Thriving in Uncertainty

08 July 2022
Lessons from Black Swans and Gray Rhinos. "By going digital, you are not only preparing for the next Black Swan, but also for the Gray Rhinos." Wilhelm Swart - Chief Operational Technologies Officer

It is quite normal for a person to think that they are living in extraordinary times. Yet, history clearly teaches us that there are periods of upheaval and periods of calm. Historians will surely look upon Covid-19 and the global response it elicited as a period of uncertainty and extreme challenges. And while opinions on how the pandemic was managed vary, I want to propose that we look rather at the lessons that could be learnt to implement structures and workforce enhancements into our operations that will ensure that future pandemics, or any other upheaval, can be navigated confidently and with resilience.


As a technology company, we will obviously look at technological solutions. But before we get there, let me just mention two useful analytical tools that can be used to gain some perspective, or, at the very least, create categories into which events can be allocated.


But I want to propose an even more obvious Gray Rhino that many companies are still approaching at a pace that will soon see them wishing they had learnt harder and faster lessons. That Gray Rhino is "Going Digital". In many instances, the companies that managed the pandemic the best were those companies that had the best developed digital infrastructures. The last and biggest Gray Rhino is ignoring the potential impact of digital tools on sustainability.

Let's look at some specifics:
  • Companies that are at the forefront of implementing digital technologies to deal with sustainability and climate change issues are also those companies that are attracting new green investment dollars.
  • Digital tools have been targeting sustainability objectives for decades. These cost savings were mostly related to waste and discharge reduction.
  • Monitoring and Control solutions, including predictive maintenance and digital twin technologies, are taking production into the Metaverse.
  • Many international THINKTANKS have earmarked digital technologies as frontline measures for dealing with climate change.
  • New digital tools are looking at different energy sources and reducing carbon footprint.
  • Digitalisation is a crucial enabler for meeting business and sustainability objectives. The IEA has found that digital technologies can increase energy efficiency by up to 30%.
  • Advanced digital solutions offer Dynamic Modelling and Remote Monitoring. This allows for better design and safer operation.


Digital technologies are the best and often only solution to not only climate change challenges, but all challenges that could affect people's ability to move freely. By going digital, you are not only preparing for the next Black Swan, but also for the Gray Rhino's.

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