My entry for the Spilled Coffee Story Challenge

All the cool kids are doing online social media challenges. Some of these challenges, such as the Ice Bucket Challenge, are very beneficial to society. Others, such as the Tide Pod Challenge, are not.

I believe that this challenge, the Spilled Coffee Story Challenge, falls somewhere between the two. It won’t cure any debilitating diseases, but it won’t kill you either.

Before continuing, I want to emphasize that this is the Spilled Coffee STORY Challenge, not the Spilled Coffee Challenge. The Spilled Coffee Challenge could be very dangerous, because coffee is hot. So DON’T do that.

By Julius Schorzman – Own work, CC BY-SA 2.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=107645

Now most of you have never heard of the Spilled Coffee Story Challenge. That’s because I just made it up based upon an online conversation. So I’ll start by explaining how the Spilled Coffee Story Challenge came to be, and then I’ll tell my spilled coffee story.

How the Spilled Coffee Story Challenge came to be

Not too long ago, Sumair Abro and Rhonda Salvestrini were on a podcast together, talking about storytelling. To illustrate the importance of storytelling, Abro proceeded to…tell a story. It’s a story that he overheard about a woman who spilled coffee. By the end of the story, we all knew that…well, I’ll let Abro tell his story. The video can be found here.

After telling the story, Abro mentioned three points:

  1. “When you tell a story from your personal experience – people are genuinely interested.”
  2. “Don’t show all your cards immediately – have an element of surprise.” (Abro’s story DEFINITELY had a surprise at the end, revealing how spilling coffee could be a wonderful event for a particular person.)
  3. “Tell your story to the right audience.”

Salvestrini then chimed in, noting how stories need to be engaging and relevant.

Before going on, the brief clip that I linked above is actually part of a longer conversation between Abro and Salvestrini, which I mentioned before in this blog post.

But in this case, we’re only talking about the short excerpt on storytelling. I shared this excerpt myself on my Bredemarket LinkedIn page, making the following comment as I did so:

But my coffee-spilling story, in which I almost spilled coffee on a customer (but thankfully didn’t), would be hard to spin into a wonderful business truth.

This prompted a response from Rhonda Salvestrini:

Coffee-spilling stories are authentic and let our audience know that we are human. I’m sure you can spin it into a wonderful business truth. Let’s try!

Sumair Abro also chimed in:

hahaha..you dont need to spin it. It’s authentic as mentioned by Rhonda

Well, Rhonda and Sumair…CHALLENGE ACCEPTED.

My Spilled Coffee Story

My spilled coffee story took place a few years ago, when I was working for MorphoTrak. MorphoTrak was a merger of two former competitors that combined their operations—including their previously separate user conferences. I had been involved with the old Motorola User Conferences, so I knew the customers from that side of the company. And as time went on, I got to meet the customers from the non-Motorola side of the company (the Sagem Morpho side).

Me at a User Conference, several years after the coffee incident.

One of the ex-Sagem Morpho customers was from Hawaii. Specifically, the Hawaii Criminal Justice Data Center. This customer not only used MorphoTrak’s fingerprint identification technology, but also used its facial recognition technology, providing Hawaii law enforcement with the ability to use faces as an investigative lead when solving crimes.

Several years ago, the Hawaii Criminal Justice Data Center was represented on the Users Conference Executive Board by Liane Moriyama. Moriyama is a key figure in Hawaii criminal justice, since she was present when Hawaii established its first automated fingerprint identification system in 1990, and was also present for the establishment of Hawaii’s facial recognition system in 2013. But she is proudest of her accomplishments for vulnerable populations:

“We realized that we needed to help the non-criminal justice communities by using the technology and the biometrics (to protect) our vulnerable populations, our children, our disabled and our elderly through licensing and background checks. That really does protect the common citizen, and the culmination of all of that is when I was elected chair of the National Crime Prevention and Privacy Compact Council. I served two terms as the chair nationally and we have made tremendous strides in keeping the vulnerable populations safe.”

Liane Moriyama, Women in Biometrics 2017 Award recipient, quoted in Secure ID News

So Moriyama was a key customer for MorphoTrak, and a nationally recognized public security figure. Oh, and she’s a wonderful woman also (she gave away more macadamia nuts than the guy from Magnum P.I.).

All of this was very true when I was walking down the hall one fateful day. The Users Conference Executive Board was in town planning the next Users Conference. I was not involved in Users Conference planning at the time, but I would usually see Liane and the other customers when they were in the facility.

USUALLY I’d see them.

I didn’t see her one day when I went to the lunchroom to get some coffee, then exited the lunchroom and turned the corner.

Only THEN did I see her, as I turned the corner and found her right in front of me.

And disaster struck, and I spilled my coffee.

Luckily, I spilled it on MYSELF, and DIDN’T spill it on Liane.

She was extremely concerned about the fact that I had spilled coffee on myself, and I was incredibly relieved that I hadn’t spilled coffee on her.

Because if you have the choice, it’s better for you to suffer a mishap than for the client to suffer one.

So all ended well. Liane didn’t have to incur a dry cleaning bill while traveling, I took care of my own clothes, and she still gave me macadamia nuts in the future.

So now I’ll ask you: is “if you have the choice, it’s better for you to suffer a mishap than for the client to suffer one” a wonderful business truth?