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Tips: how to make remote workshops excellent 💥

By | education, Food for thought, Learning and development, Magical Moments, Magicians, Music, Team

We’ve learned a few unexpected ways to make remote meetings and workshops a great and human experience. Apart from the usual video call etiquette that you’ve no doubt learned recently, how about…

  • Hiding self view
  • Unmuting everyone
  • Creating virtual magic

Self view

We’ve probably all looked at our own faces far more than is healthy in recent months! Hiding self view allows you to focus much more on other participants. Less Is my hair really that straggly? and more I never knew that, very interesting indeed. Heed this warning however: don’t forget you’re on camera. Everyone can still see you even though you can’t! No nose-picking, texting on the side or stuffing your face with a sandwich and wearing it for the rest of the call…

Unmute

The generally agreed protocol is that everyone should stay on mute unless they’re talking. This cuts out all unnecessary background noise and allows whoever is speaking to be heard by all. But it’s fun to create a little audio chaos and allow everyone to talk at the same time. We guarantee it will liven things up. You can have a lively debate, like in real life. Remember that?!

Magical energisers

Obviously we perform and teach magic in our sessions. But magicians never spill their secrets, so you’ll have to get in touch with us for this one. We’ll send you a video of one of our magical energisers. You must watch it and then destroy it 😉 (leave your name in the comments or contact us directly).

Less unexpected, but still worth mentioning. Here are some more tips to help remote connections feel good.

Hand signals

When you’re on mute and you want to say something without interrupting the speaker, devise a visual language that suits your company. We had fun creating ours: see our video below 👇

Spotify 

We have various Spotify playlists ready to go. Integrating music into meetings and workshops creates energy and sets different moods. Use quiet, non-verbal music when people need to talk or think. And something more lively to perk people up at the start or during breaks.

Miro

What a great invention Miro is! A virtual white board with sticky notes you can scribble on. We use it all the time for both client workshops and internal sessions. The best thing about it is that it’s visually familiar so needs little instruction. Plus it allows everyone to get involved. People can share thoughts and ideas, vote and doodle. No more zoning out during long meetings! 

And finally, Spotlight

This Zoom function pins one person as the primary active speaker for everyone on the call. This is really useful when you want people to focus on the speaker and hear reactions to important information. We also use it when the magicians are performing. That way they stay in the spotlight without anyone having to tweak screens and miss crucial magic-making secrets.

All of these tips add up to fun and engaging online experiences. If you have more, we’d love to know what they are. Share @abracademy 🙋

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Abracademy’s magic: you need to experience it, to feel it

By | Food for thought, What's new?, Wonder

I’ve been a friend of the Abracademy family for a few years and I strongly believe in its mission to bring more magic to the world. Especially the world of business.

As customer and employee experiences become highly commoditised through plug and play technologies, one way for businesses to be truly different ánd relevant is by becoming more human. A magic trick unlocks a visceral punch, a moment of awe that is often needed to feel more human, to feel more alive. It shakes you awake, because you wonder: how did that happen?

“In a world of technology, we need to become more human.”
Rubens Filho, Abracademy Founder

Through Abracademy’s open workshops, I’ve experienced myself what “being more human” can mean in the context of life and work. I was literally blown away by these learning experiences delivered through magic, and found that magic makes the process of learning more profound. I’ve gained a few significant realisations for how I can set the example in day-to-day situations. I’ve learned…

… how to establish a creative connection with a stranger

… how to increase the simplicity and impact of your story

… how to squint at your personal and professional future

How to establish a creative connection with a stranger

In “The Design of Everyday Things”, Don Norman explains what it means to be human in the context of design. He talks about how humans should design for humans, and not for machines:

“Our strengths are in our flexibility and creativity, in coming up with novel solutions to problems. We are creative and imaginative, not mechanical and precise. Machines require precision and accuracy; people don’t. And we are particularly bad at providing precise and accurate inputs. So why are we always required to do so? Why do we put the requirements of machines above those of people?”

Shifting a large chunk of our attention to imagination and creativity is the way forward – and is what I assume many people want in their jobs, but then we will have to learn to establish a creative connection with literally anybody as we often don’t get to choose who we collaborate with in the world of work (there are exceptions, especially companies who self-organise). But imagine you could create an instant connection with almost anybody, through magic.

