That "send in the entrepreneurs" approach to management already has its own corporate buzzword: "intrapreneurship". Intrapreneurs are supposed to be dynamic employees who create entrepreneurial, profit-making ideas from the inside out. For some employees, who have ideas but yearn for stability, it can be innovation, without the starvation: a startup feeling with a stable paycheck, a 401k and stock options. Some companies see it as a way to retain employees who might otherwise wander off and take their best ideas with them: Google encourages 20% of employee time to be dedicated to work on anything "cool or innovative".
Yet, as anyone who has worked in a big company knows, innovators are everywhere, and as Jobs himself showed, they usually prefer autonomy and freedom, and have a robust impatience with corporate bureaucracy. As a result, intrapreneurship now has the challenge of proving itself as a real trend and not just corporate wishful thinking.
Intrapreneurs, of course, existed long before the term "intrapreneurship" did. Maggie De Pree, a promising intern for Nike in Oregon, set about attempting to make her stamp at the company. She invented methods of cutting the energy bill across retail stores by switching to efficient lighting and sustainable materials, which in turn brightened the shop displays. Now she advises intrapreneurial teams at big companies. Miriam Turner, now at Sustainable Brands, formulated a smart idea at Interface, the world’s largest carpet manufacturer, for buying fishing nets from East Asian communities and recycling them as nylon for carpet production.