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Anne

Why being playful at work is a good thing

By | Belief, Food for thought, Leadership, What's new?

Being playful at work matters. Fact. 😊

In 1960 British paediatrician and psychoanalyst Donald Winnicott proposed that humans have a true and a false self. While the false self can be useful, it allows people to fit into society and behave ‘as expected’, it’s also a façade that conceals the true self. That true self is, by contrast, spontaneous, free and child-like. And you can probably guess that being your true self is the state that leads to a happier life.

Winnicott’s concept of the true and false self connects to his views on play. He suggested that play helps people be their true selves and only the true self is capable of creativity. “Play was an important path by which clients could gain awareness into their authentic emotional selves. [He] believed the therapist could help a client reveal the uninhibited child within and rediscover a true sense of being.” (Good Therapy)

Being authentic or fake are concepts familiar to us now. A few minutes on social media will provide a crash course, as the worlds of wellbeing and self-help place the notion of authenticity front and centre. 

However, it’s fair to say that most of us don some kind of mask or façade for work. It’s probably not entirely fake, not a you that your friends and family wouldn’t recognise, but it is an edited version of you nonetheless. And as Winnicott said, that way of being is useful to a certain extent. But if the true self is buried deep, under layers of repression and expectation, it causes incongruence within us. 

Recognising and allowing our true selves out to play has many benefits. The true self, much like a kid with a piece of blank paper to scribble on, isn’t daunted by creativity because it’s not overly concerned with failure. If a kid doesn’t like a drawing, they crumple the paper up and start again. As adults, we get a little more constipated with this process! So there are huge benefits to incorporating play at work – colleagues will talk more freely and believe in their ability to think creatively. This means better working relationships and free-flowing innovative thinking!

💡 Self-promo! And very good way to bring play into work in a meaningful way is with an Abracademy workshop – you can choose to focus on confidence, communication, collaboration or even wellbeing. Contact our Dream Catcher, Jaxx, to find out more.

Further reading 

While Winnicott’s theory of true and false self is significant, he is by no means the first or last to explore the concept. If you’d like to read more, try Freud (of course), Melanie Klein, Ronald Fairbairn, Karen Horney, Jung and his personas and, more recently, Susie Orbach’s false bodies.

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Magic, wellbeing and happiness at Bridging the Impossible conference

By | Abracademy Labs, Curiosity, Education, Science

Can you imagine a conference on the subjects of magic, wellbeing and happiness? Well, no need to imagine it because in August 2021 we held Bridging the Impossible, a conference bringing together experts in those topics. Hosted with Goldsmiths University’s MAGIC Lab, we explored the science behind using magic for therapy, personal growth and generally good things!

Don’t worry if you missed out because we have a series of blog posts to share here over the coming weeks, summarising insights from each speaker.

To kick things off, we’re looking at the work of Steve Bagienski. Steve recently finished his PhD on the social and emotional experiences of magic (at Goldsmiths, University of London) plus he’s conducted comprehensive literature reviews on how magic might enhance wellbeing.

Steve kicked the conference off by sharing a review of scientific studies and looking at organisations that use magic as a force for good. He discussed how watching magic tricks could be used as a distraction therapy, while learning to perform magic seems to enhance self-esteem and social skills. These insights are what led to his research collaboration with Abracademy during 2020-1. Together, we created a series of workshops (Magical Moments) for the first year undergraduates at Goldsmiths. During the programme, Steve measured the students’ self-esteem and social concepts like a sense of community and belonging. All increased after students had taken part in the workshops.

But as the workshops contain content other than magic, were the benefits felt by the students actually related to learning magic tricks? To find out, Steve took the initiative to do another experiment, focusing on the impact of the magic-off activity. This is a pivotal moment in the workshops where participants each learn a different magic trick then perform for one another. 

Not only did Steve see similar results to the original study, but this also revealed that students tended to greatly underestimate their ability to perform magic. As a result, they grew more confident once they had performed. Why? Well, one insight – from qualitative data – was that many participants attributed the confidence boost to their partner’s reaction to the magic. This reaction implied that they had successfully performed the magic, thus challenging their initial self-judgement of being someone that’s not good at magic.

To finish his presentation at the conference, Steve shared his experience of co-designing the pilot version of Abracademy’s Raising Resilience workshop. This workshop uses activities from the wellbeing sciences to help people strengthen their emotional resilience – something much needed in recent times… 

Interested in finding out more about any of this? 💬 Contact Alice – our resident science wizard

Here’s some resources that you might find interesting:

 

References

Bagienski, S., & Kuhn, G. (2019). The crossroads of magic and wellbeing: A review of wellbeing-focused magic programs, empirical studies, and conceivable theories. International Journal of Wellbeing, 9(2), 41-65.