In one of the Abracademy open workshops, we were taught to make lights appear and disappear with our fingers. In the beginning this seemed really tricky. We either couldn’t imagine how to perform the trick or we were too shy to try it ourselves and show it to the group.

When we finally started to feel more comfortable with the situation, there was a second hurdle that needed to be conquered. We had to team up in pairs and had to perform the trick and show it to each other. Then we were asked to imagine and perform different use cases of the trick and to keep on going for a few minutes.

At first, we came up with the most obvious variations, but as the exercise progressed, we were talking to each other through the language of the trick. We were building on each other’s tricks and were using the previous trick as inspiration to make the next one more wacky or imaginative.

Imagine if you could use the same principle in the world of work. Imagine if you and your colleagues could truly perceive each other’s ideas and intent. Imagine if you could build on each other’s ideas and make leaps together towards new realities instead of using team work as a tool to force (poorly substantiated) ideas and opinions.

How to increase the simplicity and impact of your story

Everybody loves a good story and stories are what makes us human. During one of the Abracademy open workshops, we went through a process where magic and storytelling were interwoven.

We first learned a magic trick that was rather accessible and straightforward. Then we looked into our individual passions and had to define what we like most in life. So far, so good.

We then had to prepare a story about our deepest passion, but had to use a magic trick in parallel to deliver the story about our passion. A challenging learning curve. Stories consist of a range of messages, and after a while it became clear that each of those could serve as a step within the magic trick. Magic then served as a metaphor, a new way to bring each message to life.

Designing a storyline through magic gave me a new approach to increasing simplicity and effectiveness. What is key to the story? What can be removed? What is the moment of drama, and how should this be delivered through magic? What’s the glory moment, or the big magical reveal? What do we want people to learn?

My delivery was far from perfect, but try to be a magician and a storyteller at the same time. I challenge you!

How to squint at your personal and professional future

We all know these vision boards used by personal coaches with white teeth, sandy beaches, big private pools, cars, inspirational quotes, etc.

While this might be fun and highly motivational, I have learned a more profound way to peek into my own personal future: the magic carpet ride combined with another magic trick (which again, I won’t spoil as a magician almost never tells).

We as workshop participants had to close our eyes and imagine we were sitting on a magic carpet. The carpet started moving up. We saw ourselves. The neighbourhood. London. The UK. A few continents. The entire world.

We stayed there for a while, hanging into space and two years passed by. We then started descending really fast, and landed somewhere on earth.

Where are you?
What are you doing?
Who are you with?
How do you feel?

Through these powerful questions, I could straight away paint a mental picture of my deepest desires. I saw one potential scenario and felt both surprised and reassured. This picture was a projection into my personal life, but the same methodology can be applied to company vision exercises with the right team and level of imagination.

Abracademy’s proposition

These three exercises were all designed by Abracademy, and of course delivered through the use of magic to make the process of learning more profound. I won’t spoil the details of these magic tricks as you need to experience them yourself to truly understand their value and how they elevated the three learning experiences. During these open workshops, I found that by using techniques to generate more magic and wonder, I’ve memorised and internalised better what it takes to be more human in the world of work. I’m also not afraid to use these exercises in daily situations or even use magic tricks in front of tough crowds.

A powerful combo of learning design and magic tricks is the key differentiator in the Abracademy experience. Most L&D and org design companies offer very traditional approaches to change. And most magicians, well, they focus on magic without the business context. Abracademy touches on both in the most meaningful and playful way.

Thomas Waegemans
Business Design & Strategy Lead at Accenture Interactive
and Board Member at Abracademy

Conjuring creativity

By | Abracademy Labs, Food for thought, Magical Moments, Wonder

Have you ever wondered how magicians both imagine and create the impossible? Or how visionaries like Elon Musk created Tesla, a disruptive automotive company? In the past, “magical” is how people would describe ideas like a high-performance car that plugs in or powering an entire island with the sun.

