The COVID-19 Pandemic Raises Critical Questions for Our Future

April 2021
Dave Wegge
President’s Message

As we begin to emerge from the COVID-19 pandemic, it is interesting to note the language that is being used to speak of the new era that we are entering. A couple of items have particularly struck me. I have heard several people saying, “I can’t wait until we get through the COVID pandemic and return to normal.” While I am not a soothsayer about the future, I believe thinking about the past year as an “event” and looking forward to returning to “normal” may not be what is in store for us in the future. There are a number of questions that our experiences from the past year have raised for us.

Perhaps there are two critical questions: “Do we see the COVID-19 pandemic as an event?” and “Is COVID-19 part of an era in which we will see an increasing number of pandemics that challenge us in the future?”

In October 2020 Elsevier, a global organization that “…helps researchers and health care professional advance science and improve health outcomes for the benefit of society,” published a report based on the views of an expert panel assessing the origin, impact, and possible preventive measures of the COVID-19 pandemic. 

The expert panel reached several conclusions but two are of particular importance:

  • the frequency of pandemics is on the rise with more than five new diseases emerging in people every year, with each having the potential to grow to pandemic proportions;
  •  our strategy to deal with the current pandemic has been a reactive containment strategy, rather than a more proactive strategy of identifying the drivers of future pandemics. 

The report concludes by saying, “Without preventative strategies, pandemics will emerge more often, spread more rapidly, kill more people, and affect the global economy with more devastating impact than ever before.”  In other words, it will be important to focus on the future by identifying the drivers of pandemics and seek ways to mediate the impact of these drivers. This is a strategic foresight issue. 

The second question is, “What does it mean to return to ‘normal’?” Another phrase that is often being used is will we be returning to a “new normal.” It seems quite clear that we will not be going back to exactly how our lives were prior to the COVID-19 pandemic. While we can speculate about what the “new normal” might look like, it can’t be a “new normal” until we have existed in this new era for a period of time. 

There are some aspects of our personal life, (e.g., going out to restaurants, entertainment venues, sporting events, etc.) that may return to what we view as normal.  Work life for many however, may be dramatically changed. One major change, accelerated by the pandemic, is the growth of remote work or as some have termed it, Working From Home (WFH). It is unclear at this point exactly how the shift to WFH will restructure the workforce and workplace. It does however appear that for many it will not be a binary choice, rather it is likely that hybrid models will emerge. The recent Microsoft Work Trend Index identifies hybrid work as the next great disruption. A survey of over 30,000 people in more than 31 countries revealed that 73% want flexible remote work options to stay and  67% want more in-person work or collaboration in the post-pandemic period.

Locally, one company surveyed its employees who had been working from home during the pandemic and asked if they would want to continue to work from home or return to the company site.  Seventy percent  said they wanted to continue to work from home. Local organizations are being challenged to understand what their workforce and workplace models will be like in the future.

The WFH shift has brought to light many critical issues and questions that as a community will need to be addressed. Does the shift to WFH widen the equity gap? We know that those with higher levels of education who are working in more tech driven sectors are more able to WFH while those with lower levels of education are more likely to be in occupations that require them to work onsite. 

Does WFH create a competitive risk for our workforce or an opportunity? Due to WFH is the greater Green Bay area competing nationally and globally for workers who can work from any geographical location? Will we see workers in Green Bay no longer working for local companies but working for companies on the coasts and still enjoying the high quality of life in Green Bay? Or is it an opportunity for us to attract workers who live on the coasts to work for Green Bay companies? 

What are the secondary and tertiary impacts of WFH? Organizations that have a large segment of their workforce shift to WFH may no longer need large fixed physical office space. How does this impact the physical asset valuations of companies? What is the impact on capital spending by companies? What is the impact for local governments in terms of tax revenue? Much of local government is supported by property taxes. How is the property tax base impacted if companies shifting to smaller physical facilities and their workers are now WFH? 

Then, of course, there are the social, psychological and health related questions that WFH brings to light. Many of these are yet to be fully understood but have significant consequences for the personal well-being of all. 

How will organizations in the greater Green Bay area respond to the questions raised by the current pandemic? What have we learned? Will we be prepared for another major disruption similar to this pandemic? What are the elements of a new normal? 

Our experience with the COVID pandemic has raised a substantial number of critical questions that can guide our thinking into the future.     


Doors in our lives

February 2021
Dave Wegge
President, Bay Area Community Council

I have been thinking a lot about doors recently. No, not the doors to our homes or places of work, but the doors of our lives.

