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What’s new?

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 👋

Culture and purpose, not ping-pong and beer 🍻

By | education, Learning and development, What's new?

Matilda Sundåker wears many hats. She is the founder of The Culture Shift – an Amsterdam-based company working with other companies on culture and purpose. She is also a freelance strategy director, a community builder and a learning designer. We spoke to Matilda in her capacity as Hyper Island‘s alumni community lead. We talked about the new generation entering the workforce and what their future workplace hopes, dreams, and expectations, are.

What do you enjoy about the Hyper Island community role?

I think it’s incredible how the methodology of Hyper Island is impacting so many people through transformation and change. What I like the most is how our community has these values and a common ground to lead change – regardless of where in the world we are. That’s mega cool and really sets a foundation for solving problems that matter!

What do you feel are the best things about the current workplace for those entering the workforce in 2020?

Companies need to be more humble to their own existence than they have been historically. There’s so much great talent out there, who aren’t settling. They want to work for a higher purpose. They want more than money and recognition. Since we’re living in a world of constant change, workplaces need to keep up and transform themselves accordingly.

And, conversely, what do you think are the biggest hurdles for employees looking at where to work?

The potential. There’s so many things going on today and, in my experience, young talent feel they need to go straight into the perfect place. Great if you can! But if you don’t, it’s part of the learning journey. Give something unexpected a try. Fail. Reflect on why it failed. Do something different and then try again.

What do companies need to do to engage the best people in this *generation?

Stay relevant in today’s society. Focus as much on how you do something (company culture) as what you do (product, et al). Offer benefits that go beyond salary. Look at the individual – provide space for personal and professional growth.

*Gen Z / Millennials

Are many doing this, or are many missing a trick? 😉

It seems to me that a lot of companies think they know exactly how to do this. But a ping-pong table and beers as benefits feels a bit outdated. They should focus instead on co-creating purpose and culture where I, as an employee, can thrive and grow. No one said it better than Simon Sinek: “people don’t buy what you do, they buy why you did it.”

What does learn for life mean to you and the graduates you work with? How should employers take this info, and act on it?

Life is one long learning journey! As I mentioned before, we grow as we learn. At Hyper Island, this is amongst the first things you learn. So when you graduate it’s important for us – and you – that we facilitate constant learning opportunities.

You mention wanting to help HI graduates ‘lead the change’: what changes are needed?

Today, a lot of the Hyper Island programs are designed with UN development goals in mind.
Every program, course or class is built on experience-based learning. This means you do and you create. We try to empower students to solve problems that matter and be the change they want to see in this world. As a result, a lot of our students start their own businesses or join companies with the purpose of making the world a better place.

Finally, what would be your one piece of advice to employers in 2020 – what do they most need to hear from their future workforce?

Don’t fear change. Instead listen to the next generation of talent – they will teach you a lot. Promise!

A big magical 💥 thank you 💥 to Matilda for taking the time to chat with us and share her thoughts. You can find Matilda in various digital places…

Want to spark your company purpose?

Contact Harriet

The Code of Trust

By | Abracademy Labs, Food for thought, What's new?

The Code of Trust by Robin Dreeke – book review by Steve Bagienski.

I’ve been a fan of Robin Dreeke ever since Penn Jillette Tweeted about him, which led to finding Dreeke’s first book, It’s Not All about me. His work intrigued me because building rapport is crucial for good close-up magic and it was an area I wanted to improve in.

So, who is Robin Dreeke? He’s a counterintelligence expert and the retired head of the FBI’s Behavioural Analysis Program. His career required him to build trust with suspected criminals in the most challenging of environments, often to protect America from international threats. If you haven’t heard of him… well, that’s probably because a major theme of this book is suspending your ego and making it not all about yourself!

The Code of Trust takes his earlier book multiple steps further. In it, Robin breaks down the code, which he learned from years of experience in the field and offers practical advice on how you too can learn it to gain the trust of others. The code is simple to learn, but more challenging to implement in practice due to how our evolutionary brain is wired to protect our ego.

Here’s the code and my thoughts on it:

Suspend your ego – by our very nature, we all focus on our own life: our own needs, goals, desires, and so on. That’s not necessarily a bad thing because without it, we wouldn’t get anywhere in life. But to gain the trust of others, we must suspend this natural focus on ourselves and redirect this to what matters most: them. Forget your own agenda. No need to give your advice. Remember, it’s all about them. Humility is powerful for building trust.

