The Dangers of Legacy Thinking

Every successful company and organization inevitably must confront a powerful question:

Is what got us to where we are helping us move forward or holding us back? Your company or organization may be thriving, but is this record of success sustainable and can you keep going?

Every successful company and organization inevitably must confront a powerful question:

Is what got us to where we are helping us move forward or holding us back? Your company or organization may be thriving, but is this record of success sustainable and can you keep going?

Maybe you’re noticing kinks in your armor or a drop-off in your sales. You’re thinking and acting as usual, but something is misfiring.

This is what I refer to as “legacy thinking.” If left unchecked, legacy thinking can pose enormous obstacles to your continued success—or worse.

Legacy Technology—Dangerous but Also Diverting      

Legacy thinking has a better-known cousin—legacy technology. The issue of legacy technology is old news—in more ways than one.

As you probably know, legacy technology refers to old forms of technology that are simply no longer optimal. This includes everything from software, operating systems or almost any technology once groundbreaking but now well past its prime.

The issues reach beyond outdated technology. Trying to get by with legacy technology can be very expensive, from the cost of operating the systems themselves to paying people to make certain nothing goes wrong, an inevitability. For example, Delta Airlines’ entire fleet in the United States was temporarily grounded because of computer problems—the second shutdown over a period of six months also shutting down the carrier’s website and mobile apps.

A more serious example occurred last year when the British bank Tesco shut down online banking after 40,000 accounts were compromised.

Those major headaches do not mean legacy technology is a problem in and of itself—it can cause a dangerous comfort in legacy thinking.

Legacy Thinking Defined

Like legacy technology, legacy thinking refers to thinking, strategies and other actions that are outdated and no longer serve you to the extent that they once had. This can be problematic if legacy thinking accounted for much of the success you’ve been able to achieve.

Many organizations can point to business principles, strategies and other ways of thinking that underscored success. One example is agility—the ability to respond quickly to changing events and market conditions. Reacting as quickly as possible helped many organizations climb to the top of their industries. Being agile, both internally and externally, seemed like a bulletproof way to approach things.

However, we are now in a period of transformational change. Whether products, services or the marketplace, change is not slowing down, which means legacy technology is becoming outdated faster as well.            

The same is occurring with legacy thinking. As the rate of change increases, even the most agile of organizations will be hard-pressed to keep up—let alone leap ahead with new ideas and innovations—and agility will likely prove to be less effective.

Take that reasoning and apply it to other forms of thinking and strategies that may have served you well in the past. Are they moving you forward or holding you back? If they’re more a hindrance, that’s legacy thinking. 

Legacy Thinking—Changing Your Thinking Changes Your Results

The first thing to understand about legacy thinking is that it isn’t necessarily all bad. Overcoming legacy thinking doesn’t mandate erasing every strategy, idea or leadership concept you ever used in the past. Instead, identify those ideas and strategies that continue to serve you well while pinpointing others that may have worn out their value.

Agility in and of itself is not something to be completely discarded. There will always be fires and other immediate issues that warrant an agile response. However, it’s no longer the silver bullet it once was.

Consider other forms of legacy thinking. For instance, maybe you or some others in your organization are hesitant to embrace new technology critical to your future growth and success. I saw this firsthand when I worked with a major retail organization. Many key figures on the leadership team didn’t embrace the company’s commitment to technology and other elements of the future. Mobile apps, internet shopping and other innovations made the company’s future seem bleak.

To remedy the situation, management made lateral moves with some individuals so their attitude wouldn’t hinder the company’s vision, while others were tasked with identifying strategies, ideas and tools that would serve the company’s progress well. The result was twofold—not only did the company effectively separate elements of harmful legacy thinking from their workflow, but those once-hesitant executives saw firsthand how powerful those tools and ideas could be. They were walked into the future—and they liked what they saw.

The next time you’re considering the dangers of legacy technology, include the pitfalls of legacy thinking. Just as old software shut down an entire airline, legacy thinking can cripple your organization. Don’t forget that there’s always the opportunity for an upgrade in the way you think and act.