The year 2021 provides a new door for all of us – and walking through new doors can be risky and/or provide opportunities. We need to be willing to take the right risks, but also have the strength to stand firm and close those doors that need to be closed. As we step across the threshold into 2021, I encourage you to make this a special year in your life or in the life of your organization by opening wide the doors to gratitude and growth.

I see doors as a metaphor for the decisions that we make in our lives or the events that are cast upon us. The Bay Area Community Council (BACC) is about to walk through a sizable door into a new phase for our organization. What will BACC be like on the other side? Grand, I think!

Thresholds to new experience
Life’s road can be seen as a series of doors both for individuals and organizations. As leaders of organizations, there are times when we choose to open those doors, sometimes doors are opened for us; at times we close them, and sometimes others close them for us. These doors can open and close in an instant. What lies behind those thresholds can transform us and our organizations forever.

As BACC is about to walk through a door to refine our role in the community, we look back and ask, how did BACC get to this point in our life cycle?

BACC was born of a strategic commitment to promote the general prosperity and quality of life in the greater Green Bay area in 1990. The Green Bay Area Chamber of Commerce opened the first door that created the BACC. From the start, BACC was made up of volunteers representing business, education, nonprofits, and government, working together to engage community leaders in understanding and shaping the area’s future.

The first decade (1990–2000) saw several doors opened that led to Partners in Progress conferences, creation of the Quality-of-Life survey and the Community Benchmark study. The second decade (2001-2010) produced several high level “white paper” studies on poverty, mass transit, social capital and alcohol and drug abuse. The beginning of the third decade (2011–2015) witnessed the development of the LIFE Studies, a Visioning Brown County 2020 conference, and BACC reports that helped provide the foundation for the creation of two new organizations: Achieve Brown County and LIVE 54218 (now known as Wello). In these cases, the BACC helped to open doors for other organizations. The second half of the third decade (2016-2020) brought an important shift in thinking at BACC and the door to Strategic Foresight was opened. Strategic Foresight creates a mindset shift in thinking and encourages organizations to think more deeply about the future of their organization and the greater Green Bay area. This is accomplished by training leaders how to use Strategic Foresight tools and infuse foresight into the strategic planning of business, nonprofits, education, and government organizations. To date BACC has trained 60 community leaders in Strategic Foresight and offers two training workshops a year, one in the fall and a second in the winter/spring.

With the help of a capacity building grant from the Greater Green Bay Community Foundation and the generosity of matching grants, the door that has now opened is the completion of the BACC rebranding project and changing our name to reflect our new focus on bringing Foresight Analysis to the community. Watch for the news about our name change later this month!

BACC has set an ambitious future for our organization. Decisions about our future will continue to challenge us, but we know that once we courageously step through a door, or close it, we have changed our organizations and the lives we touch forever.

Future of Work: Women Hold Key at Crossroad

Nan Nelson
February 2021

In last summer’s Economic Transformation Signals Team report we noted that:

  • Organizations with inclusive cultures are more successful in navigating today’s fast-changing, disruption-filled, competitive world.
  • Organizations with above-average gender diversity in their boards and management are more likely to develop inclusive cultures.

It’s now becoming clear that the pandemic could threaten these transformative changes.  Women have been forced to drop out of the workforce at twice the rate of men (nearly a quarter of women with young children!) and even senior women report cutting hours or switching to less-demanding roles.

Yet, some organizations are using the current fluid work situation to re-think in ways that could hasten transformation:

  • 93 percent say more jobs can be done remotely and 67 percent predict a significant share will do so permanently.
  • 90 percent will cut business travel moderately or significantly.
  • 70 percent think remote work will increase their diversity.  Why?

Remote work will allow many—mothers, caregivers, people with disabilities—to take jobs that previously required relocation, extensive travel or long commutes.

What’s more, top-performing companies are making employee mental health a higher priority.  With more visibility of each other’s personal lives, solidarity and empathy are growing.  The more employees feel they can bring their whole selves to work, the happier they are with their jobs.  This visibility will allow good managers to see shared challenges and make changes that improve not only employee experience but also organizational performance.  

Women managers are notably expert in this new atmosphere of communication, empathy and reduced ego, producing a virtuous cycle of positive innovation—for those prepared to embrace this future! 

Sources and more reading
Gupta, Alisha Haridasani.  “Why Did Hundreds of Thousands of Women Drop Out of the Work Force?” New York Times, October 13, 2020.