Be non judgemental – respect other peoples’ thoughts, ideas, morals, and perspectives… no matter how much they conflict with your own. No one trusts people who don’t understand them. No need to judge, whether it’s favourably or not.

Validate others – seek to understand the other person. No matter what you think about the other person, everyone has some common decency that can be appreciated. We all have the right to our own thoughts and ideas, even when they’re socially unacceptable. Respect others’ rights to have their unique perspective and seek to understand it.

Honour reason – give people a logical, honest reason to trust you. No need to manipulate. Just stick to the facts and rationality. People respond to reason.

Be generous – no one likes one-sided relationships. You must give something of value to the other person. Being generous comes in many forms: It can be a thoughtful gift related to their interests, the gift of your time or attention, or the most precious of all: your trust.

So there it is. As I said earlier, putting all this into practice can be challenging. You might be worthy of another person’s trust, but unless you convey this trustworthiness clearly, people still won’t give you theirs. In the second half of the book Robin walks you through four steps of doing so:

  • Align your goals – this will help both sides benefit, gain something of value, and end with a win-win situation.
  • Apply the power of context – never argue context. People trust others who understand them: their beliefs, goals, personality, and so on.
  • Craft your encounters – learn how to create the best environment for success.
  • Connect – connect with the other person by speaking their language, focusing on them and meeting their needs.

Within each of these steps, Robin shares real-life spy stories as examples and gives Jedi-like techniques to achieve your goal of earning trust. He covers everything from how leaders inspire trust within an organisation and trust in the digital age to tips on avoiding common pitfalls. He also teaches his system of reading personalities (personally I needed to read it a few times before I understood it). Nevertheless, the tips on crafting your encounters is well worth the price of the book, as it covers some of the most reliable ways to craft that first encounter.

It’ll take some practice, but after reading this book, you’ll have a better grasp on how to earn other people’s trust and how to harness your own trustworthiness to make both your own dreams, and those of others, come true.

Find out how to build trust in your team

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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

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Curious Companies

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

Since Abracademy has been running corporate workshops, we’ve noticed certain commonalities among our clients. Our Mind Master / Head of Learning, Priya Ghai, looks into her crystal ball and shares what she sees…

First and foremost, curious companies dare to dream. They dream of a more powerful and magical way to undertake professional development. One where people feel valued and their thoughts, experiences, and emotions are welcome.

Tell us more about the dreamers

The dreamers are the people willing to take a new approach to learning, to take what might seem like a risk. But actually they know it’s an investment – in engagement, laughter and connection over box-ticking. The dreamers can imagine learning programmes that allow people to know how to do their job better and also to feel that they can do it better. They know that the right mindset is the way forward for any life-long learning. A mindset that allows people to take control of their development rather than feeling it’s in someone else’s hands.

The dreamers are creating companies focused on learning and exploration to enable a positive culture. Cultures where people can experience joy, be vulnerable and believe in what they do.

They are also looking for something fresh in their approach to learning. Our clients want the special magic that creates lasting memories for participants as well as movement within the company.

What’s driving companies to take a new approach to learning?

We know that learning and development needs to change. The world of work is changing so fast that we can’t expect things learned a year ago to still be relevant today. This quick, volatile and ever-evolving world means that what, and how, we learn needs to evolve too.

Learning has to be holistic. It must work for the whole person – emotions, perceptions, ideas and needs – not just for our brains. It’s about realising that we are much more than machines fulfilling a role and producing work. When nurtured in the right way, humans have fantastic capacity for creativity and collaboration.

Creating life-long learners is key. People should be able to learn in workshops and beyond. For this reason, Abracademy workshops develop people’s capacity to wonder and reflect. We want people to think about the workshop experience, apply what they’ve learned at work and keep developing. Participants will learn the perfect balance of humility and confidence, whilst continuing to explore their growth. 

This brings us back to the concept of the right mindset for learning – our workshops are spaces to develop the mental models needed to become life-long learners.

Thirdly, our clients are curious – to harness the power of group dynamics and for a deeper understanding of creative processes. It’s increasingly understood that employees are the lifeblood of any company and our programmes instil new energy. We unlock employee potential – vital to the health and progress of any organisation.

What makes a company curious?

