01/01/2014 09:49 pm ET Updated Mar 03, 2014

5 Ways to Energize Your Brand and Fuel Innovation

What's the key to being more innovative and how do companies and employees start heading in the right direction? These are two very tough questions to answer. Both are common discussions with companies that don't know how to face the challenge of fueling innovation. In order for companies to stay competitive and be sustainable in an ever-changing business climate, innovation must be part of the strategic plan and on the minds of employees. Here are a few ideas that will help energize your team and fuel innovation.

Create New Green Spaces To Go Play In

As a company, and as an employee, the concept of being open to new ideas is critical to remain relevant in your industry. Creating new green spaces to go play in means you should always look for ways to modify your existing business or create something completely new. Yes, this is much easier said than done.

This "new green space" that I am referring to comes in many forms and you are only limited to what you can dream-up, and I do mean dream. A few examples could be: simply assessing what you already have as a business offering and model, and tweaking it a little, monetizing it differently or dreaming up a wildly new delivery method, (like Amazon).

It could also mean exploring ideas that your industry or another industry is currently using, then trying to adopt that idea to revolutionize the way your business operates. Sometimes new ideas aren't new at all they are just new for your business. iRobot is the perfect example. Robotics in vacuum cleaners is not a new concept, however, the implementation of it at iRobot has taken that company to a new level.

Entrepreneurs tend to think about new idea adoption very well. In a Linkedin article titled, How an Entrepreneur Looks at the World, I found a quote that was appropriate in relation to creating new green spaces.

The ultimate definition of an entrepreneur is someone who is always thinking he can do things a different, better way.

Find New Talent With Innovative Ideas

In order to think different, try hiring new employees who have an eye into the future and understand that things need to be done a little differently. Bring on fresh minds that have a capacity to envision, create and deliver innovation in new ways.

The second part of this is to make sure your employees are inspired and energized by their work. You want them to create inspiration, not diffuse it. Advice for the employee; leave the negative attitude at home. Come to work and bring inspiration with you. Cultivate fresh new ideas and share them with your co-workers.

Think about your new ideas and brainstorm. See if these ideas fit into the company's business model and workflow. Sometimes these ideas will appear to be so crazy. It just won't make sense. Pretend it's like clay. Put the idea in the hands of the team and let them give it shape, purpose and meaning. You'll be surprised what they come up with after some creative thinking is applied.

Challenge Conventional Thinking

Whatever industry your business is in, there probably is a standard operating procedure for that particular industry. You probably hear it frequently when the old timers say, "This is how we do business." or "This is just the way business is done here." Just about every industry has a typical way of conducting business and some are changing faster than others. If you know that your business has succeeded by doing things the same way for years, or even decades, It's not time to celebrate and relax. It's time to get to work and look into the future.

Look at it this way. The company has played Russian roulette and won. They have relied on past techniques and survived, until now. The roulette wheel is no longer stopping on their number and they're operating on house money at this point -- not a good position to be in. My suggestion is to stop playing Russian roulette with your business and start challenging conventional thinking and come up with new ideas. Ask "why not," instead of "why." This will help to pave the way for new ideas to emerge.

Organize Your Ideas With "Now," "Later," and "No" Lists

Looking for new ways to be different is not an easy task. For my own sanity, I like to keep a list of ideas handy on my iPhone, iPad and desktop. I know my limitations, so I must keep lists in many places.

"now", "later" and "no" lists are not new. I learned this from a book I read called Make The Noise Go Away. The important lesson here is to keep in mind, all ideas can't be "now." That would drain your team emotionally and physically, and have them jump all over the place trying to accommodate potential ideas. If you want a team that is totally chaotic, keep the pedal to the metal on the "now" and you will see that it is a problematic approach.

Prioritizing ideas forces you to think about the positive and negative impacts on your company and team before you tell anyone. Once you decide that your idea must be in the "now" list, at that point you can strategically define exactly what the idea is and determine an action plan.

Ship It Out The Door

The end result for all businesses when they think about innovation, creating a new idea and preparing to launch it to the market is, in the words of Seth Godin, "ship it out the door." If you don't get the idea out the door and into the market, someone else will, and then what? You have an even bigger problem. Take some advice from someone who missed a golden opportunity to "ship" when I had the chance because I failed to put it in the "now" list and create an action plan to ship it out the door.