McKinsey & Company.  Women in the Workplace 2020: At a Crossroads.

Schneider, Avie; Hsu, Andrea; Horsley, Scott.  “Multiple Demands Causing Women to Leave the Workforce,” NPR. October 2, 2020.

Weber, Lauren and Fuhrmans, Vanessa.  “How the Coronavirus Threatens to Set Back Women’s Careers,” Wall Street Journal, September 30, 2020.

High tech advancements and job growth

January 2021
Phil Hauck, Economic Disruption & Transformation Signals Team

I was recently introduced to a futurist named Thomas Frey of the DaVinci Institute. In a recent blog post, he makes the point that all these high-tech advancements that are replacing jobs aren’t a negative, but historically have been a positive. The negative impact gets attention because it is “seeable,” an unemployment statistic. What’s unseen is this: When a robot replaces a job in a factory, the job-holder is theoretically now in a worse position, looking for another job and/or living on unemployment. But, Frey illustrates, the product that robot created will now appeal to more and more people, creating other jobs up the line, and provide a better quality of life. That, in turn, yields a more dynamic economy that spawns more jobs.

It’s a flywheel circle. The job that displaced worker will go to is one created by a prior tech advancement that is yielding a more dynamic economy.

Examples

• Long ago, the horse-shodder lost his job due to the advent of cars, so he/she went to work in a factory. The cars unleashed a massive wave of productivity that made all Americans richer, and his/her factory job ultimately paid much better than he/she ever made shodding horses. 

You can watch this right now by looking at undeveloped countries like Ethiopia, that don’t yet have high levels of technology, and see their low standard of living. As tech gets hold, Frey’s Flywheel will result in a much better standard of income and quality of life.

• Today, you will see it, maybe not so much in new manufacturing jobs, but certainly in service ones. When people become more affluent they want more services–more meals out-to-eat, more vacations, more personal trainers, more ….

• Look at today’s boom in demand for engineers, who will create the next technological breakthrough, which will produce more economic growth (including high quality jobs).

President’s Message

David Wegge
January 2021

During this pandemic I have been watching a great deal of old shows on YouTube. Recently I saw bits by Rodney Dangerfield. He would always open his act by coming on stage, adjusting his tie, and saying “What a crowd, what a crowd.” I would revise that for this message as “What a year, what a year!” 

 In the world of Foresight Analysis, this pandemic is what we might refer to as a “Wild Card” event. It is an event/ scenario which has a low probability of happening, but if it does happen it has high impact and creates significant disruption. This was indeed the state-of-affairs in 2020.

Probability-Impact Scenario Matrix
Low ProbabilityHigh Probability
High ImpactWild CardBrewing Storm
Low ImpactFlash in the PanBusiness as Usual

In the Probability-Impact matrix we pay much more attention to the “Brewing Storm” scenario as this has a high probability of happening and it will have a high impact. Scanning for signals of change that point to a “Brewing Storm” makes perfect sense based on the probability of this scenario. 

Prior to 2019 there were numerous individuals and organizations that warned about a probable pandemic. There is now an increasing probability of another pandemic. If so, should we be devoting more resources to scanning for the signals that may foretell another pandemic? 

We do know from post-analyses of other “Wild Card” events that the signals were there, they were simply not in our range of perspective. Identifying these signals provides opportunities for interventions at key points that might avert the “Wild Card” event or reduce the disruption if the event occurs. 

As the global community traversed the COVID-19 landscape what have we learned and how might we prepare for another pandemic? The COVID-19 pandemic brought a few things to the forefront in my thinking. 

At a macro level there are several things that I knew, but they became magnified, by the pandemic. 

  • Wild Card scenarios really do happen, and we have experienced the massive disruption.
  • We are globally, nationally, and locally interdependent.
  • Events in other parts of the world have significant implications for us all.
  • We are better as a society when we collaborate and work together.
  • Polarization does not just apply to our political views. There is societal polarization in the access to education, health care and technology.
  • We need to trust science.
  • Biotechnology is amazing.
  • Communication and logistics are key elements in dealing with a pandemic.
  • Statistical models, while challenging, are useful in projecting the future.
  • Planning, even for “Wildcard “ events, is important.
  • The decentralized national, state and local federal system in the US is challenging if we need to mount a national response. 
  • An external threat to our country does not necessarily unify us as a nation.

How did the pandemic impact your thinking? What should we, as a community, be doing to plan for another pandemic in the future?

