Mar 102013

A very creative way to promote ideas within a group:
Mutual Fun

In the following video, Professor Hayagreeva Rao from the Stanford Graduate School of Business, delivers the message that killing ideas is way more important that collecting ideas.

Now, there’s the right way to do it and the wrong way to do it.

In most companies, the decision of promoting or killing ideas is left in the hands of a small committee  referred as the “Murder Board” by Professor Rao. According to Professor Rao, the murder board ‘s decisions may come across as arbitrary and in the worst cases subject those proposing the ideas to ridicule, humiliation and rejection, thereby killing their initiative. As a result, people watching those actions will become reluctant to suggest ideas in the future. The end result is that the smart people who were hired by those same companies become “dumb” or rather mute/silent.

To me the most interesting idea brought up by the video is the case-study of the company Rite Solutions. Their brilliant idea is to organize all the company’s idea into a “Stock Market for Collective Genius” that they call: Mutual Fun (no “d”).


3 principles behind mutual fun

In a nutshell, the concept behind Mutual Fun is organized around these 3 principles:

  • Every employee is given $10,000 of “opinion money” to buy savings bonds and stocks
  • Originators of ideas (either conservative or far-out ideas) are encouraged to develop “expect-us” (prospectus) and get “prophets” to get stock listed
  • Others can buy stocks, offer suggestions, and volunteer time.

Low-quality ideas don’t find “prophets” or are quickly eliminated for lack of support. However, since those ideas have been viewed by many employees, they may become the material for new ideas which might get more traction.

Anybody can suggest ideas and Professor Rao recalls that the receptionist of the company for example had 2 ideas in the Mutual Fun.

Rite Solutions developed some pretty sophisticated tools to show the “stocks” and stock activity in the Mutual Fun with charts, news stories, levels of funding, etc… to help stock owners to manage their stock portfolio.

So, instead of solely relying on the opinion of a few individual (the murder board), Rise Solutions was able to tap into the wisdom of the company as a whole by looking at the ideas that rise to the top of the Mutual Fun market. Those ideas then get fully funded with real money (called “adventure capital”, cute) to implement the ideas contained in those stocks.

I wish such a tool existed as Open Source for other companies like mine to use.

Maybe something for me to work on…

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