Category

Belief

Magili-what?

By | Belief, Curiosity, education, Learning and development, Magical Moments, Magicians, Priya, Wonder

How Magilitation can help companies cast a spell or two 💫

If you’ve ever thought that you really need to:

  • Create wonder
  • Inspire through storytelling 
  • Control attention
  • Shift group energy
  • Listen compassionately
  • Speak powerfully 
  • Work with emergence
  • Dance in the moment…

Then think about hiring a Magilitator. You won’t regret it. Allow me to explain why…

Abracademy is interested in the overlaps between magic and other spheres – business, education, mental health, personal development. At the same time, we’re certain that magic means much more than coins, cards, rabbits and hats. For the past few years we’ve been developing ways to apply the basic elements of magic – wonder, awe, intrigue and stories – where they’ve rarely been used. What we call Magilitation is the result of those experiments.

Magilitation is the beautiful merging of magic and facilitation. It was born out of an idea I had at a skills-swap seminar one day. Magicians are incredible presenters and facilitators are masters of group dynamics. If we learn each others’ abilities we can make a hybrid, a new skill set. One that creates wonderful experiences. One that helps participants through journeys of self-discovery and experiential learning. So, Magilitation and Magilitators were born.

These days we deploy our magicians to train facilitators and we work with facilitators to train magicians. Each profession develops their superpowers together.

It’s magic. The kind of magic that the world needs today: inclusive and democratic.

No-one arrives at our workshops already an expert. The playing field is level and everyone learns together. Being very visual, magic is a universal language which everyone can understand. And whatever feelings, and emotions, people experience are welcome. There is no right and wrong in this learning space.

Magic has the power to change the way people see themselves and others. We see the change in participants the instant they learn their first magic trick. Suddenly they’re doing something they thought impossible five minutes earlier. The mindset shift can be lightning-fast as people step out of their comfort zone and open up to learning.

That’s the magic part of Magilitation.

When the world is changing at an exponential rate, systems and structures shift as soon as we get used to them. This rate of transformation means that we’re working at an unsustainable pace. One unfortunate side effect is that, all too often, we forget to connect: talk, share, laugh, cry. Sometimes the speed of progress comes at a cost to our humanity. Workplaces become fraught with stress, low confidence, fear and uncertainty.

Our Magilitator-led workshops help to restore belief in the workplace and spark wonder again. We help companies slow down and invest in their people, improving the quality, and depth of relationships.

We work in a space where many learning & development programmes have yet to go. And while the outcomes are hard to measure, we believe that this is a space where real change happens. It’s a human-centred approach harnessing what makes us human: emotion.

We believe that our workshops can assist any company concerned with the creativity and wellbeing of its employees. But over the years we’ve noticed commonalities among the companies we work with.

Firstly, they dare to dream that there is a more powerful, magical way of professional development. One where people feel valued. Where their thoughts, experiences and emotions are welcome.

Secondly, they are companies who look for something fresh in their approach to learning. Something magical, which creates lasting memories for participants and movement in the company

Thirdly, they’re companies curious about the power of group dynamics. And with an understanding of creative processes. Employees are the lifeblood of any company. Our workshops instil new energy and unlock employee potential. These are vital to the health and progress of any organisation these days.

Magilitation is a unique mix of presence and performance. Our Magilitators help people of all ages and abilities find their inner magic. We’ve helped develop self-esteem and confidence in young people. And we’ve created learning spaces where everyone can share their struggles and joys, their ups and downs. We do this through storytelling – an important tool for good mental health. 

Magic was once a closed shop, the preserve of a few practitioners, performers and experts. But today, when the world is full of sorrow, anxiety, violence and loneliness, magic needs to be for the many – for all of us. Everyone deserves to find their inner magic and superpowers. The most powerful spell cast by Magilitation is to imbue the belief that the impossible is possible.

Hope arrives when we see a new possibility materialise in front of our eyes. And when people learn how to share their magic with others, hope becomes contagious and magic spreads. It’s the most wonderful feeling! 👭

Priya Ghai
Head of Learning, aka Mind Master

This article was originally printed in The World Needs Magic, our magic magazine. If you'd like to receive a copy - click the button below 👇

Send me the 'zine!

Magic for the Many

By | Belief, Curiosity, Magical Moments, Priya, What's new?, Wonder

How Magilitation can help teams and companies cast a spell

By Priya Ghai

If you’ve ever felt the need to:

  • Create wonder
  • Inspire through storytelling 
  • Control attention
  • Shift group energy
  • Listen compassionately
  • Speak powerfully 
  • Work with emergence
  • And dance in the moment…

… then think about hiring a Magilitator. You won’t regret it. Allow me to explain why.

Abracademy is interested in the overlaps between magic and other spheres like business, education, mental health and personal development. We know magic can mean so much more than coins, cards and rabbits in hats. For the past few years we’ve been developing ways to apply the basic elements of magic (wonder, awe, intrigue and stories) where they’re rarely used. What we call Magilitation is the result of those experiments.

Magilitation is the beautiful merging of magic and facilitation. It was born out of an idea I had on a skills-swap seminar. Magicians are incredible presenters and facilitators are masters of group dynamics. How about we develop each others’ abilities and make a hybrid, an entirely new skill. A skill that creates wonderful experiences, helping participants on journeys of self-discovery and experiential learning. Hello Magilitation! These days we deploy our magicians to train facilitators and we work with facilitators to train magicians. They develop their superpowers together.

It’s pure magic. The kind of magic the world needs today: inclusive and democratic.

No-one arrives an expert to our Magilitation workshops. The playing field is level, everyone learns together. Whatever feelings and emotions people experience are welcome. There’s no right and wrong in this learning space. And, because it’s very visual, magic is a universal language that everyone can understand.