Resources

  • Petersen, J. L. (1999). Out of the blue: How to anticipate big future surprises. Lanham, MD: Madison Books.
  • Barber, MP. (2004, 2006) ‘Wildcards – Signals from a Future near You’; Journal of Future Studies Vol 11 No. 1 Tamkang University
  • Hines, A. (2015). Thinking about the Future: Guidelines for Strategic Foresight (2nd edition).

A natural workforce solution: retain your retirees!

By David Wegge, Economic Disruption & Transformation Signals Team

Greater Green Bay organizations are being challenged to find workers with the right skill sets to meet employers’ needs. They address this challenge with two strategies: 1) Attract & retain new workers from outside the Green Bay area, and 2) Grow our own by training and retraining individuals already living in our area. 

The “attract and retain” strategy is a significant challenge, but three local advantages might offer some success: digital access, the successes of Titletown Tech, and the work of Greater Green Bay Chamber. That strategy alone, however, is not likely to meet our needs for the future. It will be important to focus future efforts on the “grow our own” strategy. Still, these two strategies are slow to provide the workers we need. A more immediate way to fill our workforce needs is simply to retain our retirees!  Our aging population makes it a natural choice. 

An aging Green Bay area population will have workforce impact. Aging will affect the availability of people in the workforce as well as the demands for a workforce to serve the needs of that same aging population. This graph suggests that the pool of the workforce in all age groups under age 55, our primary workforce to date, will decrease. At the same time the percentage of individuals in the 55-and-older group will increase significantly by 2040.  

Each day approximately 10,000 Baby Boomers turn 65. By 2030 all of the Baby Boom generation will have reached the retirement age of 65. Ken Dychtwald and Robert Morison, in their new book, What Retirees Want, present evidence that the 65-and-older age group may provide an opportunity to buttress the workforce. In 1990, 12 percent of those aged 65 and older were in the U.S. labor force; by 2020 that had increased to 20 percent. 

Why have we seen this increase in labor force participation by the 65+ age groups? Dychtwald  and Morrison cite four factors: 

1) increasing life expectancy has led to retirements that might last 20 – 30 years; 

2) changing from defined benefits to defined contributions in the financing of retirement makes retirees more dependent on the unreliable performance of their 401k accounts; 

3) economic uncertainty (and I would add concern over rising health care costs) followed the great recession of 2007-2009; and 

4) seniors now expect a purposeful retirement life in which they feel actively contributing, socially interactive, and fulfilled. 

Signals that the retirement age group might indeed be a source of opportunity for meeting workforce needs can be found in our own area, nationally, and internationally.

Global Signals

  • Japanese companies are raising retirement age. In the next four decades, Japan’s population is projected to shrink from 127 million to 88 million, with the proportion of those over 65 swelling to almost 40 percent from the current 28 percent, according to the National Institute of Population and Social Security Research. (Wilson, Thomas and Kaneko, Kaori.  “Most Japanese companies look to raise retirement age: Reuters poll,” Reuters, July 19, 2017. )
  • Electronics retailer Nojima has decided to let employees work until they are 80 years old if they wish, raising its retirement age from 65 to retain experienced workers in a graying Japan. (Sakei, Shumpei. “Japan retailer pushes limit of retirement age, making 80 the new 65,” Nikkei Asia, July 26, 2020.)
  • Fifty-seven percent of workers globally expect a phased transition into retirement and envision working in some capacity in retirement, based on a survey of 14,400 workers and 1,600 retired people surveyed across 15 countries: Australia, Brazil, Canada, China, France, Germany, Hungary, India, Japan, the Netherlands, Poland, Spain, Turkey, the United Kingdom, and the United States. The survey was conducted online by Aegon Center for Longevity and Retirement in early 2020. (Aegon. The New Social Contract: Age Friendly Employers. 2020.)

    National Signals
  • Phased retirement programs which allow employees to return to work while collecting some specific benefits are getting more attention. Employees in phased retirement programs may be limited in the number of hours they can work each week, and the programs could last months or years or indefinitely.
  • According to the Society for Human Resource Management, while few employers are offering phased retirement programs, the percentage of workers involved is increasing. (DeLoatch, Pamela. “As the workforce ages, phased retirement grows,” HR Dive, July 10, 2019.)
  • Willis Towers Watson’s Longer Working Careers Research in the U.S. found that 69 percent of employees wish employers would make working past conventional retirement age easier, with over a third expecting to defer retirement until after age 70. (Willis Towers Watson. “Working late: Managing the wave of U.S. retirement,” 2018.)
  • Wisconsin has the tenth-smallest pension shortfall of $3.6 billion. The pension funds of our neighboring states are in weaker positions: Illinois – $140.6 billion shortfall, Michigan – $37.6 billion shortfall, Minnesota – $15.2 billion shortfall and Iowa – $6.5 billion shortfall. (Suneson, Grant. “Retirement warning signs? Pension crisis hits states. Here’s the biggest, smallest funding shortfalls,” USA Today, December 11, 2020.)

