My office needs an ice cream truck!

Ah yes, summer is coming to an end, but those ice cream trucks still come around sometime in the early afternoon. Yeah, I typically notice them on a weekend, at home, just when I am trying to read a good book. They are loud, their music annoying at best and they tend to hang around for too long, waiting for kids to bring their parents' cash in exchange for some over-priced ice cream. The music keeps going while they wait. It's really just about impossible to focus on anything till that truck has moved on.

I want one of those to stop at the office. Every day!

Alright, alright, someone is clearly losing it here. This is obviously a ridiculous idea. We cannot possibly even think about taking this suggestion seriously. The noise is disruptive and loud, nobody will be able to get any work done. Meetings get interrupted, people will goof off taking their ice cream breaks. I just really don't get, why anyone would even think about - Wait, stop right there.

I realize, it sounds crazy.

I don't think I am going to present the idea in the office anytime soon, but this platform seems safe enough. It seems obvious why it is a really bad idea to have an ice cream truck stop at the office. More interestingly though, why is this a good idea?

Here are some reasons:

  • Most everyone loves ice cream. I think this is something that goes back to early childhood. Ice cream is a novelty, something you didn't get all the time - and it tastes really good. Many people probably have fond memories about those ice cream trucks. The excitement! Talking parents into giving you a couple quarters on that hot summer day... Good times!
  • It wakes people up and provides welcome distraction. It is really quite common to hit a low during the day. Be it that you have been banging your head against the wall about some complex coding problem, a meeting is dragging on and on, or you have been reading some design spec for the last 5 hours and it just is not getting more interesting. I think a noticeable wake-up call with optional refreshments would be just the thing!
  • It provides welcome opportunities to socialize and network. Really, this is a perfect time to interact with coworkers that you don't get to see much during the week. Aside from catching up on the latest gossip, this is of course also a good time to learn about recent developments, sales prospects, etc. within the company.

I typically hear from managers that they prefer members of their teams to be energetic and happy. Of course there are disadvantages. However, I claim that the idea that sounded so ridiculous at first, appears a whole lot more reasonable now.

It is a meaningful exercise to voice ideas that seem ridiculous at first and see, where they might take you.

Installing washers and dryers at the office? That does not make any sense - wait, I hear google has done that. Testing before coding? May sound counter-intuitive, but it's really pretty old news now. I am sure, you won't have trouble coming up with quite a few more examples.

Edward de Bono, the inventor of the term lateral thinking has written an impressive number of books on the practice of thinking. His books provide a wide variety of approaches of problem solving and decision making. In his book De Bono's Thinking Course, he agrees: A crazy idea can be a very good thing. It may turn out to make perfect sense after some analysis or it may be useful as a stepping stone to a different idea that lets us accomplish similar goals. Maybe not an ice cream truck, so how about a guy with a hot dog stand and a trumpet?

It helps to keep an open mind.