Magic has the power to change the way people see themselves and others. We see the change in participants the instant they learn their first magic trick. Suddenly they’re doing something they thought impossible five minutes before. Indeed, the mindset shift can be lightning-fast as participants step out of their comfort zones and open up to learning. That’s one part of the power of Magilitation.

When the world is changing at an exponential rate, systems and structures shift as soon as we get used to them. This rate of transformation means we’re often working at an unsustainable pace. An unfortunate side effect is that all too often we forget to connect: talk, share, laugh, cry and forgive. Sometimes the speed of progress comes at a cost to our humanity. Workplaces become fraught with stress, low confidence, fear and uncertainty. But our Magilitators can help to restore belief at work and spark wonder again. We help companies slow down and invest in their people. Such workshops improve the quality and depth of their relationships with each other.

Of course Abracademy has to work by these beliefs and values too. And we know it takes effort. We also know we help companies raise team spirits by unlocking belief and sparking wonder. We work in a space where many learning and development programmes have yet to go. And while the outcomes may be harder to measure, we also believe that this is a space where real change happens. It’s a human approach that works with what makes us human: emotion.

It might sound bold, but Magilitation could assist any company concerned with the creativity and wellbeing of its employees. However, we’ve noticed some commonalities among the companies we’ve worked with.

First, they dare to dream that there is a more powerful, magical way for professional development. One where people feel valued, where their thoughts, experiences and emotions are welcome.

Secondly, they are companies looking for a fresh approach to learning. A special magic creating lasting memories for participants and movement within the company.

Lastly, they’re curious about the power of group dynamics and have a deep understanding of the creative process. Employees are the lifeblood of any company. Our Magilitators instil new energy and unlock employee potential. This is vital to the health and progress of any organisation these days.

Magilitation is a unique mix of presence and performance. Our Magilitators help people of all ages and all abilities find their inner magic. We’ve boosted the self-esteem and confidence of young people. And created a space where individuals can share their struggles, joys, ups and downs through storytelling. An important tool when mental health is increasingly part of the social conversation.

Magic was once a closed shop, the preserve of a few practitioners, performers and experts. But today, when the world is full of sorrow, anxiety, violence and loneliness, magic needs to be for the many – for all of us.

Everyone deserves to find their inner magic. We all have superpowers. The most powerful spell cast by Magilitation is to imbue the belief that the impossible is possible.

Hope arrives when we see new possibilities materialise in front of us. Each of us can be a part of making that happen. When people learn to share their magic with others, hope becomes contagious and magic spreads. It’s the most wonderful feeling. 😊

Priya Ghai
Head of Learning

aka The Mind Master 😵

Do you want to add magic to your L&D?

Hubble bubble...

What makes a good learning organisation?

By | Belief, Curiosity, education, Food for thought, Learning and development, Magical Moments, What's new?, Wonder

In the second of our webinar series, The World Needs Magic, Rubens talked about learning with Nathalie Trutmann. What makes a good learning organisation and how do we harness a learning mindset?

Nathalie has spent over 20 years in the learning space, the majority of her working life. She’s a former CEO of Hyper Island, now focused on innovation, transformation and education. She’s author of two books; we especially love Handbook for Young Dreamers 🦄 (because we advocate dreaming big!).

 

It’s very important, both for individuals and organisations, to observe how our automatic reaction to this moment, where there are many unknowns, is to replicate patterns that worked for us in the past. Unfortunately, they aren’t necessarily going to get us through this time…

Our first question to Nathalie was: Where is your attention at this moment in time?

Nathalie

I’m focusing very strongly on finding a new passion. One where I can put all my energy and learn lots during this sacred time that we’re all having.

Rubens

Fantastic! We are indeed in this moment where we can learn, unlearn and relearn. Many organisations are having to look in, what I call, the true mirror. They’re looking in it trying to realise who they are as organisations and who they plan to be… I read something you said about using this moment to reprogram our minds, to have a beginner’s mindset. Can you share what you mean by that and why it’s important right now?

Nathalie

This moment is very special and very challenging because it took us all by surprise. There was no time to prepare. It caught us off guard and has provided us with this true mirror moment – both for organisations and for individuals. It shows us what we do and don’t have, what we’ve done and what’s yet to be done. It’s very important, both for individuals and organisations, to observe how our automatic reaction in this moment, where there are many unknowns, is to replicate patterns that worked for us in the past. Unfortunately, they aren’t necessarily going to get us through this time.

Good learning organisations are those that have already allowed their executives to learn and experiment. Ultimately, organisations don’t sell products or services… they are places where people make decisions. And the quality of those decisions correlates directly to the balance between arrogance and humbleness. While some organisations have focused on saving the world and being better people, other organisations have focused more on the reality that real people have both arrogance and humbleness, that we are both altruistic and selfish. Those organisations have created systems for people to show themselves as they truly are.

Right now, we all have the opportunity to show ourselves as we really are. We’re all in our homes so there’s more of that reality already, work facades have dropped. But the organisations that already had systems and practices in place – allowing people to bring that real self to work and helping them grow within the company – are better prepared for the moment we’re facing. In such organisations it’s more acceptable, or they’re more used to, sharing worries and fears, supporting each other. Other organisations are having to catch up.

The balance between arrogance and humbleness in the decisions we make is an important one. When you are very self confident, you have a high degree of arrogance and if you are very humble you probably have a high degree of insecurity. So, how do you balance those two and how do you promote the healthy attitude of a learner? In the mind of a beginner, there are infinite possibilities. In the expert’s mind, the possibilities are limited. I sense, and observe, that a lot of people want to have the right formula to navigate this moment. But instead, let’s create the right conditions to explore different formulas and see what may or may not work.