Local Signals

  • The 2019 NEW Manufacturing Alliance Retirement Intentions study found that 74 percent of employees of manufacturing companies in northeast Wisconsin are contemplating working after they retire. Most (58 percent) would prefer part-time, year-round employment, and 52 percent  prefer a flexible schedule.
  • The Ariens company has established a Sunset Transition Plan that allows workers to transition gradually to full retirement. (Ariens Company.  “Sunset Transition Plan,” 2017.)

Factors to consider when developing your “Retain your Retirees” Plan 

Employers certainly face challenges when long-term employees retire. You might consider: 

  • Likelihood of finding workers with similar skill levels
  • Danger of losing institutional knowledge
  • Ease of transferring knowledge from retirees to new workers
  • Added retirement costs, reducing the prospects of hiring other needed workers
  • Possible increase in the cost of health care benefits
  • Potential increase in wage and salary costs
  • Danger of stifling the advancement of younger workers
  • Potential benefits to your organization
  • Unique challenges of a phased retirement program
  • Characteristics of a phased retirement program that might address these challenges
  • Local models to help you think through your phased retirement program

The signals clearly indicate that the challenge of an aging population could be a workforce advantage for organizations that can design a thoughtful, equitable and beneficial plan to retain retirees.

President’s Message

December 2020
Dave Wegge

“We must find time to stop and thank the people who make a difference in our lives,” President John F. Kennedy 

As we approach the end of 2020, this quote from President Kennedy captures my deep gratitude for the people who have contributed to the Bay Area Community Council’s (BACC) accomplishments over the past year. 

In my January 2020 message, I suggested several goals that I felt BACC needed to address in 2020:

1) infusing foresight analysis into non-profit, business, education and government organizations through our Foresight Analysis Workshops;

2) forming a Foresight Network made up of workshop alumni;

3) implementing BACC foresight Signals Teams; 

4) enhancing BACC’s brand and external communications;  

5) creating a new strategic resource development model to provide the resources necessary to achieve our mission and vision. 

So, how did we do? COVID-19 threw a wrench into many of our activities. But, like all organizations, we adjusted and even amid this pandemic were able to make considerable progress in meeting our goals. 

BACC held our fall 2020 Foresight Workshop led virtually by Garry Golden with thirteen participants from Nsight, Skyline Technologies, Nature’s Way, Elevate 97, Oneida ESC Group, Bellin Health, University of Wisconsin Green Bay, and the Green Bay Botanical Garden. Each participant presented his or her foresight view with the four possible futures of one’s organization moving forward. It was inspiring indeed. With the high demand for our Foresight Workshop, we will be offering Foresight Workshops in both the spring and fall in 2021. BACC has now trained 60 leaders in our community in Foresight Analysis to advance their organizations. These 60 leaders now make up the BACC Foresight Network; it held its first event in April.

 Another milestone this past year was the completion of the first report from one of the Signals Teams. BACC formed four Signals Teams in 2019– Economic Transformation, Pathways for Success, Community of Choice and Health & Wellness. Signals Teams are charged with using foresight tools to monitor trends, events, and choices that may impact the future of greater Green Bay. The Economic Transformation Signals Team presented its Report to the Board in August and it was released in our September 2020 Newsletter.  Related articles of this report have appeared in the BACC Newsletter since September. Additional reports will be forthcoming from each of the Signals Teams. I am deeply grateful and proud of all that the Foresight Committee accomplished in 2020.

A major highlight for BACC this past year is receiving a Capacity Building Grant from the Greater Green Bay Community Foundation. This $7,500 grant, along with another $7,500 in matching funds raised by our Resource Development Committee, provides the foundation for the rebranding of BACC and the enhancement of our external communications. The Rebranding Task Force played a critical role in advancing this project. Watch for our new name, website and newsletter in early 2021. The rebranding and communication project could not have been completed as professionally and as effectively without the guidance of Lynn Gerlach, our communication consultant, and Steve Herro, BACC administrative assistant.  I am deeply grateful and proud of all that the Communications Committee accomplished in 2020. 

