In the 1950s through the '70s, leadership concepts were based on data, product creation and accounting. In the 1970s through the '90s, leadership concepts were based on information, solutions and strategic planning.

In the early years of the 21st century, leadership concepts are going to be based on knowledge, innovation and strategic differentiation.

The time is now for the new era of leadership to embrace the renegade idea and challenge the status quo. As the lightbulb dramatically shifted the thinking of the time, the Internet is shifting the business thinking of our time. Still in its infancy, the Internet has dramatically changed the game regarding globalization and commoditization and thrown the door open to new ideas and competitive strategies. Renegade ideas can flash through the wired public at the speed of electricity, establish the uniqueness of an organization and drive even greater profits for those organizations ready to try them. This sets the tone for innovation and creative thinking.

Renegade ideas obviously don't have to use the Internet, but the expanded thinking generated by this tool has rewritten the rules on innovative thought. Renegade thinking is no longer just for aggressive companies; it's required for any company wishing to be competitive and differentiate themselves in the marketplace.

Here are three areas where renegade thinking has become mandatory for success in today's business environment:

Renegade Marketing

How many competitors do you have? What is your market share? Where are your renegade ideas to differentiate you from the competition and position your organization as the preferred provider instead of just another commodity?

Try something like Vancity credit union, Canada's largest credit union. On June 27 they kicked off their bike sharing program by “releasing” 45 brand-new red bikes to the community. Recipients are being asked to hold the bike for no longer than three weeks and then give it to another member of the community to ride. If at any time the bikes are in need of a repair, they can be taken to any branch of the credit union for a tune-up.

On September 7th, everyone who received one of the bikes was asked to return them to the Vancity Centre, their main branch. Hopefully, all bikes will be accounted for. The bikes will then be donated to PEDAL (Pedal Energy Development Alternatives), a local non-profit that will pass them on to individuals in low-income communities.

The publicity for the credit union is fantastic. They are getting great PR coverage for an idea to benefit the community. Each bike being seen in use will be a reminder of the credit union's community outreach and their stance on alternative transportation. The project supports Vancity's campaign of “Change Everything,” touting the credit union's uniqueness and fresh approach. This idea speaks volumes to their members and prospective members about what they care for and who they are as a credit union. It's a renegade idea hitting a home run for recognition and differentiation.

Another approach for renegade ideas comes from a true rebel. Bob Parsons, founder and chief executive of GoDaddy.com, has a blog called Hot Points where he speaks his mind and sounds off. He has created quite a following on his blog. Between his edgy Superbowl ads and his blog, he has positioned himself as the most recognized provider of domain names to the public and as a person who shatters the status quo.

What about a new mainstream opportunity used in a renegade way? YouTube is one of the fastest-growing sites for online viewership and a video that catches the public's eye can be free marketing run rampant. Judson Laipply, a fellow speaker, ends his inspirational program with a routine he called “The Evolution of Dance.” He posted a six-minute segment of just the dance part of his speech on YouTube and a little over a year later the video has been viewed over 55 million times! Thanks to the video, he has gone from a commodity speaker to the “dance” guy, bordering on celebrity status.

What are your unique ideas to better position your company in your customers' minds? What whacky thinking can your team throw against the wall to make you a renegade in the marketplace?

Renegade Talent Recruitment

If you are still putting classifieds in the newspaper to find good help, you are not going to attract the best talent. Get creative, get unique, be a renegade thinker, but only if you want other renegade thinkers. A manager with one of my clients lamented how he had a revolving door on the employee entrance and he just couldn't get the good people to stay. The problem was he was successfully recruiting great talent, but once they arrived they realized the company culture wasn't a top-talent environment, and the propaganda describing the company completely misrepresented the dull, boring workplace and overbearing, hovering management style that renegades and free thinkers shun.

If you are creating a talent-rich, renegade-friendly environment — beginning with your managers — you want to get your top picks to increase the talent pool in your workforce and you must use unique methods. Differentiating your company in the eyes of prospective employees is just as critical as differentiating yourself with your customers and prospects.

Utilize new avenues. Do you have a MySpace page for your small company? MySpace pages are free, easy and quick to create. There are over 200 million people with pages on MySpace, and it has become a meeting place for individuals, entertainers and companies trying to reach a particular segment of the marketplace. A MySpace page is mainstream enough to reach large numbers of people, yet a different-enough destination to be a good alternative to your typical Web site.

Do you have a video on YouTube about the job you are trying to fill? Searching YouTube with the words “job interview,” I found 5,950 video references. Obviously, the most popular clips are comedy skits and parodies, but it is a destination to send prospects to, where they can learn about what the job entails, what you, the manager, are like as you describe the job (note your enthusiasm, fun quotient, and passion for your job) and it can be viewed at any time from anyplace at the prospect's leisure. The proper length should be no longer than seven minutes. It should be lively, interesting and most importantly a fair representation of you and the job. This isn't the time to put on a show, because the employee revolving door will only be spinning.

Another renegade idea: Give a prospective employee homework. The marketing director for one of my clients was looking for a graphic designer. She asked prospects to design a quick print ad to be brought back the next day. She felt she needed someone who could do a quick turn-around on the work and not need hours to come up with just the right idea. The results told her who was capable of meeting of the job's demands, who had good creativity and who could think on their feet. It offered an insight to the work she hoped to eventually be getting from the newly hired person. There is a talent war going on and the more uniquely your present your opportunities, the better awareness you will have and the better your options will be to select the right talent for the position.

Renegade Innovation

So often we wait for our suppliers to provide us with the cutting-edge products we then share with great excitement with our customers. The fact is we didn't do the renegade thinking, we just passed it along, just like other competitors receiving product from the same suppliers. Be a renegade. Take the status quo and think of ways to turn it on its ear.

Dutch Boy paints took an old given in the industry and challenged the status quo. House paint has come in cans since the beginning. Painting historically was a male-dominated job. The paint can was messy, needed tools to open, and was just a necessary evil of doing the job. Dutch Boy's research showed that in today's painting world, both the purchasers of interior paints and the painters using those paints were predominately women. Also, they found the biggest complaint these women had was about the paint can.

The renegades at Dutch Boy decided to modify the can their paint came in. Their solution is easy to carry, easy to pour, has a twist-open lid and a plastic pour dispenser built into the container to make it drip-free. The new container has been so popular with the market that Dutch Boy is experiencing a double-digit increase in sales in this market.

As with most organizations that adopt a successful renegade idea, Dutch Boy asked, “What's next?” Satisfied with the quality and innovation in their paint products, they focused on the inconveniences of painting, thinking if they could remove those more people would want to paint. The Ready to Roll was the next renegade idea. A re-sealable container with a built-in roller tray and larger paint capacity, it is easier to use, clean and handle. Once again, in appealing to their target market of homeowners who paint, they hit yet another home run with their target audience. It's smarter and faster and takes much of the hassle away from their consumer. So why aren't all paint manufacturers jumping on this bandwagon?

Renegade ideas are always going to be met with initial resistance and concern. Risk is part of the fabric of a successful company looking to define itself in the marketplace. Embrace the renegades and give them time to breathe life into a potentially great idea.