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TEDx / Re-Designing our Thinking

An interesting experience to give a TED talk during the pandemic. No audience no interaction possible. Yes doable and a great experience regardless.

And no: there was no teleprompter, no screen to read from. The timer was a lady holding a white sheet of paper telling me that I had 8, 5 and 2 minutes left... :)

And here my script I would like to share with you:


Hello, good afternoon, good morning, or good evening to you all- depending on where in the world you are right now. Thank you for being here with me J. I have to say that it feels good to know that I am not alone.

My name is Birgit, and we will be talking today about Re-Designing our Thinking in the context of how to embrace uncertainty. A heavy topic, I agree, but also a super interesting one. Anyway, who says we should embrace uncertainty to begin with? Maybe, maybe not? We will get there. I will also share a bit about me, now that we are basically only one click apart – which is pretty close I think – Let me begin to explain my relationship to uncertainty to you.


The picture you all can see; this beautiful and stylish B&W picture was taken in the former GDR while visiting our relatives. I must have been between 2 to 3 years old. I don´t know. What I know was, that socks were bought 2 or 3 sizes too big to be able to wear them for 3 seasons, same applied sometimes for shoes as well and was if possible being passed on. I really remember that dress because I loved it: fake red leather with a sparkling buckle. The world still seemed to be all right. Little did I know that 12 years later uncertainty took over. My mother got diagnosed with cancer. The entire family had no clue how to deal with it – how to deal with this unforeseen uncertainty. We ignored the shock for a while. Then we started pretending that everything is ok, and it will eventually go away and return back to normal and that everything will be like it was before. But of course, that didn’t work. Then One day we had to deal with it, while still not being able to cope very well. To a point, let me be honest here: when it became obvious that the system family wasn’t functioning. We turned into a dysfunctional household. Maybe we were even dysfunctional before and this sad situation brought it to light.

I was too young to know, too young to understand how to make sense or how to respond with the new situation. And kept on asking myself: “Why me, why my mother?” Not an easy situation.

Once I faced reality, I was completely overwhelmed because I was hit by the feeling of not having any control over the situation nor could I change it. And I tried hard. I learned that the only thing I could do was to ensure I create memorable moments and make life easier while growing up at the same time and be good to me. The harder I tried to predict or control what was happening the more helpless I felt. --- Pause --- I tried before, but ultimately sense making of her death made it easier for me to deal and cope with it. I explained to myself, that my mother thought me the best lesson in my life she could ever give me: being present, give the best I can in every single moment, value time – thanks for spending your time with me now -and value the presence of others. And in a way the strongest argument for myself at that time was: That I never needed to go through this experience in my entire life again, I have been there, I have done it already which relieved me to a great deal. A pragmatic approach I agree but believe me it worked well.

At the age of 21 I made an arrangement with myself and allowed uncertainty to move in with me. I consciously decided to see my life as an adventure (a dance, a journey) and I am the driver. I developed resiliency for whatever comes my way and see obstacles and uncertainty as this opportunity to design and create my journey. At the end I found a way for her passing away to empower me and equip me with an even stronger sense of freedom and hunger for life.


Let’s return to the present. It’s 2021 and once again I am faced with uncertainty, this time we all are – we’re in a state of collective massive uncertainty – me, you, companies, and entire countries.

We are all going through a time of new orders and shifts of powers: from climate catastrophes, collectivism, increasing powerful internet giants, smart data and on top of that the global pandemic.

We want to hold on to what we know but the Fact is, that increasing complexity and increased speed of the dynamics of change is the name of the game. And now on top of it all, we are somehow forced to slow down or move faster or even pause. Almost a little bit of everything.

One Question in our minds is how to deal with dynamics of complexity, the overwhelmingness, when everything seems way too much. Often, we tend to choose to fight against symptoms of the uncertainty. I don’t believe in this approach. This can reinforce uncertainties, amplify, and intensify them. Maybe instead we can be more conscious and more welcoming to complexity. By embracing uncertainty, we can open new doors.


Now let’s take a trip together. I urge you to ensure you have nothing standing in front of you besides me. Ready? Ok great so let us begin.

