If you’ve worked in or intersected with technology for any length of time you’re certainly familiar with the term “legacy,” as in, “That’s legacy technology.”

It is often used to mean “obsolete” or “something that is no longer supported by the industry or other technologies.”

Equally common is the more general definition, “What we formally did/used but no longer do/use.” This is different than the first meaning listed because it is based on prevailing preference or groupthink as opposed to true obsolescence. There may not be a good reason for adopting a new way of doing things or, in some cases, we may not even know why we decided to do/use something new.

While not necessarily pejorative, these definitions are neutral at best and generally have a negative connotation.

There is a third definition of “legacy,” however, that is positive and often overlooked all too often: foundational.

With this definition, the term “legacy” assumes scaffolded knowledge or evolution and that what we experience today is built on an earlier foundation of thinking or work.

Thinking about “legacy” from this perspective, can and should think about what we are doing today and the responsibility we have to ensure that we are passing forward an effective legacy on which others can build.