Many still rush to conclusions, instead of exploring different paths. But the conclusion might not be as simple as you think and it might not be a duplicate of what’s worked in the past. 

Rubens

I think there’s lots of resistance to implementing something like that. So, how can we build this beginner’s mind, how do we start to build this mindset into a company?

Nathalie

It’s especially difficult for individuals to adopt such a mindset. We always want to see the end, to know the outcome of something. We tend to allocate time on productive endeavours – what kind of course can I enrol in, what qualification will I get? But what if we allowed ourselves to experiment with scenarios where we don’t know what the outcome will be? With the beginner’s mind, you have to allow yourself to do things that are seemingly unproductive. 

Many years ago, a company I worked for was bought out. The leaders of the company told us everything would be resolved in one or two months. From that moment, we were all paralysed. We had to live from month to month and there was no money to spend – we were on hold waiting for decisions to be made. But the decisions took a whole year, not one or two months. I remember that many people spent a lot of time wondering and talking about it, speculating and hypothesising. At that time though, I thought, I’m going to do something I’ve always wanted to do – sailing.

So, I convinced two friends to get a sailboat with me. We bought a really cheap one that we thought just needed some paint and some curtains, and it would work ok. But none of us had ever sailed in our lives, ever! And it was fantastic… We spent the whole year reading about sailing, fixing the boat and learning how to sail. It wouldn’t take us around the world, but it took us around a little bay. The energy of this beginner’s mindset however, stepping into a completely new world, hanging out with sailors, listening to their stories and reading about people who had sailed round the world – the energy that this generated, was priceless. And it brought a better person back to the company. I wasn’t one of those who’d spent time worrying about what was and wasn’t going to happen. I had spent a year being really energised and enthusiastic, and infecting others with that. So, where can we begin right now?

For those of us who are working and have heavy workloads, it’s hard because we are doing the home load plus the work load. But if you can, have a wild dream of something that you think is impossible. It doesn’t matter what it is. Break it down like a puzzle and take the first step. And for those of us who aren’t working – also start something that really excites you, no matter how small. Just start it. It doesn’t matter what happens at the end of 6 months or a year, the important thing is to get into that enthusiastic, happy, childlike state where you’re not counting the days. And don’t hang onto the news every single day to see what happens. When restrictions finally lift you’ll have learned something new and time will have flown by. When I went back to work, I was a happy enthusiastic person, able to contribute to my teams, my family and my workplace with a different kind of energy. 

Rubens

I sell magic: magic that transforms organisations. One of the big challenges is showing the difference between how you make money and how you work, and showing the importance of how you work. And how much how you work can benefit how you make money. But it’s a war to make such simple magic come true. How did you experience that while you were leading Hyper Island and other organisations?

Nathalie

It’s a huge challenge… When I was at HI, and before that, I tried to overcome scepticism with numbers and concepts. People needed these first. If I came in with creative ideas, they were disregarded very easily. But then I changed things. First I presented something very technical, very businesslike, very number-driven, so that I could show the impact on the business. Then with that scepticism out of the way, I had creative freedom! 

Learning organisations already know that it’s important to invest in the growth of their people because it will directly impact their sales and business positively. 

One classic example is shoe company, Zappos and their success at delivering happiness. What does happiness have to do with the shoe business?? It’s simple – the happier your employees are, the more committed and engaged they are. Zappos decided that they weren’t just selling shoes, they were making human connections. It didn’t matter what a customer was calling about, the task of whoever answered the phone was to make that moment magical for the customer. There’s a lot of stories of people calling and asking for movie theatre schedules or help with wedding arrangements! Because the Zappos team was so well trained to help with whatever that person needed and because what they wanted was an unforgettable moment for the customer – it made their company very special. People working for Zappos felt excited because they were allowed to go off script and create magic. As magicians already know, when you create magic for someone else, you’re also creating magic for yourself! I imagine, Rubens, that when you do tricks and you see somebody smiling, it brings a smile to your face too. This nurtures us. This keeps us going. 

Rubens

Yes that’s true. And living in this time when the world is totally upside down can definitely open the minds of many people that were resistant to this approach before. But we also talked about new times creating a need for new habits – what habits do you think companies could incorporate now to build a learning-minded workplace? 

Nathalie

It’s very important to review all the To Do lists that companies have. And what on those lists makes a difference to the experience of both the customers and the workforce. So many To Do’s… do we need so many?? Do we need to work extensive hours or could we lower the load a bit, do less and create space to listen to the sounds of the future? Everybody is wondering what’s going to happen next and how it’s going to happen, what is the new winning formula? Having endless tasks and To Do lists leaves people exhausted and stressed – it’s not enabling the mindset, creativity or imagination that we need. Somebody said that the first thing we lose in a crisis is imagination because it’s considered expensive and it’s not a time for creativity. Everybody’s in crisis mode and cutting costs. But how can we create thriving environments and good moments for people at work so that they’re still excited and enthusiastic?

Rubens

What comes to mind when thinking about things that stop or hinder companies from achieving a beginner’s mindset? You’ve worked with some great companies, from Oracle to Red Bull to Unilever – what gets in the way?

Nathalie

Abundance of financial resources get in the way! This is in Clayton Christensen’s great book – How Will You Measure Your Life. He said focus on smart money. This is when you have very few resources and you still make something happen. In big companies, the difficulty is that they’re used to creating big initiatives. They’re not comfortable with small initiatives because they compare them to the existing ways of doing business. Why is this important if we can only bill X, when we’re already billing much more with another scheme? Once again this highlights the fact that many companies only measure numbers. They’re not measuring the rate of learning that the initiative might have, or the increased rate of cohesion and collaboration in a team. If you allow more of these smaller experiments, you may not get the big bucks, but you will get a much higher rate of learning, bonding and collaboration between your team members. So I think an abundance of resources and always thinking in big terms can be an obstacle to a learning mindset.

