Barbara Waugh is not your typical radical. For one thing, she has worked for Hewlett-Packard (HP), the global technology company, since 1984. She has held mainstream positions including recruiting manager and HP Labs personnel director. She drives to work each morning in Palo Alto, Calif., an affluent, well-ordered college town that is the birthplace of Silicon Valley. But listen to her speak for a few minutes, and you begin to sense something different in her approach to her job.

“I show up...

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