One thing such visionaries have in common is creativity. Creative people have a few things in common (Kaufman, 2014). One common trait is being open to new experiences, having a large hunger for exploration. (This trait is analogous to the joyful exploration mentioned in a previous blog: The Five Dimensions of Curiosity.)

The two other traits – divergent and convergent thinking – involve the thinking processes. Divergent thinking is the ability to generate a large quantity of ideas, including ones that stray from the traditional. While convergent thinking narrows the ideas or solutions down to the most useful ones. The highly creative brain behind Nintendo games, Shigeru Miyamoto, sums it up nicely:

“A good idea is something that does not solve just one single problem, but rather can solve multiple problems at once”

A key point is the number of problems an idea solves. In work, and in life generally, we’re always working on multiple problems. And because each solution has its unique trade-offs, the real challenge is finding an idea that can solve multiple problems at once.

And how do we measure creativity? One way that scientists measure it is by assessing whether people can find a common word that relates to three seemingly different words. This is known as a Remote Associates Test. This test can be long and tedious, but there is an extremely similar (and more fun!) improv exercise known as I Am a Tree – actors use this to strengthen their ability to think on the spot.

Aside from improv exercises, creativity researcher, Scott Barry Kaufman also suggests that you can hack your creativity by making time for solitude, trying certain types of meditation, embracing adversity and intentionally aiming to think differently. This last one is essential for creating magic, since the best magicians must envision drastically different explanations for their tricks to the point where no one would ever even guess its secret. In fact, one study on creativity showed that watching magical content was effective at increasing participants’ divergent thinking skills (Subbotsky, Hysted, Jones, 2010). So perhaps, the only thing we really need is a little bit of magic to spark our own creative flair to enable us to thrive in this constantly changing world of innovation.

Steve
Resident Wizard of Science

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References

 

Kaufman, S.B. (2014, December 24). The Messy Minds of Creative People. Scientific American. Retrieved from https://blogs.scientificamerican.com/beautiful-minds/the-messy-minds-of-creative-people

Subbotsky, E., Hysted, C., & Jones, N. (2010). Watching films with magical content facilitates creativity in children. Perceptual and motor skills, 111(1), 261-277.

Eurogamer.net (2010, March 31). Nintendo’s Shigeru Miyamoto. Retrieved from http://www.eurogamer.net/articles/shigeru-miyamoto-interview

Steve Bagienski

By | Team

Steve Bagienski

Wizard of Science

aka Research Lead, Abracademy Labs

A man of many talents - magician, scientist and positive psychologist. Steve is currently a doctoral researcher at Goldsmiths, University of London. He's investigating the social and emotional experiences of watching, and learning to perform, magic. Steve's work has been presented at international conferences, such as the Science of Magic Association event. And he's received multiple awards, including the Magicana Edwin A. Dawes scholarship and the Richard Benjamin Foundation doctoral studentship for his research with Abracademy.

Magic and science

As a magician, Steve has performed in many different venues, from corporate to social! His passion is combining the science of positive psychology with the performance art of magic. He aims to develop evidence-based techniques that enable practitioners, magicians, clients and audiences to live meaningful, fulfilled lives.

Steve's Superpowers

  • A growth mindset
  • Forgiveness
  • Self-regulation
Find out more about our lab!

Meet the rest of our team

We’re a skilled and diverse team of magicians, facilitators, learning designers, strategists, communicators, scientists and creatives who love what we do at Abracademy.

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What company-hopping taught me about on-boarding

By | What's new?

Sitting down on my first day at Abracademy looking at a magic wand to my right and vanishing pens to my left. It made it wonder what makes an on-boarding experience magical? After all it’s not every day a team meeting starts with a magic trick…

Since graduating from Kaospilots, I’ve jumped from company to company. Not always because I wanted to! Sometimes circumstances have led me to move countries or a project comes to an end. As a result, I’ve immersed myself in different company cultures and have experienced the different types of on-boarding. Now I felt it was time to share is what I’ve learned!

Many see job-hopping as a bad thing, not something to highlight on my CV. They may think I haven’t deepened my domain knowledge, climbed the ladder or gotten to know every employee along the way. But for me, it has been a privilege.