The other thing that gets in the way is that we are very attached to having detailed road maps of where an experiment is going to take us. But look, nobody planned for this pandemic right? We forgot to plan for this! No plans that were set in place at the beginning of 2020 contemplated something like this. We should test initiatives and ideas without knowing where they’re going to take us, without judging them or throwing them out just because they don’t necessarily bring big money in. But what else can they bring, what can we learn? Can we learn something new about our employees, about our market, about our consumers? I think this is very important. So you can see how abundance of resources and attachment to knowing the outcome of an initiative can get in the way of learning?

Rubens

You’ve spent your life redefining learning… Let’s say you have a magic wand, how would you redefine learning again now?

Nathalie

More real-life project based learning? Learn something like how to build a boat or how to do science experiments. Remove the up front evaluation of right and wrong and think of initiatives where you measure learning by excitement, smiles and the sparkles in peoples’ eyes. When you lose those things, you lose the most precious things we have. So, if we can conjure learning like that, that would be great!

A big thank you to Nathalie for her time and thoughts on this subject. We hope you enjoyed reading our conversation as much as we enjoyed having it! 👌

Let’s close with a question we put to the webinar audience: What’s one thing you’ve learned, relearned or unlearned since social isolation started?

  • I’m re-learning to write code
  • I learned how to peel an orange properly!
  • I’m unlearning to structure my days
  • I am learning how important it is to exercise
  • I am unlearning to endlessly distract myself with random stuff

“Thank you so much for this fresh air!” 🌈

If you’d like to listen to the webinar, press play below 👇

If you’d like to join future webinars, click here for up to date information.
They’re every Tuesday afternoon, usually at 2pm (right around tea or coffee time ) and they last half an hour. Bite sized conversations for easy digestion!

Interested in an online Magical Moment for you or your team?
Click here for information about our online workshops, Unleash Imagination and Raising Resilience.

Want to be a learning organisation?

Get in touch

A magic potion for embracing change

By | Belief, Curiosity, Food for thought, Learning and development, Magical Moments, Uncategorized, What's new?, Wonder

Don’t be afraid to pivot

This is one of Abracademy’s core values.

The world as we know it is changing and we’re all in this together. If ever there’s been a time when everyone – people and companies alike – has had to pivot, it’s now.

And sticking to what we know best – we want to offer support through our online learning and development workshops. They’re guaranteed to be 100% magical 🦄

The world of magic is familiar with the unknown. We like to sit in the (wonder-full) space between curiosity and knowledge. But of course this outbreak brings so many unknowns and fears. And it calls into question what it means to be present. We don’t know what’s around the corner so we can only focus on what we know right now..

Physically, we find ourselves at home – with children, pets or partners. Mentally, there’s uncertainty, distractions, anxiety and confusion. How can we juggle all the demands and continue to feel present at home and at work, online, and offline?

For one, we need to cultivate space online that allows us to be connected, joyful, vulnerable and curious. Through the magic of the internet, this is exactly what people can do. What people are doing! We truly believe in people, in their resilience and power to survive this adversity. Maybe we can even thrive…?

A learning mindset is possibly the most important skill you can develop right now. Abracademy ignites this mindset by exploring wonder and shifting limiting beliefs. This allows people to connect – both to themselves and to others. Also to gain profound insights to embed back at work, as well as in life generally. We create spaces and experiences that – thanks to the use of magic as a tool – spark wonder in the brain. When we spark that wonder, people are more open, curious and, crucially, able to see their world from new perspectives. Ta-da! 

Abracademy is adapting to the current situation. We want to support our community the best way we know how with magic, connection, playfulness and collaboration. We’ve developed two virtual workshops for you. Read more about them here ⚡!

Want to talk to a human?

Say hi to Harriet

Alex Pittas: what’s your story?

By | Belief, education, Learning and development, Magical Moments, Magicians, Team, What's new?

Now and then we like to shine the spotlight on one member of the Abracademy team. Today, it’s Alex Pittas’ turn to shine. We like to call him Magic Al, because he is.

Alex is very modest, but you should see him come to life in workshops. To say that he’s an amazing connector with people is an understatement! He’s brought the shyest people out of their shells and boosted the confidence of literally hundreds of people.

Hello Alex – obviously we know who you are, but for those that don’t, explain who you are and what you do at Abracademy…

I’m the Head Magician and a lead Magilitator (magician-facilitator). One of my main roles here is to innovate and research new magic for everything we do. I’m also one of the lead Magilitatiors. So, I deliver both client workshops and the personal development, Open Workshop, series.

I’m naturally a people person. This has helped me enormously as a magician and a Magilitator. I’ve been told that I have ‘people power’ by other magicians who have watched me perform. I have often been in a situation with an important client where I don’t actually know who they are! There is no fear and I find it easy to connect, strike up a conversation and perform a magic trick. This always breaks the ice and helps them understand the power of what we do by experiencing it.

As it’s at the heart of what Abracademy does, can you talk about what Experiential Learning means to you?

To me, it means a hands-on approach to learning – where participants learn by doing. We get everyone up and out of their seats, encouraging them to be involved and engaged. It’s such a fun, dynamic and interesting way of learning.

Experiential Learning with Abracademy means games and mental exercises. Groups work together to solve problems and face challenges. And, of course, as a Magilitator I help the group grow as well as learn, and perform, cool magic. 

I love sharing magic because I genuinely want others to experience the amazement I had the first time. And I love teaching magic – sharing practical knowledge, tips and wisdom gained over the years.

