TitletownTech director shares innovation ideas at WIT event

Jessica Thiel
Posted by of Insight Publications

Craig Dickman knows a few things about innovation.

The transportation industry veteran created and built Green Bay-based Breakthrough with the vision of helping clients reduce the consumption, cost and emissions of fuel in their supply chains. Breakthrough’s solutions touch companies from Georgia-Pacific to Kraft.

Dickman, who also founded venture-building company StageThree and co-founded the N.E.W. Venture Foundry, recently stepped down from leading Breakthrough to join TitletownTech as managing director. On Friday, he joined Elaine Stephens, Breakthrough’s vice president of technology and data science, at the Women in Technology Wisconsin breakfast meeting to share ideas for creating a culture of innovation within companies.

TitletownTech, a joint venture between the Green Bay Packers and Microsoft, is expected to open in early 2019 and is designed to spur economic expansion in Northeast Wisconsin by bringing digital innovations and expertise to Green Bay. It will include an innovation lab, venture studio and venture fund.

“There’s a great entrepreneurial spirit in Northeast Wisconsin. There’s great ideas … but for years my greatest fear was that we were going to become the best exporter of ideas in the world,” he says, noting local innovators have long believed that they need to take their ideas elsewhere for funding and development.

TitletownTech will create opportunities to connect with entrepreneurs and early-stage startups, he says.

For companies, it’s important to fully embrace innovation and have that as part of the culture, Stephens says. When Breakthrough started 14 years ago, it set a goal of launching a new innovation every 14 months.

“When you walk around the floor 14 years later, people still quote that number,” she says. “It’s ingrained in our culture in a way that I’ve never seen before. Every last person across the board knows it’s 14 months. That’s the expectation.”

Dickman and Stephens also encouraged companies to expose themselves to new ideas, explore areas outside their expertise and examine how others express themselves creatively. Further, it’s important to embrace intellectual curiosity and collaboration.

Breakthrough also built an environment of trust, Dickman says, in which the companies employ a fail-fast philosophy with the understanding that most ideas fail. At the same time, it’s important to invest in research so those failures are controlled failures.

Dickman left the audience with the advice to fall in love with the process of innovation versus the idea or innovation itself and to be deliberate in building company culture.

WIT holds its monthly breakfast series at The Fox Club in Appleton the last Friday of each month. Its next meeting on Jan. 25 will be a train the trainer event with attendees learning how run DigiGirlz events aimed at getting girls excited about programming. To learn more, visit witwisconsin.com.