In November we took a trip through a virtual maze to look back at 2020 together as a team. Here’s what we found on our way to the heart of the labyrinth…
2020 started normally. Refreshed after a break, we were looking forward to what the new year would bring. In early February we looked into our crystal ball. “It’s time for a team get together – a week in London, all together, to make plans and strategise“, said someone. It’s almost as if we knew what was coming…
That same week we took the opportunity to launch our magical magazine, The World Needs Magic, at Mama Shelter. They’ve never had so many magicians in their bar. Ever. We lost count of how many playing cards appeared in unexpected places that evening. Later in February, the magicians travelled to another dimension, aka the Blackpool Magic Convention. Who knows what they got up to, but they came back with new tricks up their sleeves. We then delivered a couple of Open Workshops and we worked with Sony, and Netflix.
“An excellent start to the year”, we said. “Can’t wait to see what’s next…”
Coronavirus hits the UK and everything changes.
Our team was already partially remote so that aspect of lockdown was less of a shock for us. Nonetheless, it was the start of many challenges for Abracademy, personal and professional. The immediate hit for us was not being able to deliver sessions in person and clients cancelling workshops. Overnight, everything fell off a cliff.
We had to completely re-think what we do. How do we pivot? How do we deliver what we do online and still make it magical, meaningful, and engaging? We had already been contemplating online delivery, but now we had to figure it out. Fast.
Step 1 of pivot. We adapt one of our most popular Magical Moments – Unleash Imagination – for online delivery. We test it in a virtual Open Workshop. And it works! Participants stay engaged and we get great feedback, which, of course, we use to refine and improve the session.
Online events started popping up like bunnies out of hats. Rubens takes part in a House of Beautiful Business event and does a talk at FCB Brazil. Never ones to lag behind, we also launch our webinar, The World Needs Magic. Taking advantage of our talented network, Rubens invites a weekly guest chat with him. We want to highlight the magic of people, showing how resilient and adaptable we are when we need to be. Like now…
Meanwhile, we polish up another session for virtual delivery, Raising Resilience this time. It felt very relevant, something almost everyone needed more of. And we deliver our first client workshops, for Thomas More University and Echo in Belgium. The university, like many institutions, had shifted all their learning programmes online. They felt a need for creative sparks and ways to brainstorm together, online. We ran Unleash Imagination with them – the perfect session to unlock creative problem solving.
In May, we said goodbye to Julie and we decide to let go of our office at Containerville. Sad times, but we bid both a fond farewell and embrace the good times we’ve had.
No basking in the sunshine for us! Well, a little bit of outdoor working perhaps 👆
In June, we organise a team day. We’ve been in firefighting mode since March so it feels like a good time to pause, reflect and plan. Katy and Priya put all their energy into strategy, structure and process. We establish monthly quests to stay agile and responsive, given all the uncertainty.
The Magic of Teams is ready for online delivery – ninja L&D skills from the learning design team! We deliver Raising Resilience to Start It KBC in Belgium. Having benefitted so much from that programme, it was great to give them something back. We also start planning Bridging the Impossible – a symposium combining the science of magic and wellbeing (with Goldsmiths / Magic Lab).
July was unexpectedly busy, but some of us manage staycations. Rubens delivers a talk to a huge university audience in Brazil. We deliver to Netflix again, yay! They introduce us to SumUp (who we eventually work with in November). And we start working with Unilever on Unite4Growth, an internal innovation programme. We also pitch to Montezuma. Time for some sweet, sweet magic…
In August, we take advantage of a little down time to make podcasts from the webinars. We also challenge ourselves with a design sprint for a scalable product. And last, but not least, we deliver a session to Civicus in South Africa. They’re a human rights organisation doing incredible work (check out how you can support their campaigns).
Jules’ gorgeous new kittens 👇
Our lead generation campaigns pay off! Lots of potential new clients are conjured up, including Spotify. We do workshops with the students at The Farnborough Academy. Our friend and frequent collaborator, Sonia Benito worked with us on those. She’s a dynamo, an inspiration and brilliant with young people.
Rubens took part in an EduJam, we delivered to Netflix teams around the globe and held a couple of Open Workshops online. We also did our first sessions with Spotify. Not just one session mind you. Five sessions, delivered simultaneously to five teams! 😲 Ta-da!
Did we take on too much this month?! Maybe, but it was amazing and sometimes you do your best work when you push yourself out of your comfort zone.
👇 That’s Katy’s Faces in Magical Places
October is Mental Health Awareness month and we had the great pleasure of working with Mind again. We also started workshops at Carthage College in the US – supporting student wellbeing. Continuing the theme, Geoff MacDonald was one of our fantastic webinar guests this month. He talked very frankly about his own mental health journey and Minds@Work. Listen to Geoff’s full conversation – it’s very moving.
