The Race to Build an Innovative Culture: How Bayside, WI Encourages Good Ideas

ARTICLE | Mar 30, 2015

In the Village of Bayside, a small community of around 4,500 people, there is the expectation that no one year will be the same as the last because the words, “this is the way we have always done it”, have no place in Bayside. One area where we are always seeking out new ideas, is for community events. With no Chamber of Commerce and no dedicated Recreation Department, everyone in Bayside plays a part in coming up with ideas for events that will provide a sense of community for Bayside residents.

I came to Bayside as a runner who has run a number of 5k road races, so naturally I was eager to throw out the idea of hosting a 5k. The majority of my fellow co-workers at the time were not runners and very hesitant on the idea. There were certainly plenty of 5ks in the area, but none put on by the local municipality. This would be a different type of community event for Bayside, with entrance fees and technical timing equipment. However, with a promise to the Village Manager that the event would break even, and therefore not cost the Village anything, I was given permission to go ahead and start planning.

The event ended up being a success! Not only did many local families participate, (who wouldn’t want to win the title of “Bayside’s fastest family”) it truly was a night to celebrate Bayside. We partnered with many local businesses who helped sponsor the race and set up booths, we invited local food trucks and food vendors, and had a bonfire following the race. The race also drew in people from areas outside of Bayside who were able to experience the wonderful, quiet tree lined streets and unique houses that make up Bayside. We were able to not only cover our costs for the race, thanks to generous donations, but were also able to make a donation to a local charity. The 5k has now become an annual event that has grown and expanded.

The Village of Bayside truly supports an innovative culture which means that ideas like the Bayside 5k become a reality. One reason this happens is that good ideas are given the green light very quickly. With the 5k, the decision to go ahead was given to me in the course of a few days with the first 5k taking place within 4 months from the time we decided to go ahead. Decisions are certainly made with careful and thorough deliberation, but ideas do not stall. When people are energized and passionate about an idea, they can receive permission to go ahead quickly while they are still excited to carry the idea forward.

The Village Manager and Leadership team in Bayside also recognize that good ideas and innovation can come from any place in the organization. We all have a place at the table, no matter what our position and can feel empowered to take our ideas and run with them. I was a Management Assistant at the time of the first Bayside 5k and was given the opportunity to fully run and execute the event. The Director of our dispatch team, individual dispatchers, our police chief, and public works crew are all given the opportunity to provide ideas for events. Not only do these team members come up with ideas, they also help implement them, even volunteering their time with their families on the day of the events.

We are truly a team. Most staff members did not understand what went into planning a 5k. However, despite the fact that I was only a Management Assistant, the Village Manager and other directors, supported me and my vision in whatever way they good. It was truly a team effort that was a success because everyone played a part.  

The culture of innovation that I experience did not come about overnight. The Alliance for Innovation has certainly played a part in helping to encourage and foster this spirit of innovation. This has come in many forms whether it has been through Regional workshops where we learn from others in our area, National Conferences, or conversations with the Alliance staff who are always only a phone call or e-mail away and are eager to share new ideas or help us with an issue we are facing.

Learn more about Bayside's 5k here

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