I’ve met amazing people. I’ve had the opportunity to compare places and cherry pick what I like, and dislike, about each. Observing different managers and leaders has taught me what kind of leader I want to be. Seeing everyday acts that tell the story of the culture has created a very clear picture for me. For example, what little things I can do to change or anchor something about the culture I’m in.

As I have experienced everything from horrendous onboarding to mind blowing acts of genuine caring, I know how important it is to welcome people into a company.

If you want to make a good impression on new employees, here’s what I think works and what doesn’t work.

Do…

 

  • On their first day, find a way to surprise your employee. You could perhaps greet them at the train station with a coffee for them. Think about where their first work day starts – at the company door or their own door?! This could be overwhelming or impractical for some of course, but if it works, it tells an amazing story.

 

  • Try to find out their likes and dislikes, and create a personalized starter pack. Are they vegans? What music do they like? Get them slippers for the office! I guarantee you this will be appreciated.

 

  • Make sure everyone in the office knows their name, when they start and, if possible, share a photo of them so people know what they look like. I saw a hotel review on Hotels.com once, where guests are made to feel like the hotel has waited for them for 150 years… be that hotel! Make your new employee feel like you’ve been waiting for them.

 

  • Give them an easy task to complete on their first day of work, perhaps an ongoing challenge or tradition that you have in the company. Make it fun though, don’t make it seem like dirty work!

Don’t…

 

  • Overload them with information. They probably won’t register most of it. The first day is all about first impressions so make them count.

 

  • Underwhelm or neglect them. You might as well ignore them. A new employee doesn’t need to reflect for two hours after lunch. They need to feel taken care of, safe and seen by colleagues.

 

  • Make it short, the onboarding process often takes a couple of weeks, even if the process isn’t as intense as the beginning. Checking in on your new employee is important and you can even ask them to evaluate their onboarding process.

Make on-boarding important. I think we can all agree that new employees need to feel a strong sense of belonging to stay and invest in your company, while you invest in them. The first impression should be made to last – it represents the company. Ask yourself how you can be different. Design an on-boarding process that mirrors your values and at the same time puts the employee at the heart it.

Time to put words into action

During my time at Abracademy, I am looking into ways to make on-boarding more magical for companies and organisations. To unlock an employee’s full potential from their first day. That’s where you come in! I would love to hear your stories about your on-boarding experiences, good or bad.

 

Tell me about your on-boarding experience

Share your story!

Mina Hesar
Business & Process Designer

Magic at the Science Museum

By | Abracademy Labs, Hugo, What's new?

When I heard that the Science Museum invited Abracademy to take part in their Lates event, I immediately thought: let’s take magic home!

Magic and science are two sides of the same coin. They form an inseparable unity, one does not exist without the other. To paraphrase the great Argentinian magician, Rene Lavand, “Magic and science are two, but no more than one…”

 

A very English and most representative character of this unity was John Dee, magician to the court of Queen Elizabeth I. He was a mathematician, astronomer, astrologer, philosopher, scientist and magician. His prolific discoveries and visions helped Elizabeth to write the future history of England. We didn’t know it yet, but John Dee would be present for Abracademy’s performance that night at London’s Science Museum – one of the world’s scientific cathedrals!

Abracademy offered various activities (workshops, the Wonder Table, Abracademy Labs and a talk by yours truly). We presented to and taught what magic is about to a hugely diverse audience. We also talked about the implications that this complex form of art has, in furthering the study of the human brain. In the workshops, participants learned about the sense of Wonder while experiencing magic specially designed for the event.

The Wonder Table showed the most curious different types of illusions. Illusions that made them question what reality is and how we can be sure about the existence of what we see. The table also marked a line between optical illusions and cognitive illusions, which are a more complex type of illusion. They attack processes such as attention, memory and perception. Magic is the best example of cognitive illusion.

Magic and science are inextricably entangled. They have always inspired each other to create new ways of thinking and observing. They are complementary disciplines concerned with the same things, such as the human brain and how it works. Magicians are great observers of human behaviour, acquiring a deep and intuitive knowledge of the brain in the process. Through their own methods, trials and errors, magicians have understood, for millennia, phenomena of cognition that are only recently defined by neuroscientists and psychologists. Magicians and scientist are once again collaborating. But this time to disentangle the underlying processes behind attention, memory and perception.

