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education

Tips: how to make remote workshops excellent 💥

By | education, Food for thought, Learning and development, Magical Moments, Magicians, Music, Team

We’ve learned a few unexpected ways to make remote meetings and workshops a great and human experience. Apart from the usual video call etiquette that you’ve no doubt learned recently, how about…

  • Hiding self view
  • Unmuting everyone
  • Creating virtual magic

Self view

We’ve probably all looked at our own faces far more than is healthy in recent months! Hiding self view allows you to focus much more on other participants. Less Is my hair really that straggly? and more I never knew that, very interesting indeed. Heed this warning however: don’t forget you’re on camera. Everyone can still see you even though you can’t! No nose-picking, texting on the side or stuffing your face with a sandwich and wearing it for the rest of the call…

Unmute

The generally agreed protocol is that everyone should stay on mute unless they’re talking. This cuts out all unnecessary background noise and allows whoever is speaking to be heard by all. But it’s fun to create a little audio chaos and allow everyone to talk at the same time. We guarantee it will liven things up. You can have a lively debate, like in real life. Remember that?!

Magical energisers

Obviously we perform and teach magic in our sessions. But magicians never spill their secrets, so you’ll have to get in touch with us for this one. We’ll send you a video of one of our magical energisers. You must watch it and then destroy it 😉 (leave your name in the comments or contact us directly).

Less unexpected, but still worth mentioning. Here are some more tips to help remote connections feel good.

Hand signals

When you’re on mute and you want to say something without interrupting the speaker, devise a visual language that suits your company. We had fun creating ours: see our video below 👇

Spotify 

We have various Spotify playlists ready to go. Integrating music into meetings and workshops creates energy and sets different moods. Use quiet, non-verbal music when people need to talk or think. And something more lively to perk people up at the start or during breaks.

Miro

What a great invention Miro is! A virtual white board with sticky notes you can scribble on. We use it all the time for both client workshops and internal sessions. The best thing about it is that it’s visually familiar so needs little instruction. Plus it allows everyone to get involved. People can share thoughts and ideas, vote and doodle. No more zoning out during long meetings! 

And finally, Spotlight

This Zoom function pins one person as the primary active speaker for everyone on the call. This is really useful when you want people to focus on the speaker and hear reactions to important information. We also use it when the magicians are performing. That way they stay in the spotlight without anyone having to tweak screens and miss crucial magic-making secrets.

All of these tips add up to fun and engaging online experiences. If you have more, we’d love to know what they are. Share @abracademy 🙋

Let us make your virtual off-site magical!

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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 👇

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How I worked my way from ‘distracted’ to ‘better’

By | Curiosity, education, Food for thought, Magical Moments, Priya

I’ve worked at Abracademy for nearly three years now. During that time I have experienced many magical moments. I’ve also experienced some Magical Moments. But not as many as I’d like 😭

The very first workshop I attended was at software development company, Pivotal. A group of employees from offices all over the world gathered in London for a weekend of information sharing and bonding. Some had never met, though they had spoken via email or video call many times. Many were members of the same team, working on the same projects, but in different locations. Pivotal invited us to spend Saturday afternoon with them. I mean, they invited us to inject magic to their Saturday afternoon… A small, but significant difference!

For three hours that day, we played, learned and got to know each other. It was amazing to see the effect Abracademy’s workshops have on people. I was impressed at the creativity of the Pivotal team, who entered into the spirit of the workshop with aplomb. And I was impressed by how democratic magic is. Outgoing people are, well, outgoing so they’re naturally active participants. But what about the shy people, the ones who don’t like to be centre stage (I include myself in that group)? Well, they were also able to shine in their own quiet ways. It was an eye opener to see how they engaged and grew in confidence as the afternoon progressed.

Cut to present day. In the light of the Coronavirus situation, Abracademy, like many many other companies, has had to pivot. As of March 2020 we couldn’t deliver workshops in person any more. That stopped overnight. Suddenly, the remote learning product we had been developing in the background, had to be at the forefront of our services. It had to become our offering and fast. To achieve this, we handbrake turned and quickly learned what ‘agile’ product development is!! We developed faster, tested workshops on ourselves, learned from the feedback and developed the product some more. Repeat that loop a few times. But it meant that, finally, I was able to participate in workshops, not just observe and / or photograph them.

The Raising Resilience session surprised me the most. The day that we tested that one (on ourselves and some work friends), I was feeling restless, irritable and frankly anxious. It was in the early days of lock down – need I say more. Everything was up in the air for me. Plans were halted and cancelled. So many question marks were hanging over me about every aspect of life – the future of work, my daughter’s schooling, my mum’s health, even a relatively new relationship. And – dramatic pause – I could no longer go to my favourite coffee shop for amazing coffee and laptop working (I know, I know. Sometimes it’s easier to channel anxiety into something seemingly silly than face the big things).