Redefine and Reinvent Your Career Before It Leaves You Behind

Going forward, the one and only thing you can depend on is transformation. Technology-driven business process transformation is a Hard Trend; it will happen, and it is happening now! However, the truth of the matter is that actually utilizing this Hard Trend to redefine and reinvent your business or your career is a Soft Trend; some will do it and prosper, others will not. For those who want to use the forces of change and transformation to grow and prosper, this article is for you.

We are no longer in a period of rapid change. We have now entered an amazing inflection point where true transformation happens. For example, we changed how we listened to music and catalogued our media when we went from CDs and floppy discs to all our smartphones holding music, photos, files, email and access to information. Technological change transformed our processes in these industries.

Going forward, the one and only thing you can depend on is transformation. Technology-driven business process transformation is a Hard Trend; it will happen, and it is happening now! However, the truth of the matter is that actually utilizing this Hard Trend to redefine and reinvent your business or your career is a Soft Trend; some will do it and prosper, others will not. For those who want to use the forces of change and transformation to grow and prosper, this article is for you. It is crucial to understand that you can’t go backward, and you can’t stand still. You can’t keep doing what you’ve always done and expect to thrive, even if you are improving at that rhetorical process. The only way to survive and thrive is to continuously reinvent and redefine everything you are doing.

Redefining and Reinventing

Transformation is an accelerated and magnified force of change. Redefining and reinventing is a way of harnessing that wild force and applying it to a product, a service, an industry, or a career. Redefining and reinventing mean seizing the opportunity to rewrite your own history—before digital disruption does it for you.

Lee Iacocca and Hal Sperlich reinvented an entire marketplace back in 1983 when they redefined the family station wagon with an entirely new automotive category—the minivan—that would continue to dominate for the next quarter century. At the time, station wagon sales were not growing, even though baby boomers were in their prime childbearing years and the nation was bursting with new families. Why? Because even though baby boomers needed a set of wheels with substantial family room, they did not want to look and act just like their parents.

A Powerful Strategy

Fast forward to more recent times. Basic minivans are not as cool to the next generations having families, as Generation X and millennials grew up riding in their parents’ minivans, and history tends to repeat itself: they do not want to look and act just like their parents, either! Now automotive companies produce what is called the crossover—sporty alternatives to minivans capable of safely and conveniently hauling both families and large purchases from the store. As it was a stroke of flash foresight with baby boomers, it occurred yet again, based on the Hard Trend of Generation X, millennials, and their needs (along with the eternal insight that people don’t want to look or act like their parents).

Reinventing has always been a powerful strategy. But in the past, corporate and product reinvention was an option; today it is an imperative. Today, we live in a unique context, where an absurd amount of processing power and bandwidth exists and has completely transformed our concept of stability. In the past, stability and change were two contrasting states: when you achieved stability, you did so despite change. Today change itself has become an integral part of stability. You can achieve stability only by embracing change as a continuous and permanent state.

But even change itself has changed. Information and new knowledge now travel around the world at the speed of light while technological innovation occurs almost as fast as the speed of thought. In this new frontier of vertical change, you cannot just reinvent now and then: to survive and thrive you must be redefining and reinventing yourself, your business, and your career continuously.

If you are a business, you are faced with an urgent question every day: Are your customers learning and changing faster than you are? Because they are changing and learning fast—and if you are not already designing and providing the solutions to the problem they are going to have next week and next year, you are already behind the curve. This truth spans industries and size, no matter if you are an individual, a small business, or a multinational corporation.

The question is whether we will become more anticipatory by paying close attention to the Hard Trends shaping our industries, or wait until we are inevitably disrupted by technology-driven change. Apple, Google, and Amazon are good examples of Anticipatory Organizations, and the results speak for themselves. Will you join them?

Eager for more insights? Find them in my new book,The Anticipatory Organization, now available for the price of shipping.

