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Spark innovation with idea seed money

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A Rhode Island software company has created a system for new ideas that’s as transparent as they could make it. They call it an idea market.

CEO Jim Lavoie and President Joe Marino of Rite-Solutions have leveled the playing field so everyone has a shot at putting his or her idea on the table.

No need for theatrics or addressing a “murder board” for approval.  In his former company, Lavoie says, “The people who made it through these boards were not the people with the best ideas. They were the best presenters. Better ideas were being shot down because the other guy didn’t do theater. You make up stuff. I made it to executive VP not by being bright, but by being theatrical,” he says.

In a nutshell, Lavoie and Marino give every new hire $10,000 in opinion money, which can be invested in an internal stock market of ideas. Employees read an “expectus” describing the idea and choose whether to invest any of their opinion money.

The next two components are called interest money and investments.

Lavoie and Marino calculate interest by the number of comments and criticisms each idea attracts, with interest money counting for twice as much as opinion money. In the investment phase, employees commit to real time working on a project.

Bottom line: The idea market measures merit, as opposed to salesmanship, it’s transparent to employees and the patent is pending.

— Adapted from Iconoclast, Gregory Berns, Harvard Business Press.

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