BACC cannot accomplish our goals without financial resources. As BACC increases our activities around a foresight model with a keen eye to the future, we need additional financial and human resources. In 2020 BACC had our most successful annual fundraising campaign with support from our Board of Directors and numerous community members demonstrating their confidence in our work through their generous contributions. Our next step in resource development is obtaining larger sustaining multiyear sponsorships to assist BACC in obtaining the human resources needed to advance our work. I am deeply grateful and proud of all that the Resource Development Committee accomplished in 2020.

One of the unique characteristics of the BACC Board of Directors is that it is a governing board, not an advisory board. All decisions that guide our organization are made by this Board. With a small part-time staff, much of the work of BACC is performed by Board members. BACC recruits Board members who have knowledge about our community and are also committed to devoting time to perform the work of BACC. Each member of our Board brings special perspectives and expertise. A special thanks of gratitude to the BACC Board members who are so generous with their time and talent. This year the Nomination Committee recruited three new members to join our Board: Larry Connors, Executive Director of the Jackie Nitschke Center; Jeff House, CEO of Oneida ESC Group, and Dr. Gratzia Villarroel, Chair of the Casa Alba Board.  I am deeply grateful and proud of all that the Nomination Committee accomplished in 2020.

We have so much to be grateful for at BACC and look forward to an exciting 2021!  

We Can Play in the AI Arena

Phil Hauck, chair of BACC’s Economic Transformation/Disruption Signals Team

While our area has fallen behind on efforts toward economic transformation, the signals tell us we’re in a great position now to be a real player. Our Economic Transformation Signals Team has been following:

  • changes in strategic diversity
  • the evolution of higher education
  • the increasing impact of women
  • increasing relevant skills
  • increasing entrepreneurism/innovation
  • artificial intelligence (AI) and the role of evolving technologies

That final area – artificial intelligence – has been my focus.

The first effort to take advantage of technology, though, isn’t technological. It’s KNOWING YOUR CUSTOMER’S OPPORTUNITIES for greater effectiveness in your area of expertise!  Or, put another way, to know your customer’s customer.

So, what arrow do you have in your quiver that would make your customer more effective?  What option isn’t being used? Frequently, it’s mining additional data from your selling initiatives that could help them – applying machine learning algorithms. Or it might be using augmented reality for training your customers. Another possible option, like Microsoft’s Hololens, might be to see problems with the customer’s machinery so you can provide a fix. Perhaps what you can offer is remote product demonstrations.

To think most creatively, though, you need to know what technologies exist that might add that missing arrow to your quiver.  Your goal is to ask intelligently: “What if _____?”  The great news is that experts who can provide you that technology and help you apply it exist in spades here in northeast Wisconsin. Consider these disruptive efforts already developed by your local peers:

Bemis Manufacturing in Sheboygan Falls, whose expertise is molding plastic products, thought about “shopping carts” – not even their product line.  A major dilemma for retailers is theft of carts. So, Bemis provides carts with RFID embedded in them so they can be found wherever they’re discarded.  They’re selling like hotcakes!  And imagine what Bemis might soon offer: Tracking what aisles the carts move up and down most frequently, which tells where customers’ major interests lie.

BayTek Entertainment in Pulaski makes myriad fun entertainment center games like Skee-Ball and sells them globally.  Kids are way ahead in knowing what’s possible, and the next frontier is applying Virtual Reality games: The kids put on the headset and see the game played out from inside that virtual environment.  Wow! As the Pandemic lockdowns hit back in March and people no longer went to entertainment centers, BayTek developers focused on how to create smaller, less expensive versions of their games for home use.  Within months they had two models available, one now selling well, the other struggling – but that’s the nature of innovation.

U.S. AutoForce, a division of US Venture, in Little Chute, is a national distributor of tires, undercar parts and lubricants.  With 70,000 different tires available in America, how does a dealer or a repair shop find what they need for a specific customer?  Answer:  A cloud-based database of the 70,000 possibilities, and then custom software that allows dealers to enter their parameters and find the possibilities that meet their needs.

Skyline Technologies, in Green Bay/Appleton/Milwaukee, helped U.S. AutoForce with that effort (above), and they also helped Bazil’s Pub in Appleton make ordering specialty beer both entertaining and profitable.  A computer record for each customer lists the specialty beer ordered – simultaneously making customers aware of the many cult beers they haven’t tried yet! Not real sophisticated, but very effective.

