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Julie

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

Steven Bagienski

By | Team

Steve Bagienski

Resident Wizard of Science

Research Lead of Abracademy Labs

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

Magic & Science

As a magician, Steve has performed for bars, restaurants, companies, universities, and more. 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 and magicians, as well as their clients and audiences, to live more meaningful, fulfilling lives.

Steve's Superpowers

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

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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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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

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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

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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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Jack Kenyon

By | Team

Jack Kenyon

The Sorcerer’s Apprentice

Magilitator

Jack currently studies English at Goldsmiths so he has a passion for stories. He always wants to use this to create captivating stories in his magic performances. Jack has spent time abroad teaching magic as well as performing regularly at different UK venues, from restaurants to care homes and for SEN kids.

Jacks Superpowers

  • working with kids
  • creating wonderful moments of magic

Jack has brought magic to these schools

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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Billy Menezes

By | Team

In a world of technology we need to become more human.

Rubens FilhoAbracademy's Co-founder
bio

Billy Menezes

Card Sorcerer

Creative Content Creator

Billy creates magic and creative content for people to enjoy on our social channels. He is a natural community builder. He also enjoys teaching magic: the benefit for anyone learning magic is huge!

Billy's Superpowers

  • time travel
  • flying
  • invisibility

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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