Do you have examples from workshops demonstrating the power of Experiential Learning?

We ran our Inner Belief workshop with a group of year 3 children (ages 7-8). Afterwards, they were asked how learning with Abracademy helped with other subjects at school. One girl said: “I was always nervous and shy in English lessons. Sometimes I’d have to tell a story or read a poem out loud for the class. But now I’m not shy at all! I learnt how to be confident and use my voice”.

That happened with a combination of exercises over several sessions. For example, the storytelling exercise – participants sit in a circle and everyone tells part of a story. You go around the circle creating a beginning, a middle and an end to the story. People learn to communicate with their whole body and improve their voice projection. We also did magic performances, individually and groups. This pushes people a little out of their comfort zone, but boosts confidence because of the sense of achievement

Can you recall someone having a WOW moment during a session, seeing how what they were doing in the workshop could impact them positively in the real world?

At the end of one Raising Resilience workshop, one person said that they were surprised and delighted at how easy it was to face their fears. That just by changing the way they looked at a situation empowered them to try new things. She said she could see how to apply the approach at work and to not be afraid of failure. It’s worth trying this even if it takes you a little out of your comfort zone.

What’s your favourite Abracademy Magical Moment workshop and why?

Hmmm, that’s a tough question! Not sure if I have an absolute favourite. But I do enjoy Unlock Your Mind. That workshop really tackles the common misconception many people have of themselves – ‘I’m not creative’. Through fun exercises and tasks, participants gradually unlock their creative potential. They always leave feeling inspired. Plus they learn a cool mind-reading effect that they can add their own creative angle to. A great way to spread magic because – the world needs more magic!

What’s an example of magic working really well to demonstrate a concept being explored in a workshop?

It has to be the Magic Lights. We use this trick in the Belief series of workshops because it’s all about believing in the Magic Lights! We chose it for several reasons…

  • It’s a very easy trick to learn – a great place to start and to boost confidence
  • The lights create a beautiful visual effect!
  • We use them to represent our inner magical energy
  • It’s fantastic for groups because everyone learns and plays together; this helps people believe in themselves and in one another
  • It’s a flexible trick – you’re only limited by your imagination!

Some magic-related questions to finish: do you have any advice for budding magicians?

Try to learn a bit of everything. It will help you in the future if you eventually focus on one area of magic. But if you choose one area to start, for example coin or card magic, then learn the basics first. It’s what I call the scaffolding! But do make sure that you have other interests, apart from magic. The knowledge and experience that comes from other areas of life helps strengthen you as a magician and enriches your routines.  

What do you find magical in the world today?

Apart from all the new magic that keeps improving month by month, I find technology, movies, people and places magical. 

How did you discover magic?

My grandmother got me into magic! When I was around 7 or 8 she would tell me a magical story using a pack of cards, over a toastie and a hot cocoa after school. There would be the “queens that were in a castle and the evil jacks had locked them up”. “The kings would battle with the jacks and save the queens”! There was always magic in her stories. 

How did you arrive at Abracademy?

I first met Rubens – co-founder and Director of Spells at Abracademy – in 2014. We shared a love of magic.

Over a coffee one afternoon he asked me – “If you could do anything with magic, what would you do?”
I
answered – “I would open a real Hogwarts!”
His reply? – “OK great, let’s do it!”

And that’s how we started Abracademy 🦄

Alex Pittas
Head Magician

Interested in Experiential Learning with added magic? 🌟

Get in touch

Why is the art of collaboration important?

By | Belief, Curiosity, Learning and development, Magical Moments, Team, What's new?, Wonder

How to unleash the magic of your team

Organisations today face complex challenges. Ones that necessitate collaboration between employees (Creating Effective Teams, Susan Wheelan). So, the ability to manage teams and projects is an invaluable asset.

However, the art of collaboration is itself complex. It involves multidisciplinary teams with different structures, skills, backgrounds and ways of working. Understanding people management comes first because managing teams means dealing with individuals.

7 core skills that ignite the magic of a team

 

Emotional and social intelligence are key for success when you work in a team. According to the TESI model (Team Emotional and Social Intelligence) there are seven essential soft skills – identity, motivation, emotional awareness, communication, stress tolerance, conflict resolution and positive mood. These all contribute to the effectiveness, productivity, emotional and social wellbeing of a team.

1. Identity

A team with a strong identity demonstrates the sense of belonging. They have a desire to work together and there is clarity around each member’s role. Groups with strong team identity have high degrees of loyalty.

2. Motivation

A high level of motivation corresponds to the energy and responsibility levels in a team. Whether competition is working for or against the team also affects motivation. Having a motivated team requires knowing, and meeting, desires. For example, setting stretch goals, reinforcing success and being persistent.

3. Emotional awareness

Noticing, understanding and respecting colleagues’ feelings indicates a team’s emotional awareness. It is a critical factor in motivation, productivity and collaboration. And it’s central to the success of every team.

4. Communication

We know that good communication is essential for a group of people working together. It provides guidance on how well each of the team member acts. Particularly when discussing sensitive topics, encouraging listening and participation.

5. Stress tolerance

A team with good stress tolerance knows how well it’s doing in managing pressures. These include workload, time constraints and a good work-life balance.

6. Conflict resolution

A team’s ability to deal with conflict means examining how they process disagreement. Is the team able to deal with adversity and enhance its functioning? Or does it get caught up in the conflict? Good conflict resolution is essential for productivity and creativity.

7. Positive mood

A team with a positive mood is built on foundations of encouragement and humour, as well as expectations of success. Positive mood is a major factor in a team’s flexibility and resilience, and it’s the heart of a can-do attitude. It influences how energised the team’s attitude is.

