Whether an organization takes an open or a closed approach to addressing a reverse salient, solving one problem in a complex system will almost always bring another problem to the fore. The barrier to progress, in other words, will simply shift to the next weakest component or technology.
The wisest companies don’t just ask, What’s the current reverse salient in the system? They also ask, Once this problem has been solved, what will become the new reverse salient? It’s the same question that the smartest generals ask as they lead their forces into battle.
Reprint No. 06403
Nicholas G. Carr (email@example.com), a contributing editor to strategy+business, is the author of Does IT Matter? Information Technology and the Corrosion of Competitive Advantage (Harvard Business School Press, 2004). He is working on a book about the future of computing.