We also worked with the London Business School again. It’s great to work with clients on a longer term basis and see the growth in people. We deliver to the Spotify Soundtrap team. And Rubens does a talk at the Brazilian Space Agency 🚀 Our crystal ball definitely didn’t see that one coming!
Three big future-facing things happen too: 1) we ignite the hiring process for a new team member, 2) we pitch to Google and 3) Miro champion the boards we created for online sessions. As well as being in their Miroverse, we’re also featured as Miro Experts. We are beyond delighted! Miro’s helped us bring our online sessions to life in a whole new way.
👇 Our map of 2020 magic
November brings another major lockdown. It’s not great for anyone’s mental health, but luckily client work keeps us busy. A project with Spotify NY starts, and we work with two more great organisations, Young Scot and SumUp (we were introduced to them by our Spotify client 👌 – new business at its best). We also continue to work with Unilever and the Unite4Growth winners. The client has scaled the project and take us with them on the journey. This means global deliveries and 6am workshops with Asia! No complaints here – just a sleepy delivery team come UK lunchtime… 💤
No pre-Christmas slow down for us. This month we’ve worked with Unilever, Minds At Work, This Place, Rock Your Life!, Pfizer, more Unilever, Zinc VC and RCKT.
We manage a little Christmas get together on Zoom to celebrate the year’s achievements. We’re exhausted. But happy. But exhausted. We play, we chat, we drink cocktails out of cans. We’re now in the middle of a two week break. Bliss. We’ll be in pyjamas hugging our magical bunnies, making 💤s appear.
Below is a little video we made earlier in the year. We were playing with Zoom communications, trying to bring joy to being online all day!
How was your 2020?
As you can see, ours was eventful. We don’t think we could have predicted most of what happened during 2020 – good and bad. Like many, we faced challenges that were scary and difficult to navigate. But also, we blossomed in unexpected ways. That’s partly because we seized the opportunity to work fast and adapt to the moment – unlocking something we’d been meaning to do, but kept postponing. It’s also partly because other companies did the same. So it felt like there was a mutual window of opportunity that we jumped through. To be able to close 2020 with clients like Spotify, Netflix and Unilever is real magic ✨
We’re very grateful to be here, celebrating the end of the year and welcoming 2021. We’ll hang onto that an agile mindset though… just in case.
Blackpool Magic Convention: where magicians go down the rabbit hole once a year
Bridging the Impossible: a symposium to explore the science of magic and wellbeing
Carthage College: supporting the wellbeing of their students with Abracademy workshops
Civicus: a truly great organisation supporting human rights campaigners and campaigns
Containerville: the place we called home, where we stirred the cauldron and conjured ideas 💡
Echo: Belgian marketing and storytelling agency
EduJam: an educational response to the pandemic, providing skills, tools and community
Farnborough Academy: they embraced magic to develop the soft skills of their students
FCB Brazil: global advertising agency
Geoff MacDonald: ex Unilever HR, and mental health advocate
Goldsmiths: University of London
House of Beautiful Business: a think tank for making humans more human + business more beautiful
Julie Donckers: friend and alumni
London Business School: embracing magic to support their student community wellbeing
Magic Research Lab: our friends and collaborators in magic, and the science of magic
Mama Shelter: where we spent our team week and launched the magazine in February pre 😷
Mind: the UK mental health charity
Minds@Work: co-founded by Geoff 👆
Miro: fantastic collaborative whiteboard tool, online!
Miro Experts: featuring Abracademy… thank you 😉
Montezuma: they make chocolate. Need we way more?
Netflix: surely we don’t have to explain this lot!?
RCKT: digital innovation brought to you from Germany
Rock Your Life: a mentor network supporting vulnerable young people in Germany
Sonia Benito: magician and dancer extraordinaire
Soundtrap: Spotify’s everywhere studio for music makers
Spotify: needs no explanation 🎧
Start It @KBC: start-up accelerator in Belgium
SumUp: set to become the first ever global card acceptance brand
This Place: a digital retail agency
Thomas More: school of applied sciences, Belgium
Zinc: venture capital with a heart
Young Scot: travel, information, support and discounts for young people in Scotland
The World Needs Magic, webinar: weekly doses of inspiration with special guests
The Magic of Teams: a virtual offsite workshop to spark the magic of your people
The World Needs Magic, podcasts: if you didn’t catch the webinars, listen to the podcasts
Open Workshops: personal development workshops open to all