DTSD Innovation Program Structure and Idea Process

DTSD developed a unique innovation program structure that uses a multi-tiered approach to address stakeholder needs and earned the 2017 FHWA/AASHTO STIC Excellence Award – an award given to State DOTs who are leaders in innovation.

The WI-State Transportation Innovation Council (WI-STIC) fosters external partnerships by including representatives from the contracting industry, local highway and public works associations, engineering consultants, tribal task force, local technical assistance program, environmental agencies and FHWA. Quarterly meetings provide a forum for STIC members to receive DTSD innovation program updates and to bring ideas forward for consideration.

Internally, DTSD has developed a statewide Innovation Review Committee (IRC) which takes a collaborative approach to innovation by bringing together staff who represent each business functional areas (e.g. Project Delivery, Ops, Maintenance) and each regional office. IRC representatives help review ideas and identify paths for piloting or implementation. They are also responsible for tracking progress, identifying pilot leads and communicating pilot outcomes (e.g. presentations, demonstrations, reports, etc.)  to other IRC members. 

In order to keep practitioners engaged, DTSD also created Local Innovation Teams (LITs) in the region offices (lead by Region IRC leads) as part of the innovation program. Generally, these are the staff who apply innovations on projects and bring improvement ideas back to their teams for consideration. 

The combination of internal/external, top down/bottom up approaches has changed the culture of the organization and provided a structure to rapidly identify, pilot and implement innovations.

DTSD also developed a five-step innovation process that fosters the development of ideas with an opportunity for go/no-go decisions along the way. Most ideas follow this process; however, each idea is unique and the approach can be modified.

  1. Incubate – Discuss feasibility and document the idea; conduct initial financial assessment
  2. Demonstrate – Collect and review existing research; seek demonstrations from vendors, lead states or other agencies
  3. Pilot – Put the idea to the test; allow practitioners to validate expected benefits and return on investment; begin to lay out needs for implementation if pilot results are favorable
  4. Communication – Share results and best practices with stakeholders; determine width and depth of implementation and change management
  5. Implementation – Develop full implementation plan, budgets, resource needs; select implementation champions and develop work plan