Category

Magical Moments

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 ⚡!

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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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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

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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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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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Conjuring creativity

By | Abracademy Labs, Food for thought, Magical Moments, Wonder

Have you ever wondered how magicians both imagine and create the impossible? Or how visionaries like Elon Musk created Tesla, a disruptive automotive company? In the past, “magical” is how people would describe ideas like a high-performance car that plugs in or powering an entire island with the sun.

One thing such visionaries have in common is creativity. Creative people have a few things in common (Kaufman, 2014). One common trait is being open to new experiences, having a large hunger for exploration. (This trait is analogous to the joyful exploration mentioned in a previous blog: The Five Dimensions of Curiosity.)

The two other traits – divergent and convergent thinking – involve the thinking processes. Divergent thinking is the ability to generate a large quantity of ideas, including ones that stray from the traditional. While convergent thinking narrows the ideas or solutions down to the most useful ones. The highly creative brain behind Nintendo games, Shigeru Miyamoto, sums it up nicely:

“A good idea is something that does not solve just one single problem, but rather can solve multiple problems at once”

A key point is the number of problems an idea solves. In work, and in life generally, we’re always working on multiple problems. And because each solution has its unique trade-offs, the real challenge is finding an idea that can solve multiple problems at once.

And how do we measure creativity? One way that scientists measure it is by assessing whether people can find a common word that relates to three seemingly different words. This is known as a Remote Associates Test. This test can be long and tedious, but there is an extremely similar (and more fun!) improv exercise known as I Am a Tree – actors use this to strengthen their ability to think on the spot.

Aside from improv exercises, creativity researcher, Scott Barry Kaufman also suggests that you can hack your creativity by making time for solitude, trying certain types of meditation, embracing adversity and intentionally aiming to think differently. This last one is essential for creating magic, since the best magicians must envision drastically different explanations for their tricks to the point where no one would ever even guess its secret. In fact, one study on creativity showed that watching magical content was effective at increasing participants’ divergent thinking skills (Subbotsky, Hysted, Jones, 2010). So perhaps, the only thing we really need is a little bit of magic to spark our own creative flair to enable us to thrive in this constantly changing world of innovation.

Steve
Resident Wizard of Science

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References

 

Kaufman, S.B. (2014, December 24). The Messy Minds of Creative People. Scientific American. Retrieved from https://blogs.scientificamerican.com/beautiful-minds/the-messy-minds-of-creative-people

Subbotsky, E., Hysted, C., & Jones, N. (2010). Watching films with magical content facilitates creativity in children. Perceptual and motor skills, 111(1), 261-277.

Eurogamer.net (2010, March 31). Nintendo’s Shigeru Miyamoto. Retrieved from http://www.eurogamer.net/articles/shigeru-miyamoto-interview