Find out more about the science behind the magic

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Our magic potion for experience design has 4 ingredients

By | Facilitation, Learning Design, Magical Moments

Our learning experience design methodology is based on the key goal of creating memorable moments for our clients. To do this we harness the power of magic. Then we and add a sprinkle of pride, insight and connection. See how each of these ingredients helps us achieve our goal… 

An experience is many things… it can happen in person or remotely and it makes you think, laugh, learn or be wow’d. It can be a reflection session, team activities, a walk or learning magic tricks. Experiences bring people together, bonding them over a shared moment.

What makes a moment memorable?

Attention, novelty and emotion do. It goes without saying that participants should be engaged and have fun. This paves the way for landing – and embedding – crucial learnings so that the experience lives on. We want people to talk about what they experienced, gush about it even! When that happens, participants become ambassadors for a new way of being or champion bringing new company values to life. And when that happens, we know we’ve succeeded in creating a memorable moment. 

One workshop can’t change everything, but it can kick start a new way of thinking about work and a new perspective on peoples’ roles within their company. Imagine the power of many moments!

Where do we start?

Before designing an experience, our learning designers ask…

  • How can we use the power of magic to elevate everyday moments and bring learning to life?
  • How might the experiences we create help people feel proud by breaking their limiting beliefs?
  • How might we spark insights for people to develop their self- and social awareness?
  • How might we cultivate deeper connections between people?

Elevate learning

Psychological research suggests that learning to perform magic tricks can create a wide range of benefits, including enhanced creativity (Wiseman, Wiles & Watt, 2021), and boosted social skills and self-esteem (Bagienski & Kuhn, 2019). Moreover, magic-based interventions show that magic tricks can be used to effectively communicate about a variety of topics, delivering educational messages in an entertaining way (Wiseman & Watt, 2018). Likewise, performing magic tricks helps communicate specific concepts in organisational behaviour (Krell & Dobson, 1999). There’s a lot of psychology behind the use of magic!

Ignite pride

We want people to feel valued, listened to and appreciated. In turn, they come to understand and appreciate colleagues in ways they may not have before. Participants leave our sessions with a renewed sense of joy and pride in their work. And what’s the long tail of feeling proud at work? Increased loyalty, championing the company, a better sense of community and belonging, and feeling more motivated. Ta-da! 

Unlock insights

When we start working with clients, we take time to understand what’s going on for them, particularly why they need a learning experience. We ask – why now, what’s the challenge they’re facing, who is this for, how do they want participants to feel afterwards, what should they have learned… Questions questions! The more we understand, the better we can get to the heart of what matters, designing an experience that hits the mark and provides insight – about participants, about their team, about their work and about the organisation as a whole. Abracademy workshops are always fun, but the insights participants leave with are truly magical. Who needs a crystal ball?!

Connect people

You’ve read this a thousand times in recent months – now more than ever, keeping colleagues connected is crucial. Whether it’s new joiners who have yet to meet colleagues properly or existing team members, making sure people know and understand one another will prevent a mind-blowing array of communication problems… Doubts that become toxic, questions that never get answered, questions that shouldn’t need asking, only receiving feedback when something goes wrong, not knowing what anyone else is doing, not having the most recent updates. The list is long. We bring people together as colleagues and as human beings. Our personal lives can affect how we show up at work so if you know your colleagues well, you’ll have more empathy and be a stronger team. We enable connections between people that continue long after the workshops have finished!

Here’s some more resources on experience design that you might find interesting:

 

References

  • Bagienski, S., & Kuhn, G. (2019). The crossroads of magic and wellbeing: A review of wellbeing-focused magic programs, empirical studies, and conceivable theories. International Journal of Wellbeing, 9(2), 41-65.
  • Heath, D. and Heath, C. (2019). The Power of Moments. Random House UK.
  • Krell, T. C., & Dobson, J. J. (1999). The use of magic in teaching organizational behavior. Journal of Management Education, 23(1), 44-52.
  • Wiseman, R., & Watt, C. (2018). Achieving the impossible: a review of magic-based interventions and their effects on wellbeing. PeerJ, 6, e6081.
  • Wiseman, R., Wiles, A., & Watt, C. (2021). Conjuring up creativity: the effect of performing magic tricks on divergent thinking. PeerJ, 9, e11289.

Jaxx can capture your L&D dreams!

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Could you be a Magilitator?

By | Magicians, Magilitator, Team

A Magilitator is one of a kind… it’s a magician that facilitates or a facilitator that can do magic! Abracademy melds these two skillsets together to create this unique role. We’re growing our network so if this appeals to you, read on…

We work with clients big and small from all over the world, and we’re looking for new magicians to join our freelancer community. If you’re keen to develop a special set of skills, we want to hear from you! We train and develop Magilitators to make sure you’re 100% confident when it’s time to deliver workshops.

