“The trouble with the world is that the stupid are cocksure and the intelligent full of doubt.“Bertrand Russell

I am often asked what drives the success of people who have “made it”. My usual response is to quote Bertrand Russell: “The trouble with the world is that the stupid are cocksure and the intelligent full of doubt.“

It goes without saying that I am fully aware there is rarely a single key that opens the door to success. It is nevertheless with absolute certainty that I say the following to you: The doubts in our minds are the biggest barrier to success!

Convincing yourself you are better or more clever than you actually are is certainly not the answer. Honest, critical self-analysis is in fact often exactly what is required. Yet the doubts it reveals are often our most treacherous traitors and our intelligence our own worst enemy – we are always intelligent enough to find reasons to hold ourselves back. In almost any situation we manage to seek out something that torpedoes our ideas and intentions. Such thoughts are full of doubt! We would almost be better off if we were “stupid enough to push the button.” But what do we do instead? We sit around analyzing the button!

Let’s imagine there are two doors – one marked “Door to Heaven”, the other “Discussion about the Door to Heaven”. Which door do you think most people chose? The discussion! Apparently, they would prefer to talk everything through first. Yet sometimes we talk too much and our actions either come too late or fall short of what is required. Giving up too quickly is also a frequent stumbling block. Many companies fail to realize the importance of AI for their resprective field, or they simply don’t see the possible benefit for themselves.

You want to play a role in AI? You might want to follow these basic principles:



  1. Check whether the decision makers are still the right ones.

Somebody who does not keep an eye on AI, does not search for new opportunities and does not break new ground, unlearns how to operate and manage in a way that consolidates the future. It is the highest duty of the management to continuously fuel ambitions in this field.


  1. Improve your own patterns.

 Understand how your brain works. Your brain loves boxes and categories. But these categories will not work to service in the future.


  1. Avoid a lack of ambitions and risk-averse thinking, as a certain hunger is required.

The future belongs to the brave. Are your ambitions for the future at least ten times as high as today’s status quo?  It is crucial to ask this question, because assessing the future with today’s standards is often a short-sighted approach.


  1. Work on your digital readiness.

You have to master the target-oriented orchestration of data and information, in order to constantly produce digital knowledge. The latter gives you the opportunity to start promoting AI and to really make use of it.


  1. Start small, learn and adapt fast

Be happy when you fail, play hard when you succeed, decide.


It is time to overcome your doubts.


Maturity characterizes the peak of a development and, at the same time, implies imminent decline. Most industries try to counteract this phenomenon. Through incremental, clearly defined, evolutionary processes, they achieve marginal product improvements every year and generate short lived impulses for sales. However, the battle for the 5 per cent fuel consumption improvement or the 2 per cent more content prevents companies from addressing the single most important point – creating a long-term, sustainable competitive advantage, especially when it comes to co-create a real advantage by applying AI principles above.


What is an advantage? Changing something. In the world. In our heads. Fundamentally. In order to change something, companies need a sense for opportunities. This sense is reflected in the ability to recognize how external knowledge could benefit one’s own work based on existing assets. This ability as well as the courage to change one’s perspective are the keys to setting trends of your own. In fact, new features and changes are on everyone’s lips, but an effective and agile, sustainable management of innovation activities for generating new business is another story.

Dr. Serhan Ili

Dr. Serhan Ili is CEO of ILI CONSULTING AG. He works with leading companies from all industries in the fields of innovation and digitization. He regularly publishes articles, for example in the Harvard Business Manager, and books about various topics, such as Digital or Dead. He is a renowned expert for innovation as well as digital transformation, and he is often contacted for press interviews, for example by manager magazin, DIE ZEIT and Wirtschaftswoche. Dr. Ili studied Industrial Engineering at the Karlsruhe Institute of Technology (KIT), Germany. He went on to receive a doctoral degree in Engineering at the Dr. Ing. h.c. F. Porsche AG in the development center in Weissach and at the Institute of Product Engineering at the Karlsruhe Institute of Technology (KIT).