Patreon to fund Hoffman’s product purchase to enable him to review them. Once used and studied, Hoffman holds a raffle and sends its winner the product.
In conclusion, beyond coffee as my area of interest (I hope you found it interesting, too), we learned of efficient, high-quality incorporation of innovation and technological innovation in various areas of our life. In a large organization, technological innovation is one of the essential tools in organizational innovation, enabling performance improvement in all areas. Incorporating this element in the organization requires it organically grow from the organization’s innovation strategy: where innovation is needed, how much are we willing to innovate and what are we willing to invest, what toolset will be used to actualize innovation, and what method will be used to implement innovation.