They’re companies that are able to work in an agile way. They pilot programmes, learn from them then develop what they need. We love working with companies like this, it ensures that what we do is fit for purpose now, not for last year’s purpose.

These companies understand that their people need more than a revolving door of hard skills. They must believe in themselves and in each other, and they want to feel that the company believes in them too. Getting to the root of what people need enables us to develop programmes that stick and create memorable (and of course, magical!) moments. 

How does Abracademy make learning magical?

Our learning philosophy is based on developing two core mindsets that unlock the magic of a company through its people. The mindsets are Belief and Wonder – inspired by magic of course!

Mindsets are muscles that need to be developed. Our Magical Moment workshops flex these muscles. We look at each mindset from a different angle and develop the skills, and behaviours, that bring it to life.

Our learning philosophy is also holistic, centred on peoples’ many and diverse needs. We use experiences as a method of unpacking and reflecting on learning. And, most importantly, we use magic to stimulate the brain by adding surprise, joy and vulnerability into the learning space. Magic is the perfect way to be in direct contact with the feeling of not knowing something. Leave your ego at the door and open up to explore the unknown in service of growth. 

Thanks to Priya Ghai for chatting learning and magic💡

Below is a short interview with Jay Pepera – Head of Diversity and Inclusion at Omnicom Media Group – talking about her Abracademy experiences. Thank you for unleashing your magic with us Jay!

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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

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Who wants to play?

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

Play and positive emotions have a purpose.

Many of us enjoy the playful moments of life, whether it’s a video game, joking with friends or a simple game of cards. Yet, as we get older, play is often taken less seriously despite the social and emotional health benefits it brings. For example, play can makes us laugh and laughter has been linked to many physical health benefits.

But what’s the real purpose of the positive emotions from play? It turns out that they may actually serve an evolutionary advantage. This is highlighted by the Broaden and Build theory of positive emotions. This suggests that positive emotions help us expand our cognitive and social resources. One example of this is how the positive emotion of curiosity encourages us to learn and explore new things.

Another positive emotion is awe, which is theorized to be an intense emotional response to something extraordinarily vast. Awe creates a sense of disbelief as we try to make our experience conform to our existing beliefs. The science is still very young, but some other characteristics of awe include:

  • A sense of smallness (e.g. a “quiet” ego)
  • Collective nature (e.g. feeling connected to a bigger purpose)
  • Physiological markers like goosebumps
  • Altered-time perception (e.g. feel like we have more time)

Pretty cool, right? And of course experiencing awe has similar benefits to other positive emotions such as reduced stress and decreased inflammation. The latter is linked to a whole range of common health problems such as arthritis, heart disease and diabetes.

We talked about the magic of curiosity in a prior article. It turns out that curiosity and awe somewhat interact with each other as highlighted by a recent study, which showed that awe can make us more aware of the gaps in our knowledge. 

So what if we could harness the benefits of both awe and curiosity by creating magical moments of wonder, for both ourselves and our peers? A lofty aspiration? Perhaps… But here at Abracademy we believe in doing the impossible and bringing more magic, and wonder, to the world. 

Click here to check out Abracademy’s Magical Moments workshops

By Steve Bagienski
Abracademy’s resident Wizard of Science

References

Bennett, M. P., & Lengacher, C. (2009). Humor and laughter may influence health IV. humor and immune function. Evidence-Based Complementary and Alternative Medicine, 6(2), 159-164.

Fredrickson, B. L. (2001). The role of positive emotions in positive psychology: The broaden-and-build theory of positive emotions. American Psychologist, 56(3), 218.

Keltner, D., & Haidt, J. (2003). Approaching awe, a moral, spiritual, and aesthetic emotion. Cognition and emotion, 17(2), 297-314.

Stellar, J. E., John-Henderson, N., Anderson, C. L., Gordon, A. M., McNeil, G. D., & Keltner, D. (2015). Positive affect and markers of inflammation: Discrete positive emotions predict lower levels of inflammatory cytokines. Emotion, 15(2), 129.

Yaden, D. B., Kaufman, S. B., Hyde, E., Chirico, A., Gaggioli, A., Zhang, J. W., & Keltner, D. (2018). The development of the Awe Experience Scale (AWE-S): A multifactorial measure for a complex emotion. The journal of positive psychology, 1-15.

McPhetres, J. (2019). Oh, the things you don’t know: awe promotes awareness of knowledge gaps and science interest. Cognition and Emotion, 1-17.

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