How often do you look at your smartphone every day without it ringing? Even during working hours, we regularly catch our display checking for new messages, whether it flashes or not. But why do we feel this need to take the “phone” in our hands without being called or receiving a message? (Source Hubspot). Many outside Generation Z know a time before the smartphone. But how has our society changed from the knowledge age to the digital age?

The Knowledge Age

In the meantime, a new age is taking hold: the society that is shaped by knowledge and services. It focuses on various and unstable processes. Today’s customers want to be individually advised, depending on their specific initial situation. A complex world with almost unmanageable access to countless sources of information requires knowledge workers (so-called “knowledge workers”) who find tailor-made solutions in cooperation (source Adesso).

This is how the blog Knowledge Work defines the term as follows: “Knowledge work is the task of mastering tasks that are so complex or novel, at least for the person concerned, that their experience is not sufficient to achieve the desired result, making it necessary for them to acquire, integrate, or develop new knowledge. This need to acquire new knowledge is a barrier to finding the right solution.

But pressure for competition and innovation, complex workflows and a changing economic order are forcing companies to rethink. If the center of knowledge work was to solve problems, a new, the digital age is now breaking out and the aim is to recognize potentials.

The transition to the digital age

The digital age is not a fad, but a reality. I already have a definition of this in my article: What is digital transformation given. As Bitcomsays: Digital transformation is when we no longer buy books in the shop around the corner, but online the e-book, which immediately appears on our reader. Digital transformation is when more and more people are leaving the program television behind and preferring to watch movies through streaming providers. If we don’t buy a baby monitor, but use our smartphone with an app for it. Digital transformation is when doctors advise patients via video chat or x-ray diagnosis comes from a telemedicine center. And if our car drives us home autonomously after the celebration and then searches for a parking space on its own.

So what is the difference? While in the knowledge age we still had to solve many complicated problems, which could mostly be understood and actually lacked only knowledge, we now face new complex problems, which are fundamentally different. For an illustration, see the following illustration.

digital age
Complicated (blue) and complex (red) according to Niels Pfläging.

A digital age full of complexity

The environment of companies is more dynamic and complex today than it was 100 years ago. This is a truism. However, only a few pioneering companies have adapted their corporate governance to the new requirements, so that they can meet the complexity and dynamics much more successfully than their competitors (source For more, read my article on Dynaxity.

So it’s becoming more dynamic and complex. The red, i.e. the complex one described by Pfläging, can no longer be solved by old methods. So there have been two very well-known methods, which I would like to introduce.


Scrum enables many companies to deliver better products in less time. In order for this to work successfully, development teams are provided with a dedicated Scrum Master, which helps them to improve their collaboration with each other as well as in the company in general. It has already established itself as an absolutely leading framework in software development. For more on Scrum, check out Boris Gloger’s book.

Lean Startup

The elements of the lean start-up theory are the interactive product launch, a very short product development cycle and, as an important element, customer feedback. The feedback on the young product enables measurable learning regarding the customer’s wishes and the needs of the market. The findings then lead to another product development cycle (source start-up scene). With this method I have built up my startup projectify. In this way, complex issues can be considered in a research-like manner, so to speak. For more on the Lean Startup, check out Eric Ries’s book.

Complex testicles

In order to solve complex questions, methods for complexity are required. Niels Pfläging calls these “complexithodes” – organizational tools that are as lively as today’s markets and today’s work. Lean Startup and Scrum are just a few such methods. See the illustration for other methods of complexity. For more information you can look at the book by Niels Pfläging.

digital age
Methods for solving complicated and complex issues in the context of companies. (Source Niels Pfläging)
Genderhinweis: Ich habe zur leichteren Lesbarkeit die männliche Form verwendet. Sofern keine explizite Unterscheidung getroffen wird, sind daher stets sowohl Frauen, Diverse als auch Männer sowie Menschen jeder Herkunft und Nation gemeint. Lesen Sie mehr dazu.

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I blog about the impact of digitalization on our working environment. For this purpose, I present content from science in a practical way and show helpful tips from my everyday work. I am a manager in an SME myself and I wrote my doctoral thesis at the University of Erlangen-Nuremberg at the chair of IT Management.

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