There’s lots of benefits in the community itself too as we host meetups. You’ll have the opportunity for peer to peer support… learn new magic or test, and get feedback on, a new performance. It’s a place for sharing and learning.

We want to expand our magical community with magicians from all corners of the magic world, the more diverse the better! We’re eager to balance genders, like the Magic Circle finally having a female president — so female magicians are especially welcome.

We want to hear from you!

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Sara Ramos

By | Facilitation, Magical Moments, Magilitator, Team
bio

Sara Ramos

Community Wizard

Facilitator

Sara is passionate about learning and bringing people together to create impactful shared experiences. In her eagerness to challenge the status quo, Sara seeks alternative ways to learn, work, live and relate to others.

She designs meaningful learning experiences and creates the conditions for great collaboration. She achieves that by holding space for others, asking questions and allowing collective intelligence to emerge.

She works as a freelance Learning Designer and Facilitator, and hosts a podcast called Learning Day: https://learningday.community

Sara's superpowers:

★ Creating safe spaces

★ Singing

★ Productive procrastination

Abracademy

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

Meet the team

"Once the imagination is unshackled, liberation is limitless"

Walidah Imarisha

Contact us

Say hello

Alex Lyons

By | Facilitation, Magical Moments, Magilitator, Team
bio

Alex Lyons

Word Wizard

Facilitator

Alex facilitates communication and connection wherever its needed most. Nothing matters more to him than being true to who we say we are. He has a background as a media, communications and culture specialist, TEDx host and speaker coach, and an equity, diversity & inclusion consultant. Alex blooms most when helping others to bring integrity and heart into their words. Fair warning though, Alex will talk your ear off about the worlds and works of Ursula K Le Guin or everything Wonder Woman has taught him about the power of love to change the world ⚡💖

Alex's superpowers:

★ Warm grins

★ Wise words

★ Wonderful clarity

Abracademy

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

Meet the team

"Once the imagination is unshackled, liberation is limitless"

Walidah Imarisha

Contact us

Say hello

Malerbi

By | Magical Moments, Magicians, Magilitator, Team
bio

Malerbi

Dismisdirectioner

Magician

A graduate in Communication and Body Arts currently living and working in São Paulo, Brasil.

Malerbi believes in the power of magic. He believes that every trick is a metaphor wanting to be recognised.

Contrary to popular belief, magic isn't about fooling people. In fact, it can inform by revealing hidden information. We humans are already being fooled... our senses and preconceptions misdirect us. And we're blissfully unaware of it! By causing little shocks and surprises, magic questions our senses and can reveal our blind spots.

Malerbi's superpowers:

🎩 Listening

🎩 Connecting everything

🎩 Metaphors

Abracademy

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

Meet the team

"Once the imagination is unshackled, liberation is limitless"

Walidah Imarisha

Contact us

Say hello

Ward van Laer

By | Magical Moments, Magicians, Magilitator, Team
bio

Ward van Laer

Machine Magic

Magician

As well as being a magician, Ward is a machine learning engineer and speaker. He has with experience in computer-vision, detection on time-series and NLP. He likes to agonise over the possibilities of explainable AI and AI interpretability 😄

Read his posts about machine learning on Medium / @ward.vanlaer

Ward's superpowers are:

  • Machine magic
  • Data
  • Insight

Abracademy

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

Meet the team

"Once the imagination is unshackled, liberation is limitless"

Walidah Imarisha

Contact us

Say hello

Sonia Benito

By | Education, Fashion, Magical Moments, Magicians, Magilitator, Schools, Team
bio

Sonia Benito

Spanish Trickster

Magician and dancer

"I think magic can be created anywhere. We are therefore surrounded by moments that make us question the impossible"

Originating from Spain, Sonia is now based in London bringing something new to the magic scene. She blurs the lines between classic and modern magic techniques adding in unique movement patterns.

Sonia has worked with us many times including the MURAL Maze and the Royal Museums Greenwich project with young women.

Sonia's superpowers are:

🗲 Tutting

🗲 Effortless style!

🗲 Making modern magic 

Abracademy

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

Meet the team

"Once the imagination is unshackled, liberation is limitless"

Walidah Imarisha

Contact us

Say hello

Naomi Freeman

By | Client management, Project management, Team
bio

Naomi Freeman

Project Sorcerer

Client and project manager

Naomi is a dog lover and a wellbeing enthusiast. Some might say the two are linked... She has spent most of her career working with individuals to realise their potential. And with communities to explore empowering activities that bring people together.

At Abracademy, Naomi is master of the magic potion needed for excellent project management and happy clients!

Naomi's superpowers are:

🗲 Peacekeeper

🗲 Listening

🗲 Empathy

Abracademy

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

Meet the team

"Once the imagination is unshackled, liberation is limitless"

Walidah Imarisha

Contact us

Say hello