Team work makes the dream work

The Magic of Teams is one of Abracademy’s most popular workshops. Why? Because as an old sport saying goes:  a champion team will defeat a team of champions.

Modern business culture places more value on a single talented individual than on a team with no standout star. As much as we value the ideals of teamwork, the notion of the prima donna remains popular – the team member who stands out and succeeds without help from anyone.

However, research in various sectors indicates that a collaborative team will always outperform solo stars.

  • Tired crews who have flown together in the past make fewer errors than fresh crews who have never flown together” (NASA)
  • The performance of heart specialists improved with practice and experience, but only at the hospitals where they did most of their work. When the same surgeons worked at different hospitals, their success rates returned to baseline” (Huckman and Pisano, Harvard Business School)
  • “Team familiarity was a better predictor of project success and on-time delivery than the total experience of individual team members” (Huckman, Staats & Upton)

In the first two examples in particular, it’s clear that the best choice would be the strong team! Otherwise you better hope for some magic…

The academic field of Positive Psychology has always emphasised the personal benefits of good social relationships. Individuals grow and develop over time. As does a team. So, how much business sense do good connections mean? For a start, they have the potential to improve organisational performance at the highest levels.

How teams develop

When a new team comes together, you can’t expect it to perform well immediately. It takes time and members will go through various stages. They need to shift from being a collection of strangers to a united team with common goals.

Let’s look at Bruce Tuckman’s Forming, Storming, Norming and Performing model. It describes the necessary stages for a team to grow. Only once these have been successfully completed, can the team face challenges, tackle problems, find solutions, plan work and deliver results successfully. Together.

Forming

In this first stage, energy and enthusiasm are generally high. Team members play nice and avoid conflict. But a common challenge in this phase is information gathering. This happens as the team strives to understand its objectives, roles and responsibilities.

Storming

As the team settles, individuals begin to test the boundaries of the group. As a result, a period of heightened intragroup conflict emerges, which can lead to a decline in effectiveness. This can be due to personalities, working styles, lack of agreement or understanding of goals.

Norming

Once teams can deal with conflict in a healthy way, norms emerge. This facilitates openness between members, as well as a shared set of standards and expectations. The plan solidifies as team members agree to timelines and responsibilities. As trust develops, team members embrace one anothers’ strengths and ask for help. 

Performing

Once the shared standards and norms are established, a team can turn their attention to the tasks at hand. This happens through constructive action that allows creative solutions to flourish. Clear goals mean the team can perform with minimal supervision. Conflict becomes a productive tool enabling different perspectives to emerge. In short, the foundation is set for a high performing team to grow.

To summarise, a team is only as powerful as its members. And the quality of the relationships and soft skills in the team is especially important. Stars shine brighter with the support of colleagues because, as we’ve explained here, working as a cohesive team harnesses the unique talents of each team member.

It’s time to develop these skills to make your team a high performance one!  

Julie Bogaerts
Abracademy Magilitator

Discover the magic of your team

Say hello to Harriet 👋

How practising magic helped my physical wellbeing

By | Belief, Curiosity, What's new?, Wonder

We spoke to the multi-talented Psychological Illusionist, Jared Manley, about magic and what it means to him.

Jared has performed his magic all around the world, leaving audiences astounded with his unique combination of mind reading skills, gambling techniques and special effects. He has also worked on special effects (SFX) for films such as Harry Potter and Game of Thrones, so we were super excited to hear him talk about the extraordinary relationship between SFX and magic.

When Jared talks about magic, his face lights up. Magic has had a huge impact on his life and on his health. He believes magic is a powerful way to bring people together as well as a way to work on your own personal development. After his lecture, we caught up with Jared to ask him some questions and find out why he calls himself psychological illusionist.

“Saying Psychological Illusionist makes people wonder what I actually do and it starts a conversation”

Why do you call yourself a psychological illusionist?

I wanted a posher way to say mind trickster, mind magician or just magician! I probably got it from Derren Brown — he calls himself a psychological illusionist. Psychology is how the mind works and an illusion is about creating an effect that makes people wonder how it’s possible. If I just called myself a magician, your reaction would be: you must do card and coin tricks. Whereas calling myself a psychological illusionist makes people wonder what I actually do and it starts a conversation. You can then elaborate and you have an excuse to demonstrate things.

How did you learn magic?

My teachers and influences have changed dramatically over the years. Initially, the person who taught me was the animatronics technician, Chris Clark. He showed me a quick coin trick and introduced me to books by Brother John Hamman.

After that I wanted to take my magic a bit further so I went to Davenports magic shop (the biggest influencer in magic at that time was Marc Spellman and he worked at Davenports). The first thing Marc said when I told him I wanted to learn magic was: show me a Double Lift… Not long after that I started going to Marc’s parent’s house where he taught me magic. At that time he was performing on TV and he was a big influence on me.

My current influence is Roger Curzon, one of the greatest card technicians and bizarre magic people! He concentrates on presentation and storytelling, and teaches magicians from the age of 10 upwards. He’s a mentor to a lot of magicians — he’s informed the way I perform, react to people and interact with other magicians.

How has magic impacted your life?

Magic has impacted my life in a major way. I’ve had eczema since I was a baby — I was always scratching as a kid and needed to be distracted. Magic did that. I started doing special effects when I was 23, initially working in environments that weren’t healthy for me, with fibreglass and making moulds. But I had to do it because I was a trainee. This had a huge negative impact on my life and my health because my eczema flared up. I became very irritated (literally!) whenever I was sitting around doing nothing, except when somebody showed me a magic trick, so I started to learn how to manipulate cards and do sleight of hand. My passion for magic grew, plus it took my mind off scratching! I suppose that’s why I progressed quickly with performance because, every moment I had spare, I was playing with cards, disappearing coins or fiddling with gimmicks. Using my hands to practice took away the irritation and the pain of that skin disorder.