Now, the above examples show how to use disruptive technology EXTERNALLY, to help your customers.  This is a great opportunity because your competitors aren’t doing it yet. However, we’re in danger of losing out to national competitors who are more advanced than we are. In our area we are, by and large, more advanced in how to use many of the techniques INTERNALLY: robotics, 3D Printing and the like.

So how do you get started?  Not much sophistication involved.  Brainstorm with your technical and customer-facing executives.  Send your customer-facing executives to visit customers and have focused discussions on the topic: What are your main pains?  Your frustrations in serving YOUR customers? What are you afraid your COMPETITORS might do before you do it?  Engage in disparate thinking: What would it look like if you applied a technology in a completely illogical way: apply robotics to eating out, 3d Printing to parts outages, for example?

If you’d like to learn more, consider these great resources:

  • Oliver Buechse, formerly chief strategist for Associated Bancorp., now an AI advocate who consults through My Strategy Source
  • Joe Bashta, CEO, Axicor, who provides AI capabilities via deep data analysis to companies.  
  • Troy Parr, CEO, TDP Solutions, who can help you figure out how to use Augmented Reality techniques
  • Larger multi-divisional accounting firms are also providing AI consulting

We Can’t Buy It–Let’s Build it

Randall Lawton, BACC Board member, Economic Transformation Signals Team.  This article represents a small portion of the BACC Economic Transformation Signals Team report.

 “… the most successful startups operate in a well-connected, well-funded ecosystem.  Supporting our startups is not solely the responsibility of our government and economic development organizations; it is up to all of us to get engaged. Big companies, investors, family offices, non-profits, retirees and foundations all have a role to play in seeding and growing the local companies of the future.” Cameron Cushman, Director of Innovative Ecosystems, University of Texas-Fort Worth.

In the drive to create economic dynamism, our community clearly missed the early technology and start-up entrepreneurial thrust. As we watched early technology innovators on the West and East coasts, it became obvious we were missing opportunities and our local economy was falling behind.  However, when the right infrastructure components are put in place and executed effectively, the economic dynamism of communities thrives. Greater Green Bay has recently experienced substantial–and accelerating–progress.  Without the infrastructure and shifting mental model established over the past decade, we would not be ready for the giant steps now being taken. 

 “Too many communities concentrate on attracting businesses from afar instead of growing them at home. In a thriving ecosystem, entrepreneurship empowers individuals, improves standards of living, and creates jobs, wealth, and innovation in the economy. But the success of an entrepreneurial ecosystem can’t be bought; it has to be built… together, we can grow inclusive and empowering economies and explore the best ways to support the makers, the doers, and the dreamers.” Wendy Guillies, CEO, Kauffman Foundation 2019 State of Entrepreneurship Address.

Our Communitys Strategy: Build it and they will come

This is our opportunity. Community leadership has chosen to act, build, and create a more robust, dynamic, competitive economic community with the benefits of sustainability in the twenty-first century.  We do, in fact, understand what is required. The current Greater Green Bay Chamber’s “Economic Development Strategic Plan” includes a robust entrepreneurial and innovation initiative.  Executing on that plan the Chamber has rebranded the Start-up Hub, instituted the Urban Hub and the Tundra Angel Fund, all critical support offerings for local, high-impact start-up companies.  NEW North is currently working on NEW Launch Alliance, one of four WEDC – supported programs with regional ecosystems.  A “Start in Wisconsin” directory on a Source Link platform will provide a real-time, broad-use asset map database covering networks, mentors, resource providers, and capital sources for entrepreneurs.    This project has an aggressive schedule and focuses on the interconnectedness of our region.

Deepen competencies in what we are good at. TitletownTech maintains superb focus by concentrating on five targeted clusters already present in our community: sports, media, and entertainment; digital health; advanced manufacturing; supply chain technologies; and AWE [agriculture, water, and environment]. Its drawing power is attracting entrepreneurs, mentors, and investors capable of making an impact. TitletownTech offers an Innovation Lab, a Venture studio, and a Venture fund to move innovative ideas toward commercial success.

Other regional organizations are also seeking such aligned roles to apply their unique resources toward start-up success.  Greater Green Bay leaders recognize the possibilities and the roles they might play.  Commitment, action, and support resources are now increasingly available.  The critical difference? Broad-based leadership is listening, thinking, and recognizing their role as modeled by the Green Bay Packers and Microsoft and the very able team at TitletownTech.