Take a deep breath and slowly close your eyes. It is summer. And you are riding your bike. With your loved ones. No masks necessary. The sun is shining, it is hot, you can feel the sun shining on your face and you’re experiencing a wonderful day. There is only one thing you crave- and the craving grows- Ice cream. The longing to have your favorite flavor melt on your tongue is growing. You notice that there is an ice cream shop right Infront of you. Your bike is parked, and you are walking to the shop. Picturing exactly what you will be getting and how it will taste, you can imagine the texture, see the color and the pleasant, fresh, smell. Now you’re eagerly waiting in line. The lady before you paid and you make the last step towards the counter, you’re in front of it, your eyes quickly run across the mountains of ice cream flavors. You know your favorite ice cream flavor since always, you don’t have to think prior to asking for it. And you are asking for it and Nada, zisch, weg. Gone. It is the only one missing. What now? Will you leave the ice cream place, sweating and frustrated and end up complaining about that day? Or will you choose to try out new flavors? Similar ones? Or ones which taste you cannot even imagine, completely different ones that you have never noticed before? Experience the uncertain that might bring you joy.

Give yourself a moment, take another few breath and return.


We often try reducing uncertainty without being aware that it can entail the reduction of pleasure as well. Indeed, many scientists state that for example romantic infatuations last longer when they involve a certain degree of uncertainty and some lack of transparency. Uncertainty can be part of our experience of curiosity. Re- introducing it into a relationship can consist of bringing a sense of unknown into a familiar space. Creativity and imagination are limitless and escorted by them, uncertainty can also be seen as a wealth of new opportunities.


We possess minds that allow us to imagine, to adapt, develop, improve, develop something new or replace what already exists. If only we choose to do so. But do we? Do we really?

Well, to some extent. Human decision-making is highly complex.

Our brains react to our world in milliseconds way faster than we are aware. Which means we make decisions, as individuals and as businesspeople, without being fully aware of the forces at play in shaping our feelings and behaviour and habits. Our subconscious mind is constantly working behind the scenes. We navigate the world with past experiences and context.

The conscious mind, by contrast, requires effort.

In highly uncertain times such as the pandemic our basic needs and emotions are activated and our perception of the world changes. When old habits break away and are rethought, this is called O-base rehabiting. It describes the need to re-activate habits and affinities in some cases from a zero base. We know that change of habits or the forming of new behaviors takes time. An individual’s mind and brain can flexibly undergo modifications in structure and functional mechanisms, plasticity to adapt through experiences and learning. We know that the challenge of lockdown forced change in habits creates new opportunities for companies to innovate and add meaningful value.

Now I want to share MY personal key learnings I apply in my daily life and business:

Lesson 1- Ignoring things does not work. Ignorance is not a solution-oriented mechanism.

Lesson 2 - Sooner or later Uncertainty reveals the sometimes-ugly truth.

Lesson 3 - Dysfunctional stays dysfunctional until some real systematic changes are done (same applies by the way to companies, products, or processes – simply buying a new software will not sustainably change anything).

Lesson 4 - When overwhelmed by uncertainty focus on being truly present and take it from there.

Lesson 5 - Rising to the challenge of finding meaning in uncertainty involves both a conscious choice of attitude and getting in touch with the unconscious layers of the self. This sense-making enables more resilience towards the experience of hardship and loss.

Lesson 6 - Don’t take yourself too seriously. Embrace new ways, be brave, ready to make your life an adventure.

Lesson 7- Adapt constantly, be open to uncertainty and don`t try to force stability. Explore the opportunities it has for you and your business. Learn to grow within your challenge.

Maybe you find it helpful and can relate to them.

Last not least I want to share with you some best practice. Something you can try whenever uncertainty wants to take over your mind in a negative way:

When worries try to take over, because uncertainty is growing, do the following: park them on the side (left side or right side, it doesn`t matter pick a side that feels good to you. Let them around, don`t ignore them, just simply park them. Once that is done look at the situation and start embracing the adventure ahead of you. All the possible outcomes that are waiting to be explored. From this moment on, your brain can get active in coming up with ideas, ways on how to deal with it, things you can do, things you should be doing, how to integrate others in joining to a point that the excitement takes over. Once this happens, the worries are not relevant anymore J. Share your experience with me and let me know if it worked, I am very curious J -

Through re-designing our thinking, we make use of our human capacity to creatively turn life’s uncertain aspects into something constructive, positive, lovely, and amazing.





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