This is your job, and this is how you do it.
Remember the old days of strict adherence to process? Managers required workers to have a targeted skillset and perform specific tasks – no questions asked. A group of seasoned veterans celebrated sticking to ‘tried and true techniques in the boardroom.’ They believed they had all the answers, issuing top-down directives for all to follow.
There was no room for creativity. Change was regarded with suspicion. Questions were discouraged. The suggestion box was empty.
On a personal level, we were often trapped by the “this is the way it has always been done” approach.
These are the outdated methods of a legacy mindset.
In our rapidly evolving technology-driven world, embracing change is more critical than ever.
What is a Legacy Mindset?
Bill Franks, Chief Analytics Officer at the International Institute for Analytics, says, “a legacy mindset is present when an individual doesn’t desire to change how they do things and isn’t interested in learning new skills. A person with a legacy mindset is perfectly happy to keep plugging away in the same way they always have regardless of how the world is changing around them.”
Franks points out that legacy mindsets differ from legacy skillsets. Legacy skillsets are entrenched in systems and processes from the past and do not reflect changes technology has produced. While the two may overlap, people with legacy skillsets are often open to learning new skills. And those without a legacy mindset might be “experimenting on their own already,” and “are ready, willing, and able to move beyond [legacy skillsets] if given the chance and the charter.”
Legacy mindsets harm businesses and individuals. What succeeded in the past is not likely to succeed in the future. Creativity, questioning the status quo, and a growth mindset brings positive change.
Why Change is Good
Ozan Varol argues humans tend to resist change. He recalls the pushback he received when he changed the monthly meeting to every two months as a newly appointed faculty chair. Varol resisted the “we’ve always done it this way” attitude, noting institutions and individuals often fall into this trap. “Over time, our arteries get clogged with outdated habits, routines, and processes that clutter our thinking and impede progress. In other words, it was easier to maintain the status quo than to question it. It was easier to waste time in an unnecessary meeting than to upset people who liked having a monthly meeting.”
Question the purpose and ask if there is a better way. Reject the rear-view thinking of old processes and develop forward-thinking strategies that reflect the everchanging world we live in.
A Legacy Mindset Limits Growth and Stifles Development
Logically, the ‘old ways’ are precisely that - old. If we have learned anything in the age of the internet and rapid technological advancement, it is that new ways are here to stay. We are limited only by the questions we ask and the creativity we apply.
Nader Sabry says, “legacy leadership is the most significant barrier to our future. It doesn’t allow for new ways to solve the existing problems we face in the context of our future.”
The pandemic, he argues, has ended the current evolutionary cycle and opened a revolutionary process in which we must create and meet the future. “The reality is 99% will meet the future, and 1% will create the future.”
Sabry notes that how we choose to participate in the revolution will vary but clinging on to legacy models is the death knell for business and personal growth.
The old model is dead. As Thougthworks observes, “nimble organizations — those with technology at their core — have the advantage over enterprises hindered by legacy systems, organizations and mindsets.”
There has been an explosion of podcasts, growth hackers, social media posts, and organizational analysts advancing concepts like social and emotional intelligence, collaboration, and simply making sense of changes going on around us.
Why Capabilities are More Important than Skills
If you thought that skills defined success, think again. The ability to think outside the box, possess a willingness to ask questions and develop solutions based on intuition, empathy, and emotional intelligence are the essential skills of today.
Deloitte recently highlighted the importance of capabilities, declaring “the marketplace and technological environment are changing in ways that make focusing on skills to the exclusion of all else a losing approach.”
The report asserts, “the connected world has made scale less important than relevance, and the strategy of optimizing for scale can no longer deliver the results we need.”
Capabilities are more crucial than ever before. “Organizations that embrace, nurture, and cultivate enduring human capabilities throughout their workforce will likely have a strategic advantage, because their people will have the mindset and disposition toward rapid learning that is required to thrive in an environment of constant disruption.”
As we move forward, capabilities like adaptive and critical thinking, teaming, social intelligence, and emotional intelligence will be in high demand.
Today’s job market reflects the change in skills business owners seek. Canada’s Financial Post reported that when looking for new hires, “soft skills are proving more valuable than hard skills in a post-pandemic world.” The article highlights an RBC Canada report that “creativity is going to be a critical skill through the 2020s, as we re-emerge, re-build and re-invent, delivering ideas at a rate never seen before right across Canada.”
A Monster Future of Work: 2021 Outlook survey found, “recruiters chose soft skills—topped by dependability, teamwork/ collaboration, and problem solving/critical thinking—as the most important skills they’re seeking in new hires. Recruiters also anticipate this is the area where they’ll see the biggest skills gaps in candidates.”
Flexteam Co-founder Yolanda Lau says, “soft skills strengthen other skills and abilities, and teams with these skills will be equipped to adapt more quickly and easily as the future of work continues to evolve.” At the top of her list: empathy and emotional intelligence, integrity and ethical responsibility, adaptability and resilience, self-motivation and self-directed, and mindfulness.
Change is the Only Constant
Change is good. There will always be those who resist change, but change is inevitable. This is not a new concept. The ancient Greek philosopher Heraclitus said, “change is the only constant in life.” A savvy observation for a guy who lived over 2500 years ago.
Annette Franz advises employers to “create a culture of innovation that allows employees to be creative and entrepreneurial. Don’t stifle new ideas and innovation. Allow employees to pose, develop, and try new ways of doing the same old thing. Encourage efficiency, simplicity, killing old rules and making new ones. Stifling creativity, growth, and innovation is painful and kills employee engagement quicker than anything.”