Don’t Miss AR’s Amazing Opportunities

Augmented reality (AR) is a new industry growing at an exponential rate, loaded with opportunities for job creation. It offers a playground for entrepreneurs who want to use the certainty of Hard Trends to their advantage.

Augmented reality (AR) is a new industry growing at an exponential rate, loaded with opportunities for job creation. It offers a playground for entrepreneurs who want to use the certainty of Hard Trends to their advantage.

What’s most exciting about AR is that it is much easier to develop than virtual reality (VR), which requires a lot of programming and photo-realistic graphics in order to create a fully immersive virtual world.

AR takes less time and money to develop. Data is overlaid onto a live view of something, and users can multitask, allowing them to work while simultaneously accessing important information.

Both AR and VR have a bright future, but AR represents a much more dynamic world of opportunity. For example, I use an AR app that allows me to hold my smartphone up to any mountain, and the app will tell me the height of the mountain, the length of the trails, and other useful data that can help me determine where I might want to hike, climb or bike on vacation.

AR can also engage tourists who are in a new city for the first time. When you’re on a street in New York, you can tell an app what type of shoes you’re looking for, and all you have to do is hold your smartphone up and pan around to see if any nearby stores have what you want.

Soon we’ll be wearing AR glasses that are connected via Bluetooth to an AR app that will allow keynote speakers like myself to see the people we’re talking to, but also see their names, and by moving our fingers along the earpiece of the glasses, we’ll switch from no data to full data.

The Augmented Reality Job Market

We are in the beginning stages of a burgeoning AR market. I would highly recommend entering the world of AR professionally sooner than later. The wide-scale application of AR is only limited by our imaginations, and early developers in the field have barely scratched the surface of what is possible.

Given the wide range of industries that will benefit from AR, I predict that in the next few years we will see a multitude of usages, especially when AR glasses hit the market. Likewise, the glasses themselves will be more aesthetically pleasing thanks to the growth of miniaturization. Prescription AR glasses will be made available for those who need them, changing the usage dynamic from smartphone apps to wearables.

If you are considering a career in AR, it’s important to think about the ideal industry that would benefit from it, such as sales, service, maintenance and repair, factories, retail stores, and real estate offices. There’s a market for it in the trades as well, as AR glasses can be used to help people train quickly to become tradespeople to keep up with growing demand.

Within five years, we will see high-fashion AR glasses worn by many people. Data will be more frequently overlaid on our surrounding environment, and video media will be included. It is already possible to 3-D print a 4K camera that is the size of a fly’s eye, and with advances in solar charging, getting energy from ambient light will help us avoid the concern of charging AR glasses.

The Positives and the Negatives

With every new industry there are positives and negatives. In augmented reality, the greatest positive is quite clear: increasing humankind’s ability to make better decisions faster.

However, there is always a downside that we must look to solve before it occurs. The most obvious risk is that you might be paying more attention to the data than to the visual reality and walk into danger. When it comes to using digital technology, there is always a time to unplug. The concept of misinformation also exists, where the data overlaying your environment could be hacked and also put you in danger. Always remember to anticipate risks and think critically.

The future is bright for augmented reality for entrepreneurs and consumers. Ultimately, the industry will develop practical uses much faster than in the world of virtual reality. Virtual reality business applications will find many great niche markets, but augmented reality can be used by anyone anywhere due to the user’s ability to multitask.

The best thing about augmented reality is that you can use it while still interacting with the real world, which is very powerful. It does not encourage us to close ourselves off from our physical existence; it allows us to see insightful information in real time. It will give us a new way to discover the hidden facts that bring the things in our world to life.

We’re only at the base of the mountain of change, and the time to start your climb upward is now!

Technology-driven change is accelerating at an exponential rate, but moving fast in the wrong direction will only get you into trouble faster! Reacting to problems and digital disruptions, no matter how agile you and your organization are, is no longer good enough. If you don’t already have a copy of my latest bestselling book The Anticipatory Organization, click here to get your copy now!