The digital transformation is coming and brings with it numerous challenges. Complexity and dynamism are increasing rapidly and people and companies are constantly being challenged to “reinvent themselves”. Since then, one often reads job advertisements that are looking for digital heads. But what are these #digitalheads actually? For this I came across the terms Streetsmart and Booksmart. Both terms are not defined uniformly and that’s why I tried to get information from current articles in the context of digital transformation. In the end, I try to evaluate which type we need more in a digital future.


A streetsmart is a person who has extensive practical knowledge. So this person knows “how the world is going”! The term comes from street fighting, which has no logical rules and in some way redefines its own rules over and over again. So it can only be successfully passed through experience. In jargon they say: “know the rules of the road”. He knows the groups and events around him and can react to them again and again. He makes decisions in chaos and thus always reacts to his environment. So a streetsmart is someone who has a practical understanding of their environment.


The Booksmart is the opposite of the Streetsmart. As a rule, he has extensive knowledge that he has acquired theoretically and knows the events in the ideal state. However, there is a lack of implementation of this knowledge here. A practical example would be a mechanics student who can calculate the moment of penetration of a nail but cannot hammer it into a wall.


Now the question arises which of the two we need more in the digital transformation. For this purpose, I would like to take two areas or key topics of digital transformation and look for arguments there. Of course there are fundamentally more areas to look at, but I think it’s enough for a first look at the two terms. So we evaluate areas of application of the two types in the Industry 4.0 and Big data .

DIGITAL Streetsmart

The digital transformation is complex and it is certainly not easy to implement models in a complex environment like Industry 4.0. It becomes particularly problematic in the rollout of these products and in the creation of real benefits. Above all, production has its own rules and you have to understand the problems in this area very well. One of our strengths here would be dealing with complexity and the unforeseen. The Streetsmart can react again and again and keeps a cool head in every situation.

DIGITAL Booksmart

Topics such as big data in particular are very abstract and involve a high level of conceptual effort. This is where the Booksmart can show its strengths and implement complicated concepts. Many concepts currently only exist of a theoretical nature or are associated with strong abstract models. So here is a clear increase in this type in the course of the digital transformation.


The example shows that, as always, it makes a healthy mix, but there are areas in which Booksmarts are required more and vice versa. Certainly not everyone is either book or street smart but a mix in which one of the two characteristics predominates. So one can speak of personal weighting. How is it by you? Which trait do you assign yourself to?
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I blog about the influence of digitalization on our working world. For this purpose, I provide content from science in a practical way and show helpful tips from my everyday professional life. I am an executive in an SME and I wrote my doctoral thesis at the University of Erlangen-Nuremberg at the Chair of IT Management.

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