The new economy of complexity: the sense and challenges of the incoming digital transition


  • Enzo Rullani



digital transition; complexity; generated value; growing risks



Framing of the research: The transition that pushes forward the massive use of digital technologies is leading businesses, communities and people towards a new paradigm, that is, towards a new (coherent) system of working and living. But, if we look at the many breaks and the many innovations that emerge, day by day, in the present, it is difficult to anticipate the meaning and challenges of the future paradigm.

Purpose of the paper: The thesis set out in this paper is that the most relevant change of digital transition is the assignment of a new role to complexity: variety, variability, interdependence and indeterminacy cease to be critical factors to be compressed by any means, and become an increasingly important source of economic value, along new evolutionary paths.

Methodology: This is a perspective paper that presents the author’s assessment of evidence in the business and social environment

Results: Digital technology supports this transformation by providing users with global communication networks and flexible machines that work at low cost and quickly, on demand. These two conditions are the premise for a radical change with respect to industrial modernity that we have known in the past.

With the advent of the digital modernity, four levers of value are becoming relevant: the offer of customized varieties, on-demand responses to novelties, increasingly extensive and interdependent supply chains, exploratory processes projected towards the new and the possible. These will also be the factors destined to change the role of labour, called upon to provide a contribution of creative intelligence in the expansion and management of emerging complexity. Three different, yet interconnected, evolutionary paths emerge: digital neo-Fordism promoted by the propagation of standards, the re-personalization of the world, the exploration of the new and the possible.

Research limitations: Different observable business and social phenomena could collide with the viewpoint proposed in this paper.

Managerial implications: From this paper, managers and decision makers who are searching for ways of using knowledge to generate value can gain an original viewpoint on the new role assigned to complexity and reflect on the emerging value drivers identified as results of the study.

Originality of the paper: This is a conceptual paper that provides new insights that advance our understanding of value drivers induced by digital transition.


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