Organizational legacy so often chokes innovation



Legacy often chokes new innovation
Legacy often chokes new innovation

Often organizations are weighed down by legacy; it chokes off innovation and much of the potential creativity. This comes in many forms; in its culture, in its history, its core markets or products, in its systems, structures, and processes built around innovation practice.

Today, we are confronted with a very different global marketplace than in the last century. National borders and regulations built to protect those that are ‘within’ in the past have rapidly become a major part of the ‘containing- restraining’ factors that are rendering many previously well-respected organizations as heading towards being obsolete and not in tune with today’s different world where global sourcing determines much.

They are increasingly trapped in declining markets, starved of the new capabilities and capacities to grow a business beyond ‘traditional’ borders, so this means they are unable to take up the new challenges that are confronting them. They see themselves as reliant on hanging on to the existing situation as long as they can, often powerless to make the necessary shifts, failing to open up, finding it increasingly more than difficult to find the ways of letting go, of changing. They are trapped in legacy.

Legacy can choke an organization in so many ways to limit expansion. 

How can we break out of this and rethink? When we begin to investigate legacy to cut loose and design differently, it begins to infringe, it challenges, it simply attacks what has taken often years to build and those most involved become defensive and fit to hang onto what has been established, as it feels familiar.

It feels like ‘their’ legacy is being destroyed and what they have fought hard to gain now needs protecting. Most organizations never feel fully capable to address legacy, they even will deliberately design duplication into their operating model, they will recognize they are far from optimal and more often than not, live with the consequences. In today’s world, this is a real mistake.

The world is changing

You can’t afford to keep heads buried in the sand like an ostrich, although that’s actually a myth stating when ostriches are faced with an attack by predators they bury their heads. New global adversaries are altering our landscape and forcing us to become increasingly competitive, forcing us to often reluctantly alter our established ways.

We can’t afford not to refresh and renew on a constant basis. We need to not just adapt, become more agile but we must think through what, where and how we manage. We need to build a more dispersed network of innovation connections within and outside our organizations to gather and synthesize knowledge that has potential value and future worth.

To allow this to happen, for knowledge to flow into, within and across organizations we need to strip away many of the constraints built into our structure that are designed to ‘contain’ knowledge, whereas today we have to ‘spread’ knowledge far and wide, so we can make the new connections to build int this existing knowledge the  new value points where innovation resides.

Today we have solutions to make a real change and address those legacy systems.

Today we have a solution, we can migrate our current systems into the cloud, breaking them up and building some unique APIs that can ease the transition to cloud services by decoupling critical parts of a company’s cumbersome legacy infrastructure.. These become microservice architecture, providing modular and improved flexibility with the aim of decreasing time to market for example. Or building a suite of small services that allow more external people to contribute, a greater agility in response and build greater independence but can still be internally managed.

So we break down some of those legacy systems into vital chunks that can benefit from external partnering, so as to speed up innovation-to-market. These are driven far more by the business perspective not the technology aspect alone. You are looking to find increased business value by breaking out of some of your legacy problems.

Any journey starts with ‘letting go’

Control gives comfort; we constantly design this into the system. The larger we are, the greater the controls built into the system it seems but somehow, controlling for control sake, does need replacing; we need to let go of more than we realize to reduce the constraints placed on our business. We need to replace ‘command and control’ built up over numerous years with something different. The cloud offers a way forward by finding points of value that can be broken out to accelerate innovation performance.

We need to begin to ask a range of strategic questions that question our legacy so we can be released to move forward.

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