During the session, we were asked to turn off our cameras and mics, and meditate for five minutes, guided by Rubens. I cannot tell you how unbelievably hard I found this. It took a huge effort for me to sit still and at least try to empty my head. I did my best, but I certainly didn’t achieve nirvana! I did, however, surface one particular issue affected by Coronavirus that was bothering me a lot. And so, for the remainder of the workshop, this is what I focused on. With Priya Ghai’s brilliant facilitation, Rubens’ magic and Zoom’s breakout rooms to work in pairs, I worked my way from distracted to better.

A series of exercises gradually broke the problem down and helped me see it from different points of view. I was astounded that an emotional block could be addressed through a practical process. It’s magic! But it’s not magic because you do the hard work. The problem hasn’t vanished, it just ceases to be a huge mountain to overcome. It shifts to being a series of smaller issues that are less overwhelming and easier to turn around.

At the very end, we took turns to tell a story about our issue while performing a trick Rubens taught us. And I really did feel better! Better for having looked right at the problem. Better for having met some lovely people. Better for having shared and listened to others’ worries. And better for having learned that trick with which to impress the next time I can actually perform it to people IRL!

So, any chance I get to participate in one of our own Magical Moments again, I’ll grab with both hands. You should too 😉

Links

Anne Brassier
Wizard of Words 📝

Yes! I want to try an Online Magical Moment ⚡

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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?

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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? 🌟

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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?

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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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Is there a place for magic in the curriculum?

By | education, What's new?

What a pleasure it was to perform and teach magic to the wonderful students of St. John’s school in Sevenoaks. The students, aged around 11, took to magic like fish to water and their enthusiasm not only for magic but for the process of learning was electrifying.

The teaching staff at St. John’s prides themselves in their ability to educate their students for life. As a school they’re highly creative in how they approach learning, and are always looking for new and innovative ways to teach beyond the in-class curriculum. This task, according to Head Teacher Sally Quirk, ‘is quite a knack.’

In the pursuit of active learning, we at Abracademy believe that magic is an ideal medium. But would an experienced teacher agree? We caught up with Sally to talk about all things education, learning and whether or not there was a place for magic and its principals in the educational curriculum.

Sally described the process of learning magic as having an ‘immediate something.’ Magic is normally seen as a purely entertaining experience, but Sally added that through this experience, it encompassed many principles ‘that the children would be able to take forward as a way to develop life skills.’

Magic’s ability to ‘disguise’ learning is particularly valuable for older children, for whom it’s seen as a major challenge to ‘engage in perfecting speaking skills and listening skills.’

As Sally puts it, ‘magic all about storytelling, projecting your voice and using body language, three skills which are more likely to be taken on board by a child if they have a purpose behind doing it, like performing a trick.’

Speaking and listening, a major part of the curriculum, are two skills that magic can enhance, but even further than that, magic allows children to develop a repertoire of sorts. Too often these days, with the advent of technology, young people aren’t collecting skill sets through play as they may have done on rainy days pre-internet.

Sally recalls her son learning to juggle from a young age, learning first with three then four then more balls, with which he would impress his friends and family. ‘Although he doesn’t juggle quite as much as he used to, it’s just another skill in his repertoire and it makes him more likely to add to it’. Magic also parallels Sally’s belief in experimentation in the learning process. St. John’s operates on the belief that ‘you may not know how to do something, yet, but you will, it’s a question of what’s the next step.’

This is the process for learning and developing magic tricks, especially when there are so many moving parts from storytelling to personal presentation skills, entertaining to understanding your audience. It’s all about experimentation. At the same time, magic gives children the ability to work on their social skills in the same breath as creating a focus and helping to develop empathy for others.

As human beings, stories are how we make sense of the world and in its simplest form magic gives children the permission to be as creative as they like with the stories they tell. ‘It gives them a starting point, something to hold onto, a reason to tell the story,’ says Sally. As a result, their confidence and self-esteem is boosted.

Of course, the experience is different for each child. As Sally notes ‘give a matchbox to ten children and ask them to tell a story about it, you’ll hear ten different stories.’ Magic as an outlet offers children the opportunity for creative self-expression that they may not find, or have the confidence to develop, in the classroom. The absence of grading removes the fear of judgement and failure, and so the child can explore their creativity in pure play.

So will we ever see magic in the curriculum? Perhaps not in its pure form… yet. But from the experience we had with this great group of students, the benefits of magic are plain to see. Ta-da!

Alex Pittas
Head Magician

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