"The Ice Cream Truck is in the parking lot!" I had heard the announcement before and knew that it visited our office, but with the Spring temperature over 80 in Ohio, today was the day to hit the parking lot. I joined several others as they made their selection and I made mine.

A drumstick...it looked upscale and it wasn't bad. Then I met the ice cream truck driver who went by the name Pineapple XVI. He was also well known as The Ice Cream Man. In just moments of speaking with him, it was apparent he wasn't your ordinary ice cream truck driver. He was a poet, an actor, a documentarian, and an author.

He had written and published a book - "Lessons From an Ice Cream Truck" - and I bought a copy on the spot for $14. Later, when I sat down to write my blog about culture, I kept looking at the book - it was calling to me. I gave in and read the whole thing cover to cover. And you know what? The way we corporate folk do culture can stand to gain quite a bit from The Ice Cream Man.

Life lessons could be learned from behind the wide window ledge of an ice cream truck. I didn't even really know there still were ice cream trucks. Yet, in reading the book, I found such relevant thinking on culture, and creating an environment for people to thrive and engage their best self. Here's a look at what resonated most for me from this unlikeliest of sources:



  1. Make Every Day an Adventure: The music and surprise visit of the ice cream truck takes us back to our youth, and what often seemed like endless summers with new daily adventures. When you get your ice cream from the ice cream truck, you're a kid - no matter your chronological age. It creates a sense of joy and excitement - so pure in its simplicity. What surprises and adventures are we creating for our people? Does our workplace feel like an endless summer? What creates an adventure, or totally new learnings for our people that we can regularly bring into our work environment?
  2. Create Memories: The ice cream truck proclaims that it sells novelties, yet The Ice Cream Man says he "sells people a memory." Memorable experiences aren't just for vacations, they can happen every day in as little as five minutes. And they should. What experiences would your people describe as memorable, that make their mental photo album, and that will be relived for years to come? Ask your people to tell you a story of a time they were totally engaged, what was it like, what happened, and why couldn't they wait to get back to the project or team? How could this type of memory be created today, what would have to happen? And how can we do that more often?
  3. Know Your Audience: To successfully operate an ice cream truck, you've got to acknowledge that your business is as much part of the entertainment industry as it is the food service industry. The key is to know your audience and what they most care about. Know their ages, preferences, what they crave, and how weather impacts them. What about your people? Get to know that audience better. What are they most proud of doing in your organization? What could be even more compelling to them if they could be more involved in it? What would they love to be part of building that doesn't exist today? What are they the most interested in achieving?
  4. It's About So Much More Than The Work: Regular customers appreciate the excitement of a visit from the ice cream truck so much that they'll chase it, wait for it, woop and holler for it! This impacts aspects of the ice cream truck driver's life outside the ice cream truck itself. The ice cream man sees his business being about three things: joy, excitement, and caring relationships. Who are the regulars in our workplace that are there to support us on the work and the personal side? Are we finding joy in what we do? And are we helping our people do the same?

I'd love to hear what valuable lesson you've learned when you expected it the least!

Published on: Jun 13, 2017
The opinions expressed here by Inc.com columnists are their own, not those of Inc.com.