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By Jan Bolick Jan Bolick is Founder and President of Business Class Inc which specializes in working with leaders to build positive, productive, results oriented service culture.

Lessons from Ben & Jerry's

By Jan Bolick Posted January 19, 2012 at 12:00 pm

“The greatest mistake you can make is to be continually fearing you will make one.”
Elbert Hubbard

Did you celebrate with Jerry last week?

In case you missed the scoop, he was in town (that’s him, THE Jerry of Ben & Jerry’s, on the right) to celebrate the grand re-opening of Ben & Jerry’s Ice Cream.  


 
Ramses and hundreds of others waited in line to celebrate with free samples of ice cream and – here’s a twist – pretzels.  Yes they now sell pretzels too.  Auntie Anne’s Pretzels.  


 
Links at bottom of page will take you to more fun photos and info about the celebration – providing a glimpse at many good business practices like making things fun, giving back to the community, and trying new things – like selling pretzels.

Here’s another fabulous Ben & Jerry’s best practice that isn’t obvious from visiting the Chapel Hill store but the impact of it is reflected there – perhaps in the pretzels.

I found out about it when Art and I toured the Ben & Jerry’s Factory in Vermont. We spent most of our time in the graveyard where I was like a kid in a candy store – odd and slightly inappropriate behavior for a graveyard.

Surrounded by a white picket fence, there were rows and rows of tombstones – perhaps thirty in all – each with the name of a flavor, the years of its life and a short description.  
 
Take a look at the top of the tombstone…don’t you just love the angel-winged ice cream cones?

And look at the description.

In addition to Economic Crunch (shown at left), other dead flavors  included:

  • Blondies Are A Swirls Best Friend
  • Duff & D’oh! Nuts
  • Making Whoopee Pie
  • The Full Vermonty

The description under Miz Jelena’s Sweet Potato Pie reads:

One potato, two potato, Sweet Potato Pie.
No one could appreciate it.
So we had to let it die.

See it live in this one minute video.

According to a Roadside America story,

“The Graveyard exists because of Ben & Jerry’s never-ending experimentation with odd ice cream flavors*; some are just too odd for their own good. Each year eight to twelve — those with the lowest sales — are “killed” and become candidates for this fatland Boot Hill. The company has eliminated over 200 flavors, but the Graveyard hosts 27 graves so far, perhaps enough to get the point across.”

What a clever way to send a clear message about mistakes and innovation!

What a brilliant tool for preserving institutional memory!

Like many companies, Ben & Jerry’s buries their mistakes.

But unlike many companies, Ben & Jerry’s doesn’t leave them underground. 
Instead they preserve the memories and lessons learned with celebratory flair, a hint of caution and even, a dollop of humor.

Allowing the mistakes and their makers to rest in peace.

And making it safe to try again.
 
How does it work at your office?  

  • Is it safe at your office, maybe even a fun adventure to create, to innovate, to try new things – like pretzels?
  • What happens when new things fail…or when every day mistakes are made?  
  • What happens to the people who make them?  
  • Does anyone learn from the mistakes?   
  • Does anyone go so far as to celebrate them?  If so, how?
  • Tell me tell me.  I want to hear!  Jan@Chapelboro.com

Copyright 2012 – Business Class Inc

Related Article:
  Dancing with Skeletons

Note:   Click on the image below to download and/or print Mr. Hubbard’s wise words.  A great reminder for computer screens and bulletin board everywhere!

Read more about Ben & Jerry’s grand re-opening, see pictures, and read quotes from Chapel Hill owner, Antonio McBroom at:

Ben & Jerry’s is located at 102 West Franklin Street in Chapel Hill.  Here’s a link to their website.

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