From AI to empathy, this is what technological breakthrough looked like in 2022

The year's top stories of digital transformation, and the leaders that broke through.

By Sara Alvarez Kleinsmith, thought leadership, Dell Technologies

At the onset of 2022, organizations across the globe faced multiple barriers to breakthrough. From the challenges and opportunities presented with remote work to the urgent need for sustainable solutions in business practices, the year began as an opportunity to transform.

By polling 10,500 workers from 40 locations around the world, Dell Technologies’ Breakthrough Study took inventory of organizations’ readiness to transform, as well as the barriers to doing so. The study revealed that sustainable transformation can only happen at the intersection of people and technology, putting empathy, connectivity and productivity at the center of organizational success.

Here is a summary of the top breakthrough stories of 2022 and what they might tell us about the year ahead.


From How a UNICEF-ITU initiative is using emerging tech to close the global digital divide, October 2022, Photo courtesy of iStock

Among the negative consequences of the global pandemic was heightened exhaustion among workers worldwide, with some 64% reporting feelings of burnout. Dell’s Chief Information Officer Jen Felch and Dell’s Chief Human Resources Officer Jenn Saavedra penned an op-ed to introduce the findings of the Breakthrough Study, including the immediate need for empathy in leadership. Voices outside of Dell echoed the same, with Future Tech Strategist and Founder of, Dr. Mark van Rijmenam, and Tigon Advisory Chief Executive Officer, Helen Yu, advising leaders that cultivating a more humane and productive workplace is key to driving a successful digital transformation.

But empathy resonates beyond the conversation of work-life balance and professional fulfillment. Diversity, equity and inclusion within organizations remain a priority for companies that seek to foster innovative culture. With 83% of Breakthrough respondents saying their leaders overlook divergent perspectives and viewpoints, the need for diverse leadershiphiring practices, and networking with external advocacy groups is crucial to innovation at every level.

In 2022, the intersection of empathy and technology also led to positive global impacts, highlighted in stories about increased access to the internet for school children around the globeinnovation in sustainability that reduces ocean plastic and communities recovering from the effects of the pandemic.


From Bridging the productivity measuring gap, July 2022, Photo courtesy of Getty Images

The Breakthrough study revealed that a majority (64%) of workers polled believe the failure of their digital transformation programs is due to their people. This barrier is due to three factors: lack of digital skills, lack of vision and a people-first strategy and lack of innovation culture.

The digital skills gap appeared in stories that addressed the need for investing in employees’ professional development, as well as inclusive hiring practices that create a larger pool of talent with a diverse set of skills. Efforts to support digital inclusion for children worldwide and invest in programs that nurture STEM and gaming point to the innovation culture of the future.

Creating a people-first strategy in a remote or hybrid work environment is dire, according to Breakthrough. With 58% saying they are not experiencing improved work-life balance, support from leadership is a must. Enhanced productivity can come from implementing programs and technology that will help reduce repetitive tasks and make data processes more efficient for workers.

In addition to addressing the skills gap and burnout, innovation culture takes place when workers find meaning in their work. In 2021, only a minority of workers (37%) reported having mentally stimulating work. When actor and author Matthew McConaughey spoke at Dell Tech World, he addressed finding a sense of purpose and meaningful work as a path to innovation. Happiness researcher and host of the podcast How to Build a Happy Life, Arthur Brooks, confirmed McConaughey’s thesis, speaking to the value of meaningful work at this year’s SXSW conference.


From Navigating work trends with HR professionals, August 2022, photo courtesy of Getty Images

Dell’s Chief Technology Officer John Roese said this year, “Without advanced connectivity, it’s difficult to envision a successful digital transformation of any industry, vertical or entity, including government.”

In a work environment that is increasingly remote, hybrid and global, connectivity is paramount. This means creating a secure software culture and anticipating cyberattacks. The issue of security was top-of-mind at this year’s Dell Technologies World conference, where Dell’s chief security officer John Scimone hosted a panel discussion on how to address increased vulnerabilities in a new threat landscape.

In 2022, we saw the innovation that can come from increased connectivity and the positive global impact that can take place. From providing preventative healthcare to rural India to expanded opportunities to connect in the metaverse and the universe, infrastructure that supports rapid and consistent connectivity is changing the world.

Looking ahead

Dell leaders predict that the coming year will see technological innovation continue to accelerate. This means the need for infrastructure that is secure, collaborative and supports a work-from-anywhere model. While breaking through barriers to achieve digital transformation will still require empathy, productivity and connectivity, the conversation in 2023 will shift from the “what” to the “how.” Breaking through to accelerated innovation may be the next frontier.

Lead photo courtesy of iStock 

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