By asking questions and identifying where potential problems lie, we open the possibility of creating solutions for problems we never knew existed.
Seth Godin offers a humorous account of how identifying a problem that didn’t appear to exist led to a breakthrough. Before voicemail, the receptionist would leave messages in a carousel in his first corporate job. You spun the carousel and looked for your name to find your message. It was not alphabetical and changed with each new employee. Godin quickly tired of constantly searching for his name and attached a paperclip to identify his box. The carousel was “festooned” with individual markers within days, saving thousands of hours of wasted time.
The pandemic has underlined the importance of thinking outside the box, creating new solutions, and accepting change. Work from home, virtual meetings, online shopping, and e-commerce are the new normal. Technology companies are bringing concepts and products to market unthinkable only a few years ago.
Technology Impacts Lives Every Day
How is technology impacting lives? One example is blockchain. Created for cryptocurrency, “the blockchain is intended to provide a tamper-proof record of transaction metadata, regardless of transaction type.” It provides complete transparency and, most importantly, allows the end-user to review the entire chain of events.
Questioning the original purpose of blockchain led to new applications beyond cryptocurrencies. Blockchain, a relatively new technology, has already been re-imagined and proving effective in other transparency-first models.
Whether tracking how and where fish are caught, processed, and land on your plate or following the life cycle of medical cannabis from seed to your home, blockchain technology has many applications. Hollywood is now eyeing blockchain technology to “discover and support underrepresented filmmakers using a blockchain-powered web platform.”
EY has developed a blockchain-enabled platform TaxGrid, hailed as a new solution for global investors. Its “zero-knowledge proof element of the system ensures that sensitive data is private and verifiable.” It reduces paper costs and fraud while speeding processing.
Trade in Space uses satellite images to solve problems in the coffee farming sector. It applies machine learning algorithms to detect the area of the farm and the number of bags of coffee in each field. It uses blockchain technology to add those bags of coffee to a digital ledger, allowing players at any point in the supply chain to trace the coffee back to the field. There are environmental implications: it could enable consumers to access the carbon footprint of a cup of coffee at the point of sale.
An article in Cryptopolitan featured “notable blockchain projects that have had massive real-world impacts.” Blockchain enables businesses, individuals, and nations to develop effective, transparent solutions from healthcare and education to travel, energy management, and smart cities.
New Technology is Changing the Game
Technology has changed how we live, and more will follow. There is an “app” for everything. Cloud services, SaaS, AI, smart databases, deep learning algorithms, carbon capture technologies, and applications we have yet to conceive will all play a part in the revolutionary cycle.
Traditional industries are being disrupted. With over 4 million listings worldwide, Airbnb offers more rooms “than the top five hotel brands combined” but owns no properties. Traditional banks and finance are being challenged by Fintech companies.
In the field of medicine, the dissolving microneedle patch for vaccine delivery will displace the 150-year-old hypodermic needle. These painless microarrays revolutionize how vaccines and other drugs are delivered. Pharmaceutical products manufactured for the hypodermic model have cumbersome and costly cold chain logistics, create biohazardous waste, and require professional administration. Dissolving microneedles eliminate these constraints, reduce the environmental footprint of this sector, and bring equitable delivery to populations worldwide.
In energy, new solar and wind power iterations are proving efficient and effective. The shift away from fossil fuels will not happen soon enough. Electric vehicles will supplant the old internal combustion model. These changes will result in positive environmental returns.
In the cosmetics arena, a fast-detaching dissolving microneedle will dramatically reduce the length of your daily routines. Hours spent applying cosmetic products loaded with claims as dodgy as their ingredients to manage skin conditions like wrinkles and spots will be supplanted by a patch that applies in 2 minutes.
Where Do We Go from Here?
We all want to stare into the crystal ball and see the future. But the crystal ball does not exist. Nonetheless, our questions remain.
Rishad Tobaccowala says, “There are four questions that most companies and individuals seek answers to:
1) The Future: How will the future be?
2) Change Management: How does one navigate change?
3) Modern Leadership: How to lead in today’s landscape?
4) Purposeful Growth: How does one grow/remain relevant?
He argues that “organisations grow and change only when people grow and change.” Old management styles need to change. People must be willing to adapt and change. While “change exposes us to vulnerability and loss,” an unwillingness to embrace change will lead to failure.
The old days of corporate secrets are gone. Corporate purpose, ethics, and transparency are essential in the current revolutionary cycle. Environmental, Social, and Governance (ESG) policies are mandatory. Transparency ensures our ability to see these statements transposed into action.
We cannot use our collective purchasing power to drive and reward more responsible production without traceability.
Organizational growth does not happen without personal growth. And personal growth does not occur without exploring new ideas, embracing creativity, and applying technological advances to improve lives and systems.
The internet gave us a chance to evolve. Still, legacy mindsets stifled the application of the abundance of freely available ideas. Once seen as breaking the rules, tech companies are making the rules - new rules based on change that evolve and are continually rewritten.
There has never been a better time to reflect on what changes you can apply for personal and business growth. Baby steps can yield tremendous rewards. Toss the legacy mindset in the recycling bin and take a bold step forward. The past is behind - only you can shape your future.
Develop your core capabilities. Be your creative best. Open your mind to change and growth.