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How can I make barriers disappear?

Published on 05 October 2017

How can I make barriers disappear?

As a child I quickly discovered I had no sporting ability whatsoever, so looked for alternative ways to fill my evenings. At that time “The Paul Daniels Magic Show” was on prime-time television and I became fascinated by the topic.  

I did not grow up to be a magician, however I did learn some important lessons.

  1. As well as no sporting ability, I have no manual dexterity either.
  2. Magic tricks do not make you one of the cool popular kids, especially when you keep dropping the deck of cards.
  3. There are a lot of skills that I can apply in my current role.

Whatever we are working on we will sometimes be faced with impossible barriers.  Magicians make a living by appearing to achieve the impossible so it is worth studying the techniques that they use.
When designing a trick there are three key steps that we can use,

  1. Redefine the goal on what is actually needed rather than perceived needs

Let us take the example of a magician designing a levitation trick. The perceived need is “I need to levitate”, which is impossible. However, if you ask “Why?” you quickly get an actual need, “I need to convince an audience I am levitating”, which is just very difficult.

By looking at a goal and asking “Why?” you can redefine the problem to turn the impossible into the achievable. (You may have to ask “Why?” a number of times before you have drilled down to an achievable goal).

  1. Break a barrier down into smaller, achievable chunks

Lets look at the example above. “I need to convince an audience I am levitating”, is actually made up of three achievable steps.

i. I need to find a way of lifting myself off the ground.

ii. I need to find a way to hide this from the audience.

iii. I need to distract the audience from the method I am using.

For each of these there are a number of possible options. Starting from this impossible premise magicians have found a range of different solutions. By breaking up your barriers in this way you will often find that there is more than one solution.

  1. Learn from others

In magic there are a lot more tricks than there are techniques. You could easily watch two extremely different magic tricks without realising that they are based around the same technique. It is the same for us, there are techniques out there, being used in a different context that may be exactly what we need to resolve our problem. It is only by openly discussing our challenging and sharing ideas that we can begin to unlock these techniques. 

For those of you attending any of our events make the most of the opportunities to share ideas. When you are waiting for a session or workshop to start talk to the person sat next to you about what you are working on and some of the barriers you are trying to overcome. It is unlikely that they will be working on exactly the same thing but it is probable that they are using a technique that could help you.

First Published in 2017

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