Lockdowns and reopenings, ever-changing restrictions, and the looming threat of new variants dominated 2021. It could also become the story of 2022. Yet 2021 hasn’t been a lost year. Whether it’s the energy transition or new ways of working, the pace of change is speeding up, not slowing down. Cognite's CEO, John M. Lervik shares his thoughts on how we in 2022 can build on the progress of 2021.
January last year felt like a finish line.
The economy was still chugging along. The vaccines were on their way. After a marathon of a year, it was tempting to think that life would return to normal on its own in 2021.
Instead, 2021’s twists and turns kept us guessing. It was another year of supporting isolated teams around the world. Another year of welcoming new hires to an organization they could only interact with through a screen.
And to top it all off, your holiday party got canceled for the second year running.
It’s easy to dismiss 2021 as a lost year, but it couldn’t be further from the truth.
2021 has solidified the trends of 2020. After COP26, the world is committed to the energy transition, a consensus that seemed out of reach not that long ago. Our new ways of working are no longer a pandemic-imposed restriction, but the norm.
Let’s build on 2021 and start the new year, not with the idea that everything will sort itself out, but that we can—and must—act to make 2022 a better year for our people, customers, and partners, and the planet.
Here are three ideas we should take with us as we get started in 2022.
Digitalization is dead
Stop me if you’ve heard this story before:
A few years ago, Company X announced a major digitalization initiative. All the buzzwords were there: AI, Industry 4.0, IoT, AR/VR—you name it. The company set about creating a digital platform. They even had shirts printed.
Today, things aren’t all that different. The digitalization initiative still functions as its own little silo within the company. A handful of solutions have been created, but maintaining and scaling them turned out to be much more challenging than expected. So was getting people to trust the data they were seeing.
Don’t get me wrong: Industry has learned a lot from its digital initiatives. But this siloed approach to industrial transformation isn’t how we get data and software into the hands of all our experts—not just those in IT.
Digitalization with a capital D, the idea that transformation should be treated as something separate from our everyday activities, is dead. Instead, we need to bake digitalization into our strategies and the ways we execute on them from day one.
It will take more than a one-time transformation to reshape industry. How do we enable a thousand smaller transformations, each of them the eureka moment that strikes when one of our domain experts realizes that a data-driven tool helps them work that much smarter, that much faster?
Think of data as a resource. It needs to be refined and turned into products that everyone can use. What software, and what expertise, do you need to add in 2022 to make that a reality?
It’s time for change for the sake of change
Something strange is happening in the global labor market: Millions of people are quitting their jobs, many of them without a new position lined up.
The talking heads are calling it the “Great Resignation,” or, in the words of Harvard University labor economist Lawrence Katz, a “once-in-a-generation ‘take this job and shove it’ moment.”
It’s several currents rolled into one: home office cabin fever. Dissatisfaction with inflation eating into buying power. A market flooded with employers desperate to fill vacant positions.
What many of these trends have in common is a simple but powerful desire for change. People are fed up with the pandemic. They want something that feels new, different, and meaningful.
This is a major opportunity for industrial companies to scoop up the next generation of talent. But it won’t happen on its own.
Let’s invite people searching for post-pandemic purpose to participate in one of the most radical transformations of our lifetimes: the massive industrial transformation and energy transition that will and must happen over the next decade. Let’s share a vision of a more sustainable future, and let’s show each person interested in joining us how they will be instrumental in making it a reality.
All that aspirational stuff matters, but here’s something that’s equally important: The jobs need to pay fairly and well, and they need to be engaging.
Our existing workforce also needs a booster shot of energy. Why not start the year with a focus on mobility—between functions, teams, and regions, restrictions permitting. Why not challenge everyone to finally use that money set aside for professional development, and have them demonstrate their new skills going into next year?
Mix it up. Do something unexpected. It’s time to shock the system and make change.
Pledges won’t cut it anymore
“Carbon neutral by 2050” isn’t turning heads.
As report after dire report about the state of the climate has made clear, the planet can’t wait until 2050. Or 2030, for that matter.
You’ve already made ambitious plans for how your company will contribute to limiting global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius. Still, expect the pressure to increase this year. When presenting what your company plans to do in the next three decades, you should also be prepared to answer, “OK, but what are you doing in the next three years?”
To give a satisfactory answer to that question, we need data-driven transparency. Data makes the impact of every step of every industrial process measurable. And once we’re able to measure it, we can cut it and prove it.
Imagine the pressure you would put on your competitors if you first make environmental reporting transparent, and then start using that data-driven insight to reduce your environmental footprint? All of a sudden you’ve shifted the conversation from visions to value.
That’s my hope for 2022: a year when we challenge and cheer each other on to do good and to do better, whether it's dealing with technology or the people who use it.
John Markus Lervik is the founder and CEO of Cognite AS. Lervik has a Ph.D from the Norwegian University of Science and Technology, Trondheim, where he was awarded the Esso academic award for his PhD work.