How are your ‘Mutual Fun’ shares doing?

A hand drawing a large, bright lightbulb on a chalkboard next to an equation where several smaller lightbulbs add up to the larger one, symbolizing the concept that multiple ideas or contributions can lead to one great idea or solutionA leader who’s smart enough to admit that he can’t take all the credit for his success is someone who is “humbitious.” Humbitious describes a blend of humility and ambition—an antidote to hubris.

Here’s what it looks like in action:

Jim Lavoie and Joe Marino founded a fast-growing software company called Rite-Solutions, which develops systems for submarines and highly classified technologies.

Given the high-stakes nature of the business, you’d expect Lavoie and Marino to have a rigidly top-down style. On the contrary, they launched the company to do the opposite, after enduring years of command-and-­control environments.

“I had spent 30 years in highly structured organizations where good ideas could only flow from the top down and someone’s value was defined by the ‘box’ they sat in rather than the insights they had,” explains CEO Lavoie, the sixty­something founder.

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Rite-Solutions president Joe Marino adds, “Our job is to create an environment where people can express their ideas, no matter where they are in the organization, and then to make sense of all the ideas that emerge.”

One way they do so is with an internal stock market for ideas called Mutual Fun.

Any employee can propose that Rite-Solutions acquire or develop a new technology, enter a new business or make efficiency improvements. Pro­posals become stocks on the Mutual Fun market, and each begins trading at $10.

All employees get $10,000 worth of “opinion money” on their first day, so they can show support for an idea by buying the stock. They can also volunteer to work on the project. Later they’ll share in the proceeds—real money—if the project delivers real-world revenue.

“Mutual Fun allows half-baked ideas to get into the community,” Lavoie says. “It lets people start chatting about them, making them better, polishing. Informal ‘interest networks’ form without management, without supervision.”

The stock project has generated 50 workable ideas for new products, services or processes. More than 15 of those ideas are now in the marketplace, comprising 20% of Rite-Solutions’ total revenue.

Bottom line: The most effective leaders don’t want to be solely responsible for solving problems. Instead, they know the best ideas can come from unexpected places.

— Adapted from “Are you ‘Humbitious’ enough to lead?” William C. Taylor, Leader to Leader.