Trending positively – Consider TitletownTech’s success through Q 3 2020. Deal flow is the core competency measure of empowered start-up communities. With only five quarters since its inception–and two of them in a COVID 19 shutdown environment–this venture-building organization averages 74 deals per month for a total of 1117 deals to date. The cluster and geographic distribution is meeting goals of 33 percent from Wisconsin and nearly one-third of those from Green Bay. This metric shows that TitletownTech hit the ground running and is positioned to play a key leadership role in our start-up ecosystem. 

TitletownTech’s portfolio includes 19 companies, five of which are in residence.  They are actively investing the Fund’s capital in partnership with other funds and take the lead position in a majority of these investments.   Numbers like these demonstrate effective process and positioning.  It will be a few more years before profit-return numbers are clear, but the leadership team and their advisors are already sharing successful “how-to’s” with the community. 

The current TitletownTech portfolio of companies includes the following:

And as reported in the October 22, 2020 Green Bay Press Gazette, Synthetaic is one of the newest additions to the portfolio.

Conclusion: The serious attention and the action steps taken by business, government, non-profit, education, and economic development leaders have pushed positive trends.  The next decade will yield large gains in local, high- impact start-up activity and success for the good of Greater Green Bay.

Dave Wegge’s November 2020 President’s Message

The Bay Area Community Council (BACC) is experiencing an exciting and productive 2020. BACC is walking-the-talk of our role in strategic foresight. For the past three years, BACC has trained leaders in nonprofits, business, education, and government to use the tools of foresight analysis to guide their organizations into the future. For the past three months, BACC has used a foresight tool, the Three Horizons model, to guide the future of BACC.

The Three Horizon model is based on the work of Bill Sharpe in his book Three Horizons: The Patterning of Hope. At the October Board of Directors meeting, the BACC approved a Three Horizons plan as a working document to guide our work from 2020 to 2030.

In applying this model, Sharpe suggests that after identifying the current state in the First Horizon, organizations should next envision their preferred future in the Third Horizon. The Second Horizon then provides the path to transforming the organization to reach their preferred future.

The First Horizon (H1) 2020-2021: Reimagining BACC. H1 describes the way things have been done and how we would expect it to change if we kept behaving in the same way as in the past. Innovation is done only in a way to sustain what we have been doing in the past. At some point we realize that the way of doing things in H1 is falling short. We discover that our old way of doing things is not getting us where we want to go and not accomplishing our purpose for existing.

What does Horizon One look like for BACC? In this phase we are reimagining BACC. It is important that we recognize, honor, and build on impactful work that BACC has done in the past. Horizon One calls us to reimagine the future of our organization using foresight tools and thinking. Horizon One informs us that we can be doing more to expand our reach and help our community prepare for the future.

The Third Horizon (H3) 2026-2030: Foresight Embedded and Sustained in the Community. H3 is the future of our organization. It is what we envision as the future of BACC. In the eyes of many, it might appear to be unrealistic. In some cases, some of the ideas shaping the vision indeed may be unrealistic, but they are aspirational.

What does Horizon Three look like for BACC? BACC is recognized as the primary organization leading the community into the future. BACC is fully staffed and funded. Foresight is now embedded in the culture of local business, nonprofit, education, and government organizations and is shifting mindsets into a new mode of thinking about the future. BACC services and programming are sought after statewide and beyond.

The Second Horizon (H2) 2022-2025: BACC Transformed. H2 is the transition and transformational phase of the Three Horizons model. The Second Horizon seeks to move past the perceived shortcomings of the First Horizon, while honoring the work and the impact of the First Horizon.

What does Horizon Two look like for BACC? Horizon One gave rise to the need for BACC to shift its focus to the future. We see this new focus as the best way to serve the long-range possibilities for our community. In Horizon Two, BACC puts “structure and meat” on the bones of our Foresight skeleton. This is largely an era of organizational development and increased visibility for BACC. Securing a strong BACC organization that is branded as the Foresight organization, is the key to successfully fulfilling the vision of Horizon Three.

BACC’s Three Horizon vision lays out an ambitious plan for the future of our organization and the role BACC can play in contributing to a thriving greater Green Bay area. BACC has an extremely talented and generous volunteer Board of Directors. However, to achieve our Third Horizon will take more than our volunteer Board and our talented part-time staff. To achieve our Horizon Three will require additional funding and staffing. We are confident that with these additional resources BACC will help drive the future of the greater Green Bay area.

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