It also had a positive impact on my confidence. Seeing people’s reaction while watching the magic and the presentation, them being interested in the story you are telling — this gave me a big confidence boost. I could now approach anybody and show them a trick. I was encouraged enough to keep doing what I was doing and improving my communication with people at the same time.

What fascinates you about magic?

It’s the people, more specifically the reactions from people when I’m performing.

When you start learning magic, it’s all about mastering the trick, but the thrill quickly changed from the techniques to the reaction from the audience.

I’d been doing magic for about three months when I was on a train home from London one night, after working in SFX. I was in my seat, practicing magic, doing some tricks and, within a couple of minutes, people started to be curious about what I was doing. So I said: come and I’ll show you a trick.

By the end of the journey I had the whole carriage watching me perform. It was great to see their reactions and when I left the train I noticed that the people I’d performed to, who were from all walks of life, were talking to each other. You had bankers talking to students, discussing the tricks and just having fun chatting about what they’d just seen. That’s when I realised how powerful magic is.

I know it’s a cliché, but it brought those people together; they forgot who they were and where they came from, they just started talking to each other. That’s what I found fascinating and why I started studying psychology to find ways to trigger that same reaction through my performances.

What do special effects and magic have in common?

They are the same thing; they are both a visual effect, but for different mediums. SFX is for TV, film or theatre while magic is personal, close-up or on stage. In essence, magic is special effects. George Méliès was a magician who used magic to achieve special effects on camera. The techniques we use in SFX — engineering, mechanics, chemical changes and even sleight of hand — are used in both SFX and magic.

How do you make the impossible, possible?

It was difficult in the beginning because I didn’t know how. When you start out, you’re limited in your knowledge and background, I only had what I learned from university and the things I picked up working at different companies.

I’ve now been doing SFX for 17 years and, as you progress, you learn from different people and pick up different techniques. But with every job there’s something you have to research, either on the internet looking at what’s been done before or finding new techniques and ways to manipulate things. It’s all about being aware of what’s around and being interested in what’s possible. 

You too can make the impossible possible and make things disappear! Discover our workshops or contact Harriet: harriet@abracademy.com. Tah-Dah! 🌟

Curious about what magic can do for you?

Hello Harriet

The magic of imaginary friends

By | Belief, Curiosity, Food for thought, What's new?
Dedicated to the memory of Simon Aronson and his imaginary friends.

SOMA is the Science of Magic Association. In their own words, the organisation promotes rigorous research directed toward understanding the nature, function and underlying mechanisms of magic.

In July 2019, SOMA held a conference in Chicago, USA, followed by a seminar in London. Both were a coming together of like-minded people – academics, researchers, magicians and keynote speakers – to further SOMA’s mission and inspire connections, and conversations.

Our resident Wizard of Science, Steve Bagienski went to both with many hats on – magician, psychologist, interested party and guest speaker at the summer seminar. Steve’s presentation was about how magic can enhance wellbeing: The magical means of building close connections and community during the college transition: a novel arts-based positive intervention.

We asked Steve to share his main takeaway from the 2019 SOMA events – what did he find most inspiring? Of the many presentations and talks he attended, it was Simon Aronson’s talk on imagination that left Steve thinking the most.

I’ve always known that Simon Aronson was very influential in card magic. I’ve seen his work on magic websites for years. When I saw him at the Science of Magic Association conference, I experienced both wonder and inspiration. The mind reading show, “It’s the thought that counts”, contained many adorable moments of connection between him and his wife. It left me wondering – how she could literally see from Simon’s perspective when she was blindfolded?…
 
But the most meaningful part of the conference was his keynote on imagination. First he transported us to a world where a fire-breathing dragon chased me to the edge of a cliff. He made the point that no-one screamed or ran away – we knew we were experiencing this adventure in a safe and trusted environment. This is what watching magic allows us to do – experience impossible, mysterious moments, in a safe environment.
He continued by explaining how kids with imaginary friends are normal. There’s nothing psychologically wrong with having imaginary friends. Kids know their friend is imaginary (just like we knew the dragon was imaginary). Simon himself had an imaginary friend. His name was Mergel Funsky and he showed us many pictures of Mergel! Simon and he had many adventures together. Of course, Mergel knows he’s imaginary and now, you know it too. He likes pickles and sometimes helps with the magic.
 
Humour aside, I left inspired by how imaginary friends can be very useful. For example, if you’re missing a close one, why not create an imaginary version to feel less lonely and self-soothe? Or if you need someone to bounce ideas off, why not ask your imaginary friend? As long as you know this person is imaginary, it can be therapeutic and fun. It’s a strategy to see yourself and problems from a different, liberating, viewpoint.
I was sad to hear of Simon’s recent passing, but the impact he had on me and my own imagination will live on.

References

Unleash your inner magic

Get in touch

Meet the magician: Sonia Benito

By | Belief, Curiosity, Magicians, What's new?, Wonder

In her own words, there’s more to Sonia Benito than meets the eye. Her work is about movement and magic. Not a combination of skills you come across too often…

We met Sonia through the magic world of course. Specifically via Instagram, where she’s a little bit of a magical star! And since then we’ve worked with her on a couple of projects – with the Wellcome Collection and Royal Museums Greenwich. Both projects involved young people, where Sonia was not only a fantastic guest speaker / magician, but also a superb role model – able to make hard-to-please teenage jaws drop and inspire (we hope) confident future magicians. Ta-dah!

