很多商业书籍都号称能教会企业高层打造创新文化，培育出谢尔盖•布林、马克•扎克伯格、史蒂夫•乔布斯这样富有远见卓识的人才。9月份的《哈佛商业评论》（Harvard Business Review）即将引爆一枚思想炸弹，刊登一篇题为《新车库创新时代》（The New Corporate Garage）的文章，宣步一个新创新时代的到来：它具有“个人创业”的特征，同时背靠大公司的资源和规模，却又不失初创企业的灵活。
但在一家大公司内部做一个创业者，是不是有些矛盾？那些宣称将培育创业精神的人们到底是在鼓励寻常的创意思维，还是鼓动性的销售说辞？（倒不是说这有什么错。）即便是巴布森学院（Babson College）——布兰克创业中心（Arthur M. Blank Center for Entrepreneurship）所在地——的院长也承认，很多围绕所谓“内部创业”的说辞都是雷声大、雨点小。
培育创业文化的挑战和成功几率几乎堪比打造一家成功的初创公司，大多数初创公司都活不过4年。不可能像洛克希德•马丁（Lockheed Martin）传奇的创新机构“臭鼬工厂”（Skunk Works）那样把创新者隔离开来：虽然这样能保护他们不受现有官僚文化的侵蚀，但同时也阻止了他们获取所在大公司的资源，这是他们相比灵活的独立初创公司原本应该具有的优势。另外，也不能期待每位员工都孜孜不倦地寻找下一个大目标——大多数人必须将重点放在日常生产上。
For over a decade, the promise of bringing the revenue-driving ability of disruptive innovators into a large corporation has tempted many a business leader. But in recent years, the cult of the entrepreneur has reached new heights.
Plenty of business books purport to teach top management how to create a culture that nurtures visionaries like Sergey Brin, Mark Zuckerberg, and Steve Jobs. A "Big Idea" article set to be published in September's Harvard Business Review heralds the dawning of a new age of innovation marked by individual "catalysts" that leverage the resources and reach of a large enterprise without losing the nimble agility of a startup.
It's no surprise that Fortune 100 leaders are looking for a game-changing concept to offer hope in the face of ever-escalating competition from overseas rivals and the pace of technological change. With wave after wave of entrepreneurial ventures successfully challenging corporate titans for market dominance, the establishment is right to be afraid. Any of the number of failed acquisitions of scrappy competitors demonstrates that buying the creative engine brings its own challenges. Moreover, to attract the most talented young people entering the workforce, big business needs to compete with the dream of becoming the next Jobs or Zuckerberg.
"Just about every leader recognizes that the pace of change in markets means that business as usual isn't enough. It's not enough to be a great operator, you have to be innovative, you have to think differently, you have to give birth to new businesses," says Scott Anthony, managing director for innovation boutique Innosight, and author of the forthcoming Harvard Business Review article, "The New Corporate Garage."
But isn't it a contradiction in terms to be an entrepreneur within a large corporation? Are those who claim to be instilling entrepreneurialism merely encouraging garden-variety creative thinking or even just a killer sales mentality? (Not that there's anything wrong with that.) Even the president of Babson College, home of the Arthur M. Blank Center for Entrepreneurship, acknowledges that much of the rhetoric around so-called intrapreneurs promises more than it delivers.
"Some CEOs go so far as to say, 'We want all of our 300,000 employees to be entrepreneurs.' It is just complete nonsense," says Len Schlesinger, Babson's president and author of Just Start. "The reality is that you're asking people to display a set of behaviors in an environment that, by its very nature, tends to be very hostile to those activities."
Cultivating an entrepreneurial culture is almost as challenging -- and rare -- as launching a successful startup company, the majority of which won't see their fourth birthday. You can't simply wall off the innovators, as in Lockheed Martin's (LMT) legendary "Skunk Works," because by protecting them from being corrupted by the operational, bureaucratic culture, you also block them from the large-company resources that would give them an advantage over nimble independents. Nor can you reasonably expect that every worker will be constantly on the hunt for the next big thing -- the majority will need to focus on routine production.
"The extremes are dangerous," Anthony says. "You have to strike a very careful medium where you find ways to very selectively and thoughtfully borrow the true capabilities that will give you advantages ... without corrupting either side."
So how do you separate rhetoric from reality? Experts differ, but most agree that to have any hope of cultivating true entrepreneurship, leaders must take these four steps.
Make risk-taking, and failure, acceptable
In many companies, employees play it safe because they know a single failure can end a career. Not so, apparently, at education giant Pearson (PSO), where CEO Marjorie Scardino urges employees "to be brave, imaginative and decent." In 2008, then-senior vice president Patrick Supanc found himself worrying out loud to Scardino as they waited together at an airport that Pearson wasn't moving quickly enough to exploit some new opportunities in educational technology. Three months later, Scardino asked him to prepare a pitch on the unknown territory he'd like to chart. The company approved seed funding and in 2010 Pearson launched Alleyoop, an educational software company that prepares teens for college in partnership with a range of content providers -- some Pearson competitors.
Alleyoop is an independent division of Pearson, with Supanc as president, reporting to a board comprised of top Pearson executives. "This was a risky move," he says. "If corporations want to foster entrepreneurship, they really need to commit to the autonomy and the time and the willingness to support folks as they move through a series of failures."