It’s within this context that Abracademy created Abracademy Labs – an independent laboratory using magic to investigate the human brain. Currently the lab is developing different experiments, including understanding decision-making and forced choices. Abracademy Labs was of course present at the Science Museum Lates. Participants were invited to wear an eye tracking device and asked to look at a deck of cards while choosing one. The experiment always ended with the same enthusiastic question: how can you predict my card selection?!

In a very special room dedicated to a different art, mathematics (the universal language of nature), Abracademy created an evening of Wonder and brought magic home. We’re delighted that Dee was with us as mentioned, albeit in book form. Just a few steps from our Wonder Table was the first English edition of Euclid’s Elements, to which Dee wrote the preface. A magic (book) end to a magic evening!

Hugo Caffaratti
PhD Cognitive Neuroscience

Creative Super Powers

By | What's new?

Last week we had a great evening at the Creative Superpowers event at ad agency, Havas. We were invited to talk about creativity, particularly in relation to magic, and to perform magic.

Joining us on the stage was Hugh Garry, a contributor to the event and director of Storythings. With some help from my Abracademy colleague, Alex Pittas, and myself, Hugh talked about hacking creativity. We focused on how we can trick our brains to help us be more creative.

Creativity is an essential part of innovation and hugely important to Abracademy’s work. As magicians, we need it to think up new magic – magic that will inspire wonder in our audience. We also harness it when working with companies, to tap into their creative potential.

What did the audience say?

Alex Mackain
Magilitator

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Katy Jackson

By | Team
bio

Katy Jackson

Chief of WOW

Co-founder and Head of Design

Katy brings magic to design of the Abracademy products and experiences, working across both the on and offline experiences, and anything else we conjure up.

When she’s not working with Abracademy, she’s in her main role as a Lead Product Designer at the global design agency, Idean. Here, she works on creating new products and services or innovating and transforming existing ones for small start-ups and big businesses.
She has a history of designing for play and fun, including designing playgrounds and helping the world #1 kid’s yoga brand bring their website to life.

Katy's Superpowers

  • Making the complex simple
  • Climbing walls

Katy has brought magic to these companies

Meet the rest of our team

We’re a skilled and diverse team of magicians, facilitators, learning designers, strategists, communicators, scientists and creatives who love what we do at Abracademy.

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Julie Donckers

By | Team

Julie Donckers

Manager of Illusions

Product Manager

Julie is a strategist with a camera! She’s fascinated by human behaviour and is eager to capture, and understand it to add meaning to her work. Originally from Belgium, Julie studied and worked in Denmark and Berlin. She has a background in advertising, product strategy, facilitation, innovation and team design. She helps organisations identify opportunities for building meaningful relationships and adding value to their lives.

Julie's Superpowers

  • Empathy
  • Challenging ideas 
  • Bringing energy to the room

Julie has brought magic to these companies

Meet the rest of our team

We’re a skilled and diverse team of magicians, facilitators, learning designers, strategists, communicators, scientists and creatives who love what we do at Abracademy.

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Robert de Wilde

By | Team

Robert de Wilde

Legal Wizard

Business Manager and Facilitator

Robert is responsible for business development and legal matters within Abracademy.

Originally trained as a Dutch media & technology attorney, Robert transformed himself into a leadership and change consultant. His focus is on culture change and coaching of professionals. For many years he worked as an agent in the Dutch entertainment & media industry, and founded his own talent agency in Amsterdam. He has been a sparring-partner of many professionals, executives, founders and partners of law firms. He is effective in challenging and supporting and understands business teams. He worked with companies such as Fujifilm, PepsiCo, Canon, Ericsson, ABB, XS4ALL, KPN, Accenture, BHP Billiton, Eaton, Lycos Europe, Vodafone and Shell. Robert is a certified coach, facilitator and mediator.

Robert's Superpowers

  • ?
  • ?
  • ?

Robert has brought magic to these companies

Meet the rest of our team

We’re a skilled and diverse team of magicians, facilitators, learning designers, strategists, communicators, scientists and creatives who love what we do at Abracademy.

team page

Contact Robert and the team

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