We had a chat with Sonia because we’re always curious to know what brought people to magic and what drives them forward. Here’s the conversation…

Tell us about you and magic…
When I was 13 years old, I saw magic in a little market and I bought a few tricks. I performed them to my family and friends. One of my old teachers at school was a magician and when he found out that I liked magic, he started showing me his tricks. He was doing magic with doves and I love animals. After 2 or 3 years he passed away and another teacher from the school told me that he left a note. It said that he would like me to have all his magic materials. And so I had one of his doves! Then I bought another one and started to perform in villages in Spain. 🕊🕊

What impact has magic had on you?
It makes me feel unique. I can be myself. It might sound cheesy, but it’s the fact that magic makes people smile and can take them to a world where everything is possible. It makes me super creative to make it my own.

What do you find wonderful in the world?
Art in general. The way we express ourselves. I find life wonderful. The fact of being here and now.

What do you believe in?
I believe in energy and nature. I believe there is no religion apart from the respect we must have for each other to keep the balance.

Abracademy firmly believes the world needs more magic, do you?
The world needs more people who believe in magic! And it needs more art and people who respect, and enjoy it. To let go of your worries for a few seconds and enjoy what is happening in the moment. That it’s okay to feel vulnerable and not know everything (the secret to magic).

Any words of wisdom for future magicians?
Always be yourself. If you enjoy magic, others will enjoy it with you. Remember that the real magic is you – who you are, not what you are. You can do magic with anything! As magic is everywhere 😉

 

There’s a further interview with Sonia in the first issue of our new magical magazine, The World Needs More Magic. If you’d like to receive a special gift copy of that, sign up for our monthly newsletter!

Sonia Benito
Magic and movement

Follow Sonia on Instagram
Find out more about her on her website

Talk to us about the magic of your team

Get in touch

The Magical Self

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

Can we enhance our inner belief without crossing the rivers of self-doubt? Can we change how we feel about ourselves… by waving a magic wand?

It may sound surprising, but researchers at Goldsmiths, University of London, recently published a review of experiments on how magic might enhance wellbeing (Bagienski & Kuhn, 2019). And they observed that increased pride and self-esteem were common in studies where participants either discovered secrets to magic tricks or learned to perform magic.

To be fair, most of these studies involved populations with low self-esteem and some had methodological flaws, so more research is needed. But the available results do look promising.  And by looking at theoretical models of self-esteem, we find some fascinating reasons for why magic may improve self-esteem.

One common argument in these studies is that learning magic develops an impressive skill that most others cannot perform (Frith & Walker, 1983). And this speaks to two common psychological theories of what causes of self-esteem:  

The first was put forth by William James (1892) on how self-esteem arises when perceived success in “valued domains” aligns with our aspirations. And who doesn’t value a bit of magic and fantasy, like the magic we see in movies, novels, or games? In fact, this was supported by an experiment that concluded: “a novel and unusual event elicits stronger curiosity and exploratory behaviour if its suggested explanation involves an element of the supernatural” (Subbotsky, 2010). Additionally, people value secret knowledge and society marvels when people achieve the impossible. Both are in magic. Lastly, people are driven to figure out how magic tricks work. For all these reasons, it makes sense that magic is valued. So we could feel better about ourselves by learning magic successfully.

The strange part is how magic focuses the impossible… Because people tend to set their aspirations in the realm of possibility, but magic achieves the “impossible”. Thus, at a certain imaginary level, learning to learning magic must exceed one’s aspirations. And this experience is at least somewhat grounded in reality because social reactions to magic imply that the impossible became possible!This latter social aspect also aligns with Cooley’s (1902) model of self-esteem. In his model, self-esteem is caused by opinions of significant others who act like a “social mirror.” This idea of a social mirror also helps explain why improved social skills were observed in magic studies, but only when participants learned to perform magic (Bagienski & Kuhn, 2019). One reason might be that reactions to magic resemble an interested, enthusiastic response. And these responses would act as social validation. They are also very similar to the responses that scientists found to form positive relationships (Bagienski & Kuhn, 2019; Gable, Gonzaga, & Strachman, 2006; Gable, Reis, Impett, & Asher, 2004). 

Another reason why magic could improve social skills is because magic is one of the only art forms that deliberately uses speech and social cues for its misdirection (Scott, Batten, & Kuhn, 2018). Thus, learning magic can be a natural fit for improving social skills. And when your social skills are sharp, you feel good about yourself because you can better cultivate the supportive, meaningful relationships that make life beautiful.

References:

Bagienski, S. E., & 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).

Cooley, C. (1902). Looking-glass self. The Production of Reality: Essays and Readings on Social Interaction, 6. Retrieved from https://books.google.com/books?hl=en&lr=&id=8FKzamiVX4sC&oi=fnd&pg=PA126&ots=13LOPWoq3y&sig=KiOgsxExuoBtH_5XD-CHBlcriJc

Gable, S. L., Gonzaga, G. C., & Strachman, A. (2006). Will you be there for me when things go right? Supportive responses to positive event disclosures. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 91(5), 904–917. https://doi.org/10.1037/0022-3514.91.5.904

Gable, S. L., Reis, H. T., Impett, E. A., & Asher, E. R. (2004). What Do You Do When Things Go Right? The Intrapersonal and Interpersonal Benefits of Sharing Positive Events. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 87(2), 228–245. https://doi.org/10.1037/0022-3514.87.2.228

James, W. (1892). Psychology: The briefer course. New York: Holt.

Scott, H., Batten, J. P., & Kuhn, G. (2018). Why are you looking at me? It’s because I’m talking, but mostly because I’m staring or not doing much. Attention, Perception, & Psychophysics, 81(1), 109–118. https://doi.org/10.3758/s13414-018-1588-6

Talk to